Mariners adding a little infield depth
General manager Jack Zduriencik hasn’t busted any big moves in the opening days of Hot Stove action and — outside of conjecture over what it would take to get in the Justin Upton Sweepstakes — the Mariners haven’t been prominently mentioned in many of the early rumblings.
This clearly is a different offseason than last, when the Mariners had just cleared a bunch of money off their books and were at least contenders in many of the prime free-agent pursuits.
This offseason will wind up having some action, but more likely of the trade variety later on when the Winter Meetings gear up and GMs start to get serious about making moves.
The Mariners will sign a couple Major League free agents, but not likely the Chone Figgins-type blockbuster of ’09. So far Zduriencik and staff have stuck with combing the Minor League free agent pile and have announced nine names who will be invited to Major League Spring Training in February.
The club always brings about 20 Minor League free agents to Peoria and invariably, a couple wind up making the club and helping out in some way. Last year the Mariners got Josh Wilson, David Pauley and Josh Bard via that route, for instance.
You never know who’ll end up in Tacoma and who might provide a nice addition to the big-league roster. But it’s worth keeping an eye on one of Wednesday’s additions, utility infielder Luis Rodriguez.
The Mariners face a decision on young second baseman Dustin Ackley. Either they make him the man from the get-go, or bring in a veteran stop-gap and give Ackley a little more time in Tacoma.
Rodriguez could compete with Josh Wilson for the utility infield position as well as provide a possible fill-in solution at second base, where he’s started 69 games for the Twins and Padres among his 363 Major League appearances.
Rodriguez, 30, is a .243 career hitter in the big leagues, but is coming off something of a breakthrough season last year when he batted .293 with 16 home runs and 56 RBI in 94 games for Charlotte, the White Sox’s AAA club.
Is he the ultimate solution? No. Ackley obviously is the future. But if the Mariners decide their 2009 first-round pick needs a little more seasoning, as Zduriencik continues to suggest, then Rodriguez might be part of the present.
Sean Kazmar, a 25-year-old middle infielder who played briefly with the Padres in ’08 and spent the last two years with the Portland Beavers, is another who’ll be in that mix along with Matt Tuiasosopo and whoever else Zduriencik might land between now and February.
These aren’t the big offseason moves fans are awaiting, but they are part of the process of filling out the Spring Training roster and providing depth in the system. And sometimes a nugget can be found among the Minor League free agents.
Here’s my story on the latest four signings, which included Rodriguez and three pitchers, including knuckleballer Charlie Haeger.
(Luis Rodriguez photo taken by Doug Pensinger of Getty Images)