Well we are two days from the start of Free Agency, and like everyone else sitting on their hands waiting for something baseball related to happen again, the fine folks over at MLB Trade Rumors have compiled their annual Free Agent Prediction list (complete with requisite contest in tow!). This year, they've penciled in the Mariners to be picking up Billy Butler and Michael Cuddyer, two right-handed bats that would give the M's some much-needed substance in the middle of the order.
The M's have repeatedly been linked to Butler over the past few seasons, a linkage that has included actual trade talks, multiple Butler-to-Seattle trade prognostications, and an image of Jack Zduriencik's bedroom containing a life-size Billy Butler poster with a heart drawn around the head in dripping red ink. Look, it's nothing against MLBTR--people were talking about Butler to the Mariners on television during the World Series for crying out loud. This is one of the safest guesses in the offseason, and while last year's unexpected success could complicate the popular Seattle Mariners Narrative in the media, it's probably safer than assuming the Mariners will do something crazy like give a quarter-of-a-billion dollars to Robinson Cano. Which, remember, made sense to everyone and was not laughed off for even a second.
The image of Butler as a dangerous bat is a legitimate one, but there should obviously be concerns. He's coming up on his age 29 season after a rough year that saw him slugging only .379 with a 97 wRC+ (Endy Chavez slugged .371 with a 97 wRC+ over the same period). He can't play anywhere other than DH. He may run slower than Jesus Montero. He will not be a bargain, for some stupid reason. Still, get used to hearing his name in the same sentence as "Mariners" over every media platform until he signs somewhere, because even if Jack Z isn't going to Mike Morse and Raul Ibanez this thing again, he will be looking for right-handed power. And that's what Butler offers. Literally, that's all he offers.
On the other hand, Cuddyer is a little more interesting. He played corners in the outfield and saw some time at first in the NL over the past three seasons, but should be expected to get some calls from AL teams looking to lock in a rotating DH spot. This would be counter to the Butler situation, and obviously preferable if the Mariners want to have any sort of flexibility beyond throwing the same guy out in the cleanup spot every day. He's 36, but coming off a season that saw him put up a 151 wRC+, even hitting well away from Coors hitter-friendly confines. But injuries have kept him up and down in recent years, and the M's may not be so ready throw all their eggs in that basket again after the trainwreck that was Corey Hart this season.
It will be interesting to see if anything picks up steam on the Cuddyer front, but the reality that the M's are going to be linked to any right-handed hitter over the next few weeks. The narrative has shifted away from Clueless-Font-Critiquing-GM-Obsessed-With-Right-Handed-Dingers to Somehow-The-Mariners-Became-Competent-But-They-Are-All-Lefties, and confused insiders are probably going to try and make the most of it. The efficacy of any of this is clearly up for grabs, but just remember that most Hot Takes are made up on the fly, and "sources" aren't computers spitting facts but are rather another arm of PR used for negotiation tactics (when they even exist).
In fact, that's exactly whats so amazing about all this. As of today, Butler and Cuddyer aren't rumors as much as they are just guesses in a competition between baseball fans on a baseball website, but some journalists are going to start linking the M's to them now as if there was a correlation between search terms on Google and the real day-to-day operations of a major league baseball team. There is no harm in having a little fun, but just remember that sometimes you know as much as the people being paid to report on this do.
So anyway, head over to MLB Trade Rumors to check it out, and get all your rosterbating done before things get crazy in the media. It would save you and all of us a lot of grief, and I guess you can win something in the process.