Patience has become the keyword for Mariners fans this off season. We are near the end of the year, two months away from Spring Training, and playing the waiting game. The Mariners still need to upgrade their offense if they are going to compete in the A.L. West in 2012. It is a little far-fetched to think this offense can rebound to do enough after back-to-back last place finishes even though the youth on offense improved significantly last season with the emergence of Mike Carp and the acquisition of Trayvon Robinson and Casper Wells. That’s why the Mariners remain one of the lead suitors in the race for the biggest remaining free agent, Prince Fielder.
Before diving into what we know about Fielder, the Mariners have made a move since my last article. Reportedly, the Mariners added former left handed closer George Sherrill to the bullpen. CBSsports.com reported this deal last Saturday night, but there has yet to be official confirmation from Seattle. Sherrill, who went to Baltimore from Seattle in the Erik Bedard deal, had his best season in 2008 converting 31 saves out of 37 opportunities. In his eight major league seasons, Sherrill has held left-handed batters to an eye-popping .180 batting average. He was 3-1 with a 3.00 ERA in 36 IP last season for the Atlanta Braves.
But, myself like all Mariner fans have been hanging on all the Prince Fielder news hoping that Seattle can land the slugger. According to Jon Heyman of CBSsports.com, the Mariners have told Fielder what they would pay to bring his big bat to Seattle. They would love to have him, but have financial constraints. This slightly disheartening to hear as a Mariner fan, to be honest. The payroll had been bloated when Jack Zduriencik took over as GM. However, the payroll went from $117 million in 2008 to $86 million in 2011. The other factor when discussing financial would be yearly attendance. It has dropped in Seattle going to under 2 million fans for the season for the first time since 1995. To get attendance back up though, the Mariners have to improve. It’s absurd to expect attendance to rise if the Mariners field another last place team, and they aren’t moving out of the cellar without a significant improvement in the offense.
The other main suitor that has been rumored are the Chicago Cubs. Fielder seems a nice pick-up for a Cub team that has lost Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena from their line-up. Whether it’s a smoke screen or not, several media members in Chicago have either reported the Cubs aren’t in on Fielder or come near his asking price in length of contract. David Kaplan of CSN Chicago reported the Cubs aren’t going to make Fielder “a major offer”. The other teams rumored to be in on Fielder are the Orioles, Rangers, and Nationals. However, the Rangers and Nationals have both made major moves this week with the Rangers winning bidding rights on Yu Darvish and the Nationals completing a trade with Oakland for Gio Gonzalez.