While this will certainly always be the offseason of Robinson Cano in Seattle, the Mariners have made their mark again today by signing Corey Hart to a one-year deal while also picking up Logan Morrison from the Marlins in a deal for Carter Capps. The Cano deal was a signal that the Mariners would be looking to contend sooner rather than later and picking up a pair of buy low options to fill out their lineup only reinforces that strategy. The Mariners are going for it. The question is if it will work.
The Mariners had very little payroll committed entering the offseason and have a new television deal coming online to add revenue shortly. They had money to spend, and are looking to spend it to vault themselves into contention. Cano is a clear upgrade at second, but adding Hart and Morrison should also help on one side of the ball. The defensive ramifications aren't entirely clear yet, however.
Hart is coming on board for one season, which is usually a good bet at almost any price. In this case it's a $5 million guarantee with a chance to earn an extra $8 million in incentives. The knock on Hart is his health, given that he missed the entire 2013 season. But looking at 2010-2012, Hart was a very solid contributor. He provides decent on base skills and nice power, but the glove doesn't help. For Hart, it's a question of how he will be utilized. Assuming his recent injuries haven't fundamentally changed his skill set, his bat will help the Mariners in 2014.
Morrison, on the other hand, is a mix of injury questions and potential upside. Morrison hit well during his first two partial seasons in the big leagues but has been below average at the plate over the last two. Morrison also doesn't offer much with the glove and has his own set of health concerns. Capps is a high-heat reliever who has been homer-prone during his brief time in the show. He has some potential, but relievers are relievers and there aren't many to whom you should cling to tightly.
The Mariners added two bat first corner outfield, first base, DH types to their roster today. However, they already have at least one of those in Justin Smoak, and still have some connection to Jesus Montero in a similar capacity. Some have suggested Morrison or Smoak might be heading out in a trade in the near future, which would change the calculation to some degree. Having two players to fill in 1B and DH is fine, but having three is a bit of a problem when none are capable of handling a large outfield very well.
In one sense, this was a good day for the Mariners as they added some good upside offense to their 2014 roster at the cost of a reliever and a few million dollars. The concern is what this means for the actual 2014 alignment. If one of these guys is playing in the outfield every day, you're going to give back most of the runs you're gaining at the plate. If Morrison works into a platoon situation with a player yet to be acquired or if one of these players is flipped to fill another need, this could work.
It's clear that the Mariners are going for it, it's just not entirely clear how they intend to get there. I think there is a path to contention for the Mariners this year and next, but it's going to require that they make a lot of smart moves. Signing Cano only makes sense if you empty out the bank account to surround him with the right players. The Mariners have a pitching staff near contention, but they need to build a lineup that can contend as well. The still need some production in the outfield and perhaps an impact arm to really make this work. Despite reports that they're out on Choo, they need him now more than ever. It's silly to spend a quarter billion on Cano if you're using him to get to 80 wins. Once you commit that much, there is no turning back.
Which is why today's moves make sense. The Mariners need to add as much talent as they possibly can to their roster. Hart is such a player, if healthy. Morrison is worth looking into at a reasonable price given that his minor league track record still carries some weight. So long as the Mariners know these are complimentary pieces, the whole thing still has a chance. You can't acquire Logan Morrison and think he's an everyday left fielder who can be a centerpiece of your offense. You can acquire him to play part time or DH.
It's not entirely clear what the Mariners are working towards. This really is a case in which you need to see the entire picture before deciding if it was wise. If they sign Choo and trade for a nice starter on Friday, that's the same as if they did so in the reverse order. The Mariners are spending money, but they haven't mortgaged their farm system. As long as today's moves don't keep them out of the running for other, bigger upgrades, they did just fine. If this is the endgame, then outlook is different.
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All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs.
Neil Weinberg is the Associate Managing Editor at Beyond The Box Score, contributor to Gammons Daily, and can also be found writing enthusiastically about the Detroit Tigers at New English D. You can follow and interact with him on Twitter at @NeilWeinberg44.