It has been a quiet off season so far for the Seattle Mariners. However, there is a ray of hope for Mariner fans: they are still players in the two biggest free agents left on the market, Prince Fielder and Yu Darvish. Mariner fans are feverishly hoping the team can add both players as the Mariners try to keep up with the free spending Angels and the back-to-back A.L. Champions Rangers. If the Mariners are to leave the cellar of the A.L. West, signing Fielder and Darvish is a good way to do it.
It is no secret even to the causal observer that the Mariners offense has been dreadful. The Mariners were 13th in the A.L. in team average at .233, last in runs scored with 556, and 12th in HR in 109. Miguel Olivo led the Mariners in both power categories with 19 HR and 62 RBI. That was 41st in the A.L. in home runs leaders and the 62 RBI on the season didn’t even crack the top 50 in A.L. RBI leaders. Prince Fielder with Milwaukee last season towered over these numbers. He batted .299 with 38 HR and 120 RBI, almost double of both categories by team leader Olivo. He was the NL RBI leader in 2009 with 141. And, Fielder hasn’t been hampered by any major health issues as he has missed only one game in the last three seasons. In a year without Albert Pujols, Fielder would’ve been the top free agent.
If I had my hands on the checkbook, Fielder would be a Mariner tomorrow. The Mariners desperately need to upgrade their offense to keep pace in the A.L. West. They are also starting to see attendance sag after back-to-back last place finishes dipping under drawing 2 million fans for the first time ever at Safeco Field and the lowest total since 1995 at the Kingdome. Fortunately, from what’s being reported, the Mariners feel the same way. GM Jack Zduriencik drafted Fielder when he was at Milwaukee, and their relationship has put the Mariners in the front-runner category. Scott Miller, from CBS Sports, tweeted that like Pujols that Fielder is looking for a ten-year deal. What Fielder has going for him is unlike Pujols, 32, he is 27 right now. The Mariners, because of some recent futility, may have to overpay to get the center of their offense that they so desperately need.
So, would a ten-year deal be a wise investment? The Mariners have been burnt by recent free agent deals: Richie Sexson, Carlos Silva, Rich Aurilia, and Jack Cust, to name a few. Even Adrian Beltre, while great with his glove, didn’t hit the way he did before or after he left Seattle. Another question is tantamount when looking at Fielder: can the Mariners compete in the A.L. West without him? The Mariners have gathered several young players who gained valuable playing time last season: Trayvon Robinson, Mike Carp, Justin Smoak, Alex Liddi, and Kyle Seager. These players, ideally, are going to take a step forward in 2012. But, the Angels have Pujols. The Rangers are loaded. The Mariners need Fielder to counteract these powerful offenses and upgrade their own. Why not give Fielder ten years? Like I’ve mentioned, he’s had no health issues and has hit over 32 HR in the last five seasons. The Mariners need this bat, and they need to do what’s necessary to land it. You recapture fan’s interest and make the team competitive now and for years to come.
The other player, Yu Darvish, could give the Mariners one of the best rotations in the American League. Right now, teams have entered silent bids for the rights to negotiate a contract with the 25 year old right handed starting pitcher. Darvish was a monster in Japan last season going 18-6 with a 1.44 ERA and 276 strikeouts in 232 innings of work. According to Peter Gammons on MLB Network’s Hot Stove last night, the Mariners are a leading contender along with the Rangers and Blue Jays. Combined with Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda, the Mariners rotation would be young and powerful. Although last season ended badly, the Mariners showed their potential. In early July, the Mariners were 43-43, and they were two and a half games behind the Rangers for first place. Of course, after that the Mariners fell apart and the Rangers took off, but it’s not far fetched for a Mariner fan to have hope. With these two additions, Seattle can contend for the A.L. West title. That’s why along with the entire Mariner fan base, I’ve got my fingers crossed hoping the Mariners come out on top for both players.