Mariner Squalls 01/31/14: Back in Business?

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== Cruz Buzz Resonating ==

Suddenly news arrives that the Mariners are “back in business” and are in active pursuit of Nelson Cruz and Fernando Rodney.

What’s not clear is what caused the “OPEN” sign to light back up.

Was it new president Kevin Mather loosening the purse strings?  Maybe, but after Jack Zduriencik’s initial meeting with Mather he didn’t sound like a guy with new freedom to spend.

Or was it Scott Baker‘s choice to sign with Seattle?  Could be.  Zduriencik may view Baker as a solid middle-of-the-rotation guy whom he was able to snag on a no-risk minor league deal.  That may have freed up the remaining bucks for a shot at Cruz.

Plus there is the draft pick issue.  If Z needed to step up and sign Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana, that would have cost a draft pick.  But Baker has zero strings attached.  So if they were going to give up another pick, they can do it for Cruz instead. (And they get a pick back if someone signs Kendrys Morales before the draft — though it’s possible no one will.)

And the market for Cruz hasn’t really developed, with apparently the Orioles the only other team showing serious interest.  And it has been pointed out that Cruz and Robinson Cano were teammates on the Dominican team at the World Baseball Classic.

So maybe a bargain-bin pickup of a guy with .500 SLG/.200 ISO (even if he doesn’t bring much else to the table)?  Of course, we don’t know how much of those numbers were PED-enhanced.

== If Cruz, then … ==

Who gets squeezed out when the doors close on the 25-man roster?

Assuming Willie Bloomquist gets Spot No. 25, then it would be Nick Franklin or Dustin Ackley missing the cut, right?

Presumably they’ll need Franklin Gutierrez as a defensive replacement in the outfield (given that Cruz, Corey Hart and Logan Morrison will all have to trot out there some of the time).

Or a trade could happen, with Ackley going to a team that needs a second baseman perhaps the most logical move, particularly if it could bring back bullpen help.  That being said, I don’t really like selling low on Ackley.

Trading Franklin to make room for a short-termer coming off a PED suspension?  No dice.  Send him to Tacoma if you must, but it’s not the time to trade Little Nicky.

The final option would be to trade Justin Smoak.  There are those who think he’s due for a big bust-out.  I don’t really see it myself, but another team might offer up something valuable for him.

Most likely outcome seems like Franklin to AAA.

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