By all indications, the Mariners are done making major acquisitions, or at least close to it. This isn't based on any inside knowledge of budget restrictions or failed trade talks, it's pure speculation mixed with a healthy dose of pessimism. At the beginning of January, with the only major free agents left being pricey pitchers who the Mariners almost certainly aren't going to make a run at, that's all we have left -- a lack of first basemen that are perceived to be available.
The holes in the outfield have been so glaring that another hole at first base has been glossed over. Perhaps it was how excellent Logan Morrison hit down the stretch -- a 1.042 OPS in September -- that made some of us forget that before then, he was injured and terrible. Morrison entered September with a .645 OPS, worse than the generally perceived miserable year Brad Miller finished with (.653 OPS). Still, there hasn't been much chatter about Morrison, and as the Mariners finally cut ties with Justin Smoak, that seemed to make Morrison's position on the team secure.
But it's not good enough, and it shouldn't be. It's entirely possible that the Mariners are exhausting all possible options to upgrade on Morrison, and there's nobody available. The free agent class was mostly unattractive unless you're into Adam LaRoche, and there hasn't been a whole lot of relevant names floating around on in trade rumors, either. As it stands now, the Mariners will have to cross their fingers and hope Morrison is the guy they know he can be, but rarely is.
It's not a question of talent, as Morrison has flashed plenty through his career. September was a glimpse of the hitter he was at times when he first came up with Miami, before the injuries, unrest, and decline. But Morrison hasn't played in more than 100 MLB games since 2011, and last year's .735 OPS was the best of his past three seasons.
Morrison looks really nice on this team if he's a backup first baseman/corner outfielder. As depth, and not an everyday player, it works -- though he doesn't play the corners well, he's an emergency option there, and he can shift over to DH on days Nelson Cruz wants a start in right. Relying on him to play 162 games when he's never come close to that? Yikes.
Fragile and ineffective, all on a team that's attempting to make a serious run at the World Series. That can't possibly be good enough for the M's, right? But it's all they've got, and they don't have a legit backup, either. This is the next hole to be filled, whether it's now or in the middle of the year.
Jesus Montero is the name everyone points to, but I'm not buying it. Reports are that Montero has lost 30-35 pounds and is "serious" about his career now, that he's in the best shape of his life, whatever. It's just noise. Montero doesn't have enough experience at first base -- 66 minor league games, and all quite miserable if reports are to be believed -- and he's only got another spring training to fix himself. I'm not buying it. It's great to project Montero at first base, but can he seriously step in to start every single day? Do you really want Montero starting against RHP for when Morrison gets hurt? If Morrison returns to previously unacceptable production, does Montero become an adequate replacement on a playoff contender, let alone an upgrade? I have severe doubts to each question.
If there's no major upgrades, there will be minor league signings and invites to spring training. That's not insignificant, and maybe somebody hits themselves onto the roster. There's plenty of opportunity. D.J. Peterson isn't a serious conversation starter yet, Ji-Man Choi's prospect status is in the toilet after his PED suspension and subsequent struggles, and nobody else is close. It's imperative that the M's find more depth in the upcoming months, because right now it simply isn't there if one of Montero or Morrison fails/gets hurt -- history would indicate one of these is likely.
The way things are taking shape, it seems the Mariners are putting themselves in a position to be buyers at the trade deadline. As long as Morrison can be remotely serviceable and healthy until June or July, more names will become available than are currently rumored. A lot more teams think they have a shot at this moment than they will in six months, even though the expanded wild card format makes that more complicated.
I don't know what the point of this is, really. I'm mostly happy with the way the offseason has gone, and I'm fine with gambling at shortstop and left field, given the upside and floor, thanks to Dustin Ackley's improved defense. I'm ok betting on Austin Jackson bouncing back, and on the respective health of James Paxton and Taijuan Walker. But first base? First base makes me nervous. I haven't forgotten how bad Morrison was before he got hot, and the Mariners shouldn't either. It's the easiest position to find offensive production, yet it's once again a potential problem for the Mariners.