Are the Mariners a better team on Friday than they were on Thursday?
General manager Jack Zduriencik seemed to feel they are after he traded Jose Lopez to Colorado, brought back infielder Josh Wilson and left-handed starter Erik Bedard and decided against tendering a contract to lefty Ryan Rowland-Smith.
In fact its probably too early to make any kind of sensible judgment on the matter, because the Mariners roster isnt anywhere close to where it should be heading into spring training.
“I dont think our roster is complete right now,” Zduriencik said. “There will be opportunities for young players to compete for jobs, and we hope to create a degree of competition.
“We have places to fill. We are seeing a lot of younger guys on our 40-man roster. They are young and they are talented but they have no experience or little experience, we are going to need veteran leadership.”
Toward that end, the Mariners are going to spend Friday and Saturday studying the list of players around baseball who, like Rowland-Smith, were not tendered contracts and who are now free agents. And on Sunday Team Mariner will head to Orlando where they hope to tweak the roster at the winter meeting starting Monday.
“Ive always believed you have to acquire talent,” Zduriencik said of his game plan entering the winter meetings. “You may go in with a game plan with X, Y, Z (being) what I need to do. But then you adjust if one way isnt going to work.
“You go in open-minded. I know what Id like to accomplish. Whether we can or cannot remains to be seen.”
The signing of Bedard will give the Mariners a chance to get some value at minimal expense from the left-hander. Acquired in 2008, he has been hurt in each of his three seasons, getting in a half season in 2008 and 2009, then missing then entire 2010 season, finally being benched by August shoulder surgery.
“With all the reports we have hes ready to go, Zduriencik said late Monday. “There was one day in Texas we were out in the bullpen, he threw and he threw terrific; he looked ready to roll. Then his rehab started and he started to feel the pain in his shoulder.
“I would hope that Erik would be part of the rotation. Right now he feels that hes ready. He wanted to come back here. It made a lot of sense to us that this was the right thing to do.”
As for Lopez, Zduriencik said he liked much about him, but indicated that the Mariners were going in a “different direction.” That may be code for playing a rookie, Dustin Ackley, at second next year and moving Chone Figgins to third base. Or it could be a setup for the addition of an infielder in the coming days and weeks.
Lopez was on the way out with the Mariners after his production had fallen off dramatically, from 25 homers and 96 RBIs in 2009 to 10 homers and 58 RBIs last year.
Zduriencik spent much of the recent weeks in trying to arrange a trade for Lopez, who was a good teammate and respected in the clubhouse, but who had trouble as a right-hander hitting in Safeco Field, a park built for lefties.
“At times he was a very nice player, Zduriencik said. “I have a lot of respect for what he did, playing every day, playing hard.
Lopezs production can be expected to rise if he gets regular playing time with the Rockies in Coors Field, which does nothing to dampen a right-handed hitters production.
Rowland-Smith was given the chance to get a big league deal with the Mariners, but Zduriencik said “it would have to be on our terms, and Rowland-Smith wasnt comfortable with that. The left-hander likely wanted a guarantee hed have a chance to start and the Mariners wouldnt give it.
The player the Mariners got in exchange, right-handed pitcher Chaz Roe, is a former first-round draft pick (32nd overall in 2005) of the Rockies who has climbed slowly through the Rockies minor league system.
He went 9-13 with a 5.98 ERA for Colorado Springs in 2010, the first time he’d pitched at the Triple-A level.