After their second consecutive 90+ loss season brought me much disappointment, the Mariners didn't exactly do much to reinvigorate me during my truly favorite season -- the Hot Stove League. Am I the only one who feels like this offseason just flew by? With a week to go until the first official workouts begin (and a few more weeks until games begin), it's time to wrap up a few things.
It appears to me that, outside of perhaps Howard Lincoln and a few other M's FO staff, most people's expectations are pretty low for what the M's will do in 2006. Flame wars have erupted between those people who believe the M's, right now, are an 85+ win team, and their rivals who want to lynch Bavasi right this very minute. I'm inclined to believe that the M's, realistically, will win 82-85 games this season, and will see this as good progress. Getting back to .500 is a very decent goal, considering the anchorweights that still hover over this team (Spiezio's contract, etc...). The optimistic side of me, too, sees that if a few things fall the M's way (as opposed to the last few years, when everything seemed to go against them), they have an outside chance of making the playoffs.
Jeff Weaver is still available. I know he wants more money than he probably deserves. Still, he's a good, solid pitcher that would definitely help the M's. I haven't heard anything other than that the Angels were interested -- if the price is right. It's hard to believe he's held out this long. With Molina signing on with the Jays, he's the only real interesting guy out there on the market. I'll admit to being swayed by Dave Cameron's argument for taking a flyer on Kevin Brown. But the common theme, Mariners-wise, is that the M's really need one more starting pitcher. Weaver's too expensive, and Brown's too old and injury-prone. Still, while Lee Pelekoudis argued on KJR this morning that both Meche and Pineiro should pitch well this season (since they're both "pitching for contracts"), and Washburn & Felix is definitely an upgrade over Sele and Franklin, I'm still not very confident that the M's FO has built the best rotation it possibly can (given what they have, and what's available on the FA market).
With the M's offense hinging tremendously on breakout years out of Reed, Lopez and (possibly) Yu-Bet, as well as bounce-back seasons out of Beltre and Ichiro, I'd feel much better with this team's chances of actually making the playoffs, were the Pythag scale tilted towards reducing the Runs Allowed totals. As the Hot Stove is turned off, and the burners cool into hybernation, I'd really like to see the M's take a chance on one of these guys. If the unimaginable would happen, and the 2006 M's actually make the playoffs, I'd probably feel more comfortable giving the ball to Weaver or Brown than Meche or Pineiro.