I have to say for the most part the free agent moves this Hot Stove so far are beyond puzzling to me.
And, I hate to write the previous sentence, sounding like a cranky old man, I suppose.
But, it seems there is such a trend in baseball to advance younger players, and push them into the lineup, that it is hard for me to understand exactly where that balances with signings like that of Curtis Granderson and Nate McLouth and, dare I say it, Robinson Cano.
Mind you, I do understand, for example, that among Mike Zunino, Kyle Seager, Justin Smoak, Nick Franklin, and even the disappointing Dustin Ackley, that allows for a lot of money in the starting lineup that Seattle can extend. For, the aforementioned are all pretty inexpensive players.
But, as a path forward goes, I don't see Cano's presence alone making the difference.
Just not that big a difference at this point.
For grins, let's take a look at the Mariners as they now stand:
C: Mike Zunino - Goes into his first full season, and now we will see what he can do.
1B: Justin Smoak - No question he has pop: many questions if he has anything else?
2B: Robinson Cano - Rhetorical
3B: Kyle Seager - Just fine for now, with a .270-18-75 baseline as a Major Leaguer. Not sure if he gets better, but don't think he will get worse.
SS: Brad Miller/Nick Franklin - Both with strong minor league credentials, and credible debuts last year. I would give the shortstop defensive edge to Miller, but I think Franklin will have a more potent bat. But, for now I see Miller at short, and Franklin moving to the outfield.
Thus comes the abyss.
Certainly, we can pencil Franklin into one of the outfield slots, but like most of his team mates, first full year, and who knows what expectations with Cano now on board.
I like Ibanez the best of the corps, but I don't expect him to repeat his somewhat awesome and unexpected .249-29-65 season of last at age 41 on Opening Day. The rest have some promise, but the truth is, a really good team could contend with one among Franklin, Ibanez, Ackley, Gutierrez and Saunders, but not with two, let alone three of them.
What I think the team really needs is two outfielders with .280-25-90 potential, or better.
Now, maybe the addition of Cano as productive hitter mitigates part of the need for a serious hitting outfielder, but what really seems like a better path is to simply eat another year, see which of their young crew can rise up, and then add a couple of vet players where needed.
In writing the above, I don't mean to be picking on the Mariners, mind you.
And, I do understand a team's need to keep their fan base both engaged, and coming to the yard.
But, I also think running the path of the Rays, or Nationals, Cardinals, and even the Athletics by trying to draft or trade for a young core of parts built around some really strong young arms.
In other words, I am not sure if the Royals did indeed do the right thing by trading Wil Myers for James Shields, not so much that I dislike Shields, but more to the point that the team was probably a year or two away anyway.
Baseball is such a funny game, as we all know.
And, teams can surprise out of nowhere: they do every year.
I mean, who thought Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Oakland would be as tough in 2013 as they were? Or that the Royals would have such an upsurge? Or, more to the point, how many experts had the Red Sox written off before the first pitch was tossed?
I also know that most of us make better GM's than the guys actually doing the job.
But, if you have a plan to rebuild around youth and the draft, you have to know that it is a 4-5 year process. And, though we have to always be flexible, we have to stay the course.
And not panic.