As December creeps upon us, the Seattle Mariners can cobble together a pretty solid starting rotation, most of an infield – who’s on first? – and come up with more than enough catching.
What they can’t do is find an outfield that offers any kind of hope.
If you had to begin play today, there’d be Ichiro in right field, Jeremy Reed in center and Wladimir Balentien in left.
Reed is a fourth outfielder, a good-glove singles hitter.
Balentien is a prospect who became a suspect in a 243 at-bat audition. By the end of the season, he was lost at the plate, absolutely hopeless against off-speed stuff.
Ichiro? Pencil him in for, oh, 225 hits next season.
That leaves the team two viable outfielders short, and there’s not much in the minors that’s close.
Mike Morse is no longer being used in the outfield as the team tries to make him a first baseman in winter ball. Willie Bloomquist, a speedy option, doesn’t appear high on the Mariners re-sign list.
Mike Wilson is intriguing, especially after hitting 27 home runs, but that was in AA ball. And Greg Halman has power (29 home runs) and speed (31 stolen bases), but he spent 2008 in A ball.
Both will likely be in camp with the Mariners his spring, and each will get the chance to make the huge jump to the big leagues. Expecting either to do so isn’t overly realistic.
When the winter meetings begin next month, the Mariners will be pursuing any reasonable trade discussions, with an eye on acquiring a viable outfielder. They don’t want to sign a Brad Wilkerson-type free agent – they’re not looking for one-year help.
If they have to push one of their kids too fast, they may try.
They’d rather find solutions through trade, and they’re open to suggestions.