The Seattle Mariners didn’t need to wait for tomorrow’s deadline, declining contract options Jose Lopez, Russell Branyan and Erik Bedard that will free the team from $17 million in payroll for 2011.
In other moves, outfielder Ryan Langerhans and catcher Guillermo Quiroz declined being outrighted to the minor leagues and became free agents, right-handed pitcher Brian Sweeney was claimed off waivers by the Arizona Diamondbacks and pitchers Ryan Feierabend, Chris Seddon and Sean White were outrighted to Tacoma. Those moves left Seattle’s 40-man major league roster at 30.
The Mariners will pay $250,000 in buyouts to Lopez and Bedard, and the Cleveland Indians will be responsible for buying out the final year of Branyan’s deal.
The move severs ties with Branyan and Bedard, who become free agents. Lopez, however, remains under team control and is arbitration eligible. The Mariners can non-tender him next month, or trade him any time before that. They could also negotiate a new contract with Lopez, though that’s unlikely.
“We made our decisions and will move forward,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said.
Since both Lopez and Branyan hit in the heart of the lineup last year, will the team look outside the organization to fill those spots for 2011?
“It’s hard to have kids fill those roles, although they may fit in,” Zduriencik said. “We’re wide open to options that will improve the team and upgrade our offense.”
Bedard, the left-hander acquired by then-general manager Bill Bavasi three years ago, won 11 games in three seasons – each of which ended in surgery. Bedard didn’t throw a pitch in 2010.
Branyan, 34, hit 31 home runs with Seattle in 2009, signed with Cleveland last spring and was reacquired by Zduriencik in June. In 57 games with the Mariners, he led the team with 15 home runs, finishing his season with 25 homers.
Lopez, 26, has spent his entire five-year career with Seattle, most of that time as a second baseman. After a solid 2009 season, when he batted .272 with 25 home runs and 96 RBI, Lopez hit just .239 last year with 10 home runs – three of those in one game – and 58 RBI. He played third base last year.