Mariners seek creative options for right-field vacancy
Cabrera's deal with White Sox forces club to pursue alternatives
SEATTLE -- Melky Cabrera, the free-agent outfielder expected by many to wind up with the Mariners this offseason, instead opted to sign with the White Sox late Saturday night. And that might push Seattle more toward available trade options as general manager Jack Zduriencik looks to fill a right-field vacancy.
Cabrera's deal is for three years and will pay $42 million, a source told MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez, though it hasn't been announced by the White Sox.
The Mariners pursued Cabrera, but they weren't willing to go beyond three years. ESPN Deportes reported Sunday that Cabrera didn't receive any four-year offers, so he chose the deal that kept him closest to the East Coast.
Cabrera lives in the Dominican Republic and has played eight of his 10 Major League seasons in New York, Toronto and Atlanta, with one season in Kansas City and one in San Francisco.
The Mariners have been looking to find more offense out of their right-field spot and traded incumbent starter Michael Saunders to the Blue Jays for pitcher J.A. Happ two weeks ago. So what now? Zduriencik was on ESPN 710 Seattle's Hot Stove Show on Friday night and even before Cabrera's signing said the club might need "to get a little creative" to fill its right-field hole and indicated he might be making more than one move in that regard.
That would hint the club could be leaning toward a platoon solution, which makes sense with the switch-hitting Cabrera out of the picture and all the premier free-agent hitters now off the board.
The remaining free-agent outfielders include right-handers Alex Rios, Michael Morse, Chris Denorfia, Jonny Gomes and Delmon Young and left-handers Nori Aoki, Colby Rasmus, Ichiro Suzuki and Endy Chavez.
Morse, Denorfia, Suzuki and Chavez have all been with the Mariners in the past, with Denorfia and Chavez filling the right-field duties much of the second half last season while Saunders was on the disabled list. Chavez has played 177 games for Seattle the past two seasons, both times signing a Minor League deal and then making the squad.
The trade route seems an increasingly likely solution, and the Mariners have some young power arms available in return. Justin Upton remains available in Atlanta, though Seattle has balked at any requests for young pitching standout Taijuan Walker in exchange for a player with just one year left on his contract.
The White Sox were pushing to acquire one of Seattle's top right-handed relievers in exchange for Dayan Viciedo, but their asking price might go down now with the acquisition of Cabrera leaving Viciedo without a starting spot.
The Mariners initially preferred a right-handed bat, but they are more open to left-handed options after signing right-handed slugger Nelson Cruz. If so, that certainly could open up their trade options for the likes of Gerardo Parra of the Brewers, Seth Smith of the Padres, Andre Ethier of the Dodgers, David Murphy of the Indians or Travis Snider of the Pirates, all of whom are believed available.
Parra might be a match as he's a two-time Gold Glove winner and Milwaukee needs bullpen help, which is a Seattle strength. The 27-year-old is projected to make about $6 million in 2015 in his final season of arbitration eligibility and is a career .274/.326/.395 hitter, but he is currently the fourth outfielder on a Milwaukee club that also has Ryan Braun, Carlos Gomez and Khris Davis.
Ethier, 32, still has three years and $56 million remaining on his contract and hit a career-low .249/.322./370 with four homers and 42 RBIs in 380 at-bats in the over-crowded Dodgers outfield last year. But he's a former All-Star and Gold Glove winner who could be a solid comeback candidate. Assuming the Dodgers would absorb some of his contract, he'd be an interesting option and fit in Safeco Field.
Smith, 32, is a quality platoon candidate as a strong option against right-handed pitching. He has two years and $12.75 million left on his contract after batting .266/.367/.440 in 136 games last year with the Padres.
As for right-handed hitters, the Rockies have interest in moving Drew Stubbs, a 30-year-old with an intriguing combination of power and speed who might also fit well in a platoon situation. And Marlon Byrd of the Phillies remains available coming off a 25-home run, 85-RBI season, though he is 37 years old and had a no-trade clause that included the Mariners in his contract last year.
Boston also has an excess of outfielders and would likely make switch-hitter Daniel Nava or right-handers Allen Craig or Shane Victorino available.
Seattle also has some internal options. Though Cruz was signed primarily to fill the designated-hitter vacancy, he played 70 games in the outfield last season for Baltimore and has the requisite strong arm to play right field, though his mobility could be an issue in expansive Safeco Field.
Logan Morrison falls in the same category as he played 10 games in the outfield last season for Seattle, but is viewed more as a first baseman and would be the starter there as things stand now.
James Jones and Stefen Romero both saw considerable outfield time last season for Seattle as rookies, with the left-handed Jones hitting .250 and stealing 27 bases in 108 games, while right-hander Romero hit .192 in 72 games. The Mariners would prefer to get a more-experienced starter and have Jones and Romero as bench options, but both players will be given a chance to compete in the spring and could be part of the mix.