Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik is, by all accounts, close to being tapped out on the amount of payroll space he has left to him as he puts together the Seattle roster for the 2011 season.
Based on the known salary numbers and best guesses on what arbitration-eligible players will receive, the Mariners have perhaps $5 million left to spend on outfielders, infielders and pitchers.
At the same time Zduriencik keeps talking with free agents and their representatives, hoping to lure a few more to the Northwest. They have been linked to, among others, free agent starter Carl Pavano, who wants a three-year deal and more than a little cash.
(Pavano is mentioned only because his name is out there. It shouldnt be. The Mariners tried to lure him the last time he was a free agent in 2004, and he said no to the Northwest. While Zduriencik wasnt part of that, its unlikely in the extreme that the organization as a whole would want to welcome someone who already jilted the Mariners.)
Anyway, what is the point of all that talk when the club has so little to spend?
Well, Christmas is the season of hope, and Zduriencik quite evidently hopes he can unload the contracts of one, two or even more of the more well-paid members of his current roster. Only right fielder Ichiro Suzuki and starter Felix Hernandez are untouchable in the trade market, although Zduriencik would like to hang on to center fielder Franklin Gutierrez if at all possible.
Top priority, and toughest to deal, is left fielder Milton Bradley, who has $12 million coming his way this year. Its not just the money but the perceived attitude issues and the injury problems Bradley brings to the equation that makes him so tough to deal.
He walked out on his teammates once in 2010, then wound up asking for and receiving a second chance after he dealt with anger management issues. After that, however, he suffered through a bout of injuries that made him mostly an afterthought in a brutal 2010 101-loss Seattle season.
If a Bradley trade could be arranged, even if the Mariners had to pick up half of the contract just to make the deal, it would still be an extra $6 million the club would have to devote to free agents. And it would give Michael Saunders a chance to play regularly in lift in 2011 so the Mariners could see if Saunders is a young player the club can move forward with.
Then there is Jack Wilson. The shortstop came over with the reputation of being one of the slickest-fielding at his position in the game. That he may be, but Seattle hasnt seen it in 1½ seasons because Wilson has been so often injured. The Mariners have traded with the Cardinals for Brendan Ryan, and he could step in at shortstop if Jack Wilson was dealt, and that would be $5 million more to spend.
There has been talk in Southern California of the Angels trading with the Mariners for Chone Figgins, who was a star in Anaheim but who struggled in his first year with Seattle after signing a four-year deal. Right now the Angels are focused on another former Mariner, Adrian Beltre, but if Beltre doesnt settle in Southern California, Angels management may look at Figgins as the next best thing. Hes due $9.5 million this year and close to $20 million total the following two seasons, so that trade would free up a lot of working capital. Again, the Mariners have Ryan and former first round draft pick Dustin Ackley to throw out at second base if Figgins is gone. (Ryan could also play third, if needed).
As for closer David Aardsma, there are reports hes being shopped, too. The club announced Thursday that Aardsma will undergo surgery on his left hip. As a result, he is 100 percent less marketable than he was this time a week ago, and now the Mariners have bigger concerns.
Neither the club nor the pitcher believes he wont be ready come opening day. On the hand, there is a long history in baseball on players who were supposed to be ready for opening day who werent.
The Mariners said Aardsma is scheduled to have surgery to repair a tear in the labrum of his left hip in Vail, C) on Monday, Jan. 3 by Dr. Marc Phillipon.
Aardsma was mostly healthy in 2010, but the club said he has been bothered by the hip in the almost three months since the season ended. The teams medical director, Dr. Edward Khalfayan, met with Aardsma, trainer Rick Griffin and Dr. Phillipon.
The plan is for Aardsma to be able to resume throwing in about four weeks, meaning he will be behind the other pitches when spring training starts mid-February, but he should be ready to go come opening day.
Aardsma, who came to Seattle from Boston two years ago, has 69 saves in his career, all of them since the start of the 2009 season. He had 31 saves in 36 tries in 2010, including a stretch of 15 saves in 16 tries after July 10.