Sunday, December 7, 2008

Signs that winter is coming

---The days get shorter and colder. (Boo to 4:00 sunsets)

---Christmas music blares from retail stores, to the point where a day doesn't go by without one becoming subjugated to the wonderful, artistic majesty of Bruce Springsteen's "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town."

---Hollywood starts releasing less crappy movies.

---For four days in December, general managers and agents from all walks of life in baseball convene in a crowded hotel lobby to discuss trades, sign free agents, and get sloshed on cheap cocktails.

Yes, the Winter Meetings are mere hours away, and your humble author will be here at "Rime" each day, covering the latest moves/rumor-mongering. I don't expect the Mariners to be in play for any of the A-list free agents...for that matter, I really don't know what to expect from the Mariners. Jack Zduriencik hasn't tipped his hand either way on whether he wants to blow up the team and write off the next 2-3 years entirely, or retool for '09 in preparation for a possible run in '10.

Anxiety. That about sums up the general feeling I have towards the next three-and-a-half days. Anxious about the possibility of shopping Beltre or Putz. Anxious about the upcoming Rule 5 draftees. Anxious to see which agent/GM will inevitably end up drinking too much egg nog spiked with rum and say things he will later regret.

More than anxiety, though, are two things I have not felt about the Mariners in a long, long time: faith and hope. Faith that, whatever may come, Zduriencik has a clear plan and vision. Hope that he improves the team, even if it means saying goodbye to some of my favorite players. Faith that, at the end of this winter, the team will be in a better position than it was at the beginning. Hope that Z-man will put Seattle back on the baseball map. Faith that he will.

Harvey Dent once said, "the night is darkest just before the dawn." 2008 was the darkest part of the night in Mariner-land, but Zduriencik and his forward-thinking crew have brought us a new dawn. Even as the sun outside becomes a rarer and rarer sight with each passing day (seriously, boo to 4:00 sunsets), brighter days are ahead for baseball.

Go Z-man. Go Mariners. Don't let us down.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Russell Branyan--new Mariner

Per Geoff Baker. No word on the financial terms, but I can almost guarantee it's a one-year deal.

Branyan is your prototypical feast-or-famine slugger. He can mash the ball, but his strikeout rates are almost Jack Cust-esque. Still, the left-handed power potential is there, and he'll be a massive improvement over the three-ring circus of Sexon, Cairo and LaHair at 1B. Plus, he can play a little 3B in a pinch. He can't hit lefties to save his life, so there will have to be some kind of platoon at 1B/DH.

I like this move a lot. Branyan is obviously not in the team's future plans, but he's the perfect one-year stopgap--someone who can give decent production for next-to-nothing while the team searches for a long-term answer. As Zduriencik's first on-the-field move this winter, this gets a solid nod of approval from me.

UPDATE: ESPN is saying one year, $1.4 million with performance incentives, which is around the amount I was expecting. There is almost no downside to this move at all.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Ibanez offered arbitration

We all knew this was coming, but Larry LaRue makes it official: Raul Ibanez has been offered arbitration by the Mariners. As we all know, this should be the most obvious move, but given the Jose Guillen disaster last year, some may have been holding their breath. It's nice to know we now have a front office group who can actually tie their shoelaces together without tripping down the stairs.

This is pretty much a win-win for the M's. If Ibanez accepts---extremely unlikely, given that several teams are interested in giving him a multi-year deal--the team can sit him at DH and have a decently good bat for one not-too-expensive year. If he declines, they get two Type A draft picks, and we know how much Zduriencik loves drafts.

From a personal perspective, I'll miss Ibanez---his cool goatee, the "RAUUUUUUULLL" chants at Safeco, even his comic mishaps in the outfield were endearing in their own way---but from a baseball perspective, this move makes too much sense. Godspeed, Raul.