As baseball approaches the Winter Meetings the Mariners are faced with an interesting sense of urgency. It seems odd to call for immediate action when the team has spent a month+ making trades and signing free agents while the rest of baseball retooled their front offices and/or enjoyed playoff baseball. However, the reality is the Mariners need to sign at least one mid-level starting pitcher, and most likely two if they want to prevent a repeat of 2015's injury and Olmos filled campaign. An Opening Day rotation of Felix/Walker/Karns/Paxton/Someone is not only not particularly good when healthy and also very likely to suffer significant attrition through injury, sucking, etc.
Michael already wrote about this last month but I'm largely repeating him now because the starting pitcher market has started to uncork itself over the past 48 hours. With David Price signing with Boston, John Lackey going to the Cubs, and Zack Grienke poised to find himself a few hundred million dollars richer the amount of teams needing a pitcher is slightly diminishing while the available talent pool is rapidly doing so.
The most obvious candidate is incumbent Hisashi Iwakuma; but with the Dodgers reportedly looking at him for Grienke Insurance the team needs to be actively seeking out alternatives, even if they retain Iwakuma. Candidates like Scott Kazmir, Jeff Samardzija, and on down to potential bargains/ex Mariners like Doug Fister and Cliff Lee.
I certainly don't mind if the team wants to look into a slightly dented or unearthed jewel as a rotation candidate but, particularly with his comment today that the team's 1B will most likely "not be a household name" at a certain point we have to look at the scope of Dipoto's moves and wonder where the money is going to go. Through all their roster churning the team has been very judicious with adding payroll, including almost none above the minimum past 2016. There has to be more, and starting pitching is the most obvious place for it to go. As many have pointed out as Dipoto's buy low candidates have piled up there is no award for best value in baseball.
This all reads a bit more critical of the FO than I intend it to. It's more of a caution. The biggest, most difficult to fill hole left on this roster is the starting rotation, and the Mariners are among many teams that have that problem. With pitchers leaving the market rapidly it's up to Jerry Dipoto and company to have a plan for quick action in place to make sure they don't get left out. I expect they do and that they won't. If I'm wrong then, well, this team is going to be stuck hoping Nori Aoki, Chris Iannetta, Leonys Martin and co. have much bigger bats than we think they do.
Just sign Iwakuma, Jerry. Do it. Do it now.