Geoff Baker covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times. He provides daily coverage of the team throughout spring training, and during the season.
January 28, 2009 11:36 AM
Posted by Larry Stone
UPDATE AT 12 NOON: As predicted at the end of this post, the Mariners just officially released pitcher Randy Messenger to get their 40-man roster back down to 40 after the trade. He appeared in 13 games last year.
Here's the story I wrote for the website on the trade, which follows the pattern Zduriencik has established of picking up low-cost players that he believes are under-valued and have considerable upside.
What I found interesting is that he expects Ronny Cedeno to push both Yuniesky Betancourt at shortstop and Jose Lopez at second base for a starting job. I don't know if this is just a psychological ploy to light a fire under those two, or if the jobs are really open. I'd think Betancourt, who has unquestionably regressed the last couple of years, is the most vulnerable. Remember, it wasn't that long ago that Cedeno was a hot-shot shortstop prospect being groomed by the Cubs to take over the job. It didn't work out -- they might have rushed him into the starting position a little too quickly -- but he's still young and could yet have a breakthrough. It's not a bad gamble, because at the worst he'll be a utility man in the Willie Bloomquist/Miguel Cairo mode.
This also raises the specter, as I pointed out in the story, of Lopez getting some time at first base, which won't make him too happy. He made it clear last year, when Jim Riggleman trotted him out at first base in September, that he was not pleased. But Zduriencik made it clear that it's at least on the table as an option. With Russ Branyan hitting lefty and Lopez righty, there could be some platooning there. But when it comes down to it, I expect Lopez to be the primary second baseman.
Olson is another interesting guy. He was once a jewel of the Orioles' farm system (until the Mariners sent them new jewels in the Bedard trade). He's just the sort of guy the Mariners need to be stock-piling -- good young arms that could develop into useful pitchers.
This should be a fascinating spring training. I can't remember the Mariners having so many decisions to make -- in the rotation, in the bullpen, at first base, at catcher, at DH, in left field, and now, ostensibly, at second base and shortstop. Can't wait to see how all this sorts out -- and I have a hunch that Mr. Z isn't done yet. It's hard to imagine them not coming up with another outfielder either in free agency or through trade.
As The Crappy Totals points out, this deal makes Aaron Heilman the new Pokey Reese, although Pokey was on the roster all season and didn't play a single inning, while Heilman lasted just six weeks. But what a six weeks it was.
This two-for-one deal also leaves the Mariners' 40-man roster at 41, so expect a move later in the day. My hunch: Pitcher Randy Messenger will be the odd man out.