Seattle Mariners Offseason Tracker: Hottest Trade Rumors, Free Agency News

Rick WeinerFeatured ColumnistNovember 1, 2013

Seattle Mariners Offseason Tracker: Hottest Trade Rumors, Free Agency News

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    A prospect-laden roster needs to take the next step for Seattle to end its 12-year playoff drought, but the front office can certainly improve the team's chances by adding the right pieces this winter via free agency and trades.

    After nearly landing the prize of last year's free-agent market in Josh Hamilton, the Mariners were forced to sign secondary pieces, none of which were good enough to put the team over .500 for the first time since 2009.

    It's not a question of whether change is coming to Seattle, it's a question of how significant those changes will be. ESPN's Buster Olney reported that the team's offseason goals are simple: to land a No. 2 starter, a closer, and two front-line power hitters.

    Who is the team looking at to fill those roles?

    Keep it here for the most up-to-the-minute rumblings about the Mariners along with analysis and everything else that comes with it. While the post date will always show as November 1, simply click through to see the latest on the Mariners as they put together their roster for the 2014 season.   

Seattle's Free Agents and Done Deals

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    All the juicy rumors and analysis follow, but consider this your one-stop shop for all the comings and goings in Seattle this winter, including the status of the team's own free agents.

     

    Mariners Free Agents

    OF Endy Chavez

    CF Franklin Gutierrez (Nov. 1: Team declined option; Dec. 18: Re-signed)

    OF Raul Ibanez (Dec. 18: Signed a one-year, $2.75 million deal with the Angels)

    DH Kendrys Morales

    LHP Oliver Perez

    C Humberto Quintero

    LHP Joe Saunders (Nov. 1: Team declined option

     

    Done Deals

    Dec. 2: Signed IF Willie Bloomquist to a two-year, $5.8 million deal

    Dec. 6: Signed 2B Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240 million deal (Analysis)

    Dec. 11: Signed 1B/RF Corey Hart to a one-year, $5 million deal (Analysis)

    Dec. 11: Traded RHP Carter Capps to the Marlins for 1B/LF Logan Morrison (Analysis)

    Dec. 18: Re-signed CF Franklin Gutierrez to a one-year, $1 million deal

David Price: Can Seattle Land Tampa Bay Ace Without Trading Taijuan Walker?

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    J. Meric/Getty Images

    Update: Thursday, Dec. 19 at 9:57 p.m. ET

    The Mariners remain firm in their stance that they will not include Taijuan Walker in a package to obtain David Price from the Rays, with a team source telling CBS Sports' Jon Heyman“Taijuan Walker will be on our roster come Opening Day.”

    That doesn't mean that the Mariners are out of the running for Price, however.

    A source close to the Rays told Heyman, without naming any names, that the Mariners could still put together an attractive enough package to land Price, with Heyman opining that catcher Mike Zunino and left-handed pitching prospect James Paxton could be the centerpieces of a potential deal.

    But a Mariners source indicated that the team would prefer to keep Paxton and build a package around positional players. It's speculation, of course, but Zunino, second baseman Nick Franklin and first base prospect Ji-Man Choi could all interest Tampa Bay.

    That said, a deal is not close between the two teams, and the Rays are, for the first time, talking about not only keeping Price into the 2014 season—but for the entire year—if the offers that they've received don't improve.

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: Wednesday, Dec. 11 at 11:02 a.m. ET

    FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal tweets that David Price's agent said that his client would not consider signing an extension with the Mariners. However, Rosenthal says that Price would sign an extension with some clubs.

    Seattle could still decide to offer Tampa Bay a great package in order to control Price for two years. The Mariners could hope that if they acquire him that he would change his mind later, but this recent report could keep the team from making a serious run at Price.

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: Tuesday, Dec. 10 at 11:40 p.m. ET

    CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports that neither the Dodgers or Rangers believe that they can pull off a deal for Price, going on to say "Mariners have a real opportunity here."

    I still find it incredibly difficult to believe that the Rays would trade Price to Seattle without getting Taijuan Walker in return, something the Mariners seem completely against doing.

    But we've seen stranger things happen.

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: Monday, Dec. 9 at 11:39 p.m. ET

    The Mariners acknowledge that if they were to include Taijuan Walker in a package for David Price that they could get a deal done, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports.

    But Heyman says that the Mariners don't want to trade Walker—or fellow pitching prospect James Paxton—and would prefer to build their offer for Price around position players. He goes on to say that the team regrets including Walker in their offer for Justin Upton last winter.

    While Seattle has a number of position prospects that could be of interest to the Rays, including 2B Nick Franklin and 1B Ji-Man Choi, among others, it's hard to see Tampa Bay considering a deal that didn't include Walker.

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: Monday, Dec. 9 at 4:05 p.m. ET

    CBS Sports' Jon Heyman tweets that the Mariners, along with the Dodgers and Rangers, are at this point the three most serious suitors for David Price.

    All three teams have significant interest in acquiring him, the players to pull off a deal, and the finances to potentially work out a long-term extension with the former Cy Young Award winner.

    --End of Update--

     

    Wednesday, Dec. 4 at 8:49 p.m. ET

    Yahoo! Sports' Jeff Passan says that the trade market for David Price is expected to heat up later this week—and that the Mariners are one of the teams expected to be in the mix to land the 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner.

    In fact, some sources tell Passan that they believe the Mariners are in the best position to land Price.

    Seattle has considered including Taijuan Walker as the centerpiece of a potential Price deal, according to Passan's sources, who believe that if the Mariners were to include either Nick Franklin or Brad Miller, along with some other prospects, that other suitors would be hard-pressed to come up with a better package.

    No team in baseball would be able to boast as formidable a threesome atop their rotation as the Mariners, who would add Price to a group that already includes Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma.

     

Ervin Santana: Mariners Interested in Free Agent Righty

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    Update: Wednesday, Dec. 18 at 6:11 p.m. ET

    Sources tell Fox Sports' Jon Morosi that the Mariners continue to express interest in Ervin Santana, arguably the best free agent pitcher left on the market.

    A major part of Kansas City's turnaround in 2013, the 30-year-old Santana is coming off a terrific campaign that saw him pitch to a 3.24 ERA and 1.14 WHIP over 32 starts, cracking the 200-inning plateau for the third time in the past four years and fifth time in his nine-year career.

    Santana's representatives told Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports that Santana was seeking a five-year deal in excess of $100 million in November, but with the market slow to develop, it's highly unlikely that they'll be able to command such a price from anyone.

    Familiar with the AL West after spending the first eight years of his career with the Angels, adding Santana to the rotation would not only give the Mariners another experienced innings-eater, but along with Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, give Seattle one of the better rotation trios in the game.

    --End of Update--

     

    Saturday, Nov. 30 at 1:30 p.m. ET

    ESPN's Buster Olney says that one of the "big three" starting pitchers left on the free agent market—Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana—seems "destined" to land in Seattle.

    While the Mariners have tagged landing a front-end starter as one of their priorities this offseason, I'd hesitate to call any of that trio a front-end starter—especially when joining a rotation with two of the game's best in Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma.

    Seattle also has multiple prospects with which to swing a trade, whether it be for Chicago's Jeff Samardzija or Tampa Bay's David Price, though whether they'd even consider trading for a pitcher that isn't under team control for years to come is pure speculation at this point.

    One thing is for certain: bolstering the lineup isn't the only thing that the Mariners are going to do this winter.

Seattle's Youth in Demand

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    Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

    Update: Wednesday, Dec. 18 at 6:12 p.m. ET

    Infielder Nick Franklin is drawing significant trade interest from multiple teams, according to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal.

    Franklin, Seattle's starting second baseman for much of the 2013 season, became expendable when the team signed Robinson Cano.

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: Tuesday, Dec. 10 at 4:10 p.m. ET

    CBS Sports' Jon Heyman says, via Twitter, that Taijuan Walker remains just about untouchable but that the Mariners are willing to trade their top positional prospects—including, possibly, C Mike Zunino.

    In a separate tweet, Heyman says that the Mets, Padres and Yankees have all expressed interest in 2B/OF Dustin Ackley.

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: Monday, Dec. 9 at 5:05 p.m. ET

    MLB.com's Greg Johns caught up with Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik at the Winter Meetings, and while the GM understands why teams are asking, he said "I have no intention of trading Taijuan Walker."

    Walker, who the team offered as part of a package to obtain Justin Upton from the Diamondbacks last winter, has been widely speculated as the center piece of a potential package that the Mariners could put together for Tampa Bay's David Price.

    If the team is not willing to include him in a deal, their chances of landing Price would likely be lowered substantially.

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: Monday, Dec. 9 at 5:58 a.m. ET

    Heyman says that we can add 25-year-old IF/OF Dustin Ackley to the list of players that teams are calling Seattle about.

    Despite never being able to equal the .273/.348/.417 slash line that he put up over 90 games in 2011, he finished the 2013 season strong, hitting .290/.360/.412 from July 2 through the end of the season.

    --End of Update--

     

    Sunday, Dec. 8 at 3:58 p.m. ET

    Seattle GM Jack Zduriencik's phone has been ringing, according to CBS Sports' Jon Heyman, with teams inquiring about the Mariners young major league talent and prospects that have yet to make their MLB debuts.

    With the team's signing of second baseman Robinson Cano, it has been widely speculated that 22-year-old Nick Franklin, who manned the position for Seattle in 2013, hitting .225 with a .686 OPS, will be one of the first to be moved.

    Right-handed starter Taijuan Walker, 21, who has drawn comparisons to Dwight Gooden, has also been the subject of trade speculation, specifically as the centerpiece of a package to try and pry David Price out of Tampa Bay. Walker has heard the speculation loud and clear, taking to his Twitter account to say that while he's flattered by the interest, he wants to stay in Seattle.

    Aside from that pair, 24-year-old shortstop Brad Miller, 25-year-old left-handed starter James Paxton and 24-year-old southpaw James Paxton are also sure to draw interest from clubs looking to peddle their wares to a Mariners club that is clearly trying to make a run at the AL West in 2014.

     

Rusney Castillo: Could Cuban Defector Be Seattle's Long-Term Answer in CF?

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    Wednesday, Dec. 18 at 10:40 a.m. ET

    According to Baseball America's Ben Badler, Rusney Castillo, the latest Cuban sensation, has defected from his homeland and has his eyes set on playing in the major leagues.

    The 26-year-old outfielder has spent the past five seasons playing for Ciego De Avila in Serie Nacional, Cuba's equivalent of MLB. Eventually, he will be free to sign with any team and not be subject to international bonus pool restrictions.

    When he'll be able to sign, however, is unknown. Castillo first has to establish residency in another country, have MLB declare him a free agent and have the United States Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) clear him, a process that could take weeks—or months.

    Badler provides a quick scouting report:

    Castillo is short but has a strong, athletic frame at 5-foot-9, 185 pounds. His best tool is his speed, as he’s an above-average runner and one of the better base stealers in Cuba. More of a doubles hitter than a big home run threat, Castillo puts a charge into the ball with a line-drive right-handed swing, though he can get long to the ball at times and some scouts think he’s prone to chasing pitches off the plate.

    Primarily a center fielder in Cuba, Castillo has also played some second and third base, so his versatility could be a draw for some teams. He’s an aggressive, high-energy player, though some teams see him as a fourth outfielder.

    It's pure speculation on my part as no team has been linked to him yet, but he'd make an awful lot of sense for the Mariners. The team still has money available to spend and has no long-term solution for center field—or for the leadoff spot in the lineup—in the organization at the moment.

Jesus Montero and Justin Smoak: Available in Trade

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    Thursday, Dec. 12 at 8:02 a.m. ET

    After signing Corey Hart and trading for Logan Morrison, the Mariners have officially put Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero on the trade block, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale. Both considered to be the centerpieces of the respective trades that bought them to Seattle, neither one has come close to meeting expectations in a Mariners uniform.

    The switch-hitting Smoak, 27, is coming off of the best season of four-year career, one that saw him hit .238/.334/.412 with 20 homers and a .746 OPS in just over 500 plate appearances.

    Montero, 23, hit rock bottom in 2013, hitting .208/.327/.590 with three home runs and a .590 OPS in 110 plate appearances, spending most of the season in the minor leagues.

     

Dec. 11: Acquired 1B/LF Logan Morrison

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    Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

    Age: 26

    Bats: L

    2013 Stats: .242/.333/.375, 6 HR, 36 RBI, 0-for-0 SB

    Contract Status: First-year arbitration eligible, under team control through 2017 season

     

    Only 26 years old, Morrison, a left fielder-turned-first baseman, has struggled to stay healthy over the course of his four year career, never able to reach the lofty expectations that many around the game have for him.

    Morrison has plus natural power, a smooth, flat swing and a disciplined approach at the plate. Defensively, his best position is first base, where his limited range and speed become less of a factor—and his hands and arm becomes an asset—but the Mariners may put him in left field, given that Justin Smoak currently occupies first base.

    If he can stay healthy—which is a big if—Morrison could blossom into the player that was expected to be the Robin to Giancarlo Stanton's Batman in Miami. 

Dec. 11: Signed 1B/RF Corey Hart to a One-Year Deal

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    Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

    Age: 31

    Bats: R

    2013 Stats: Did not play (Injured)

    Contract Status: One year, $5 million (incentives could raise total to $13 million)

     

    Seattle wanted more help on offense, and CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports that the Mariners have signed Corey Hart.

    Although the Milwaukee Brewers were pushing to re-sign the fan favorite, he decided to sign with Seattle.

    Hart missed the entire 2013 season due to surgeries on both knees. The two-time All-Star can play first base, right field and be a designated hitter. First base may be the more realistic option given his knee injury, and putting him at DH occasionally would help keep him healthy.

    The 31-year-old brings a strong bat, when healthy, to the Mariners lineup. He will some protection for Robinson Cano, but it's not clear how he will rebound from missing the entire season.

    He has a career slash line of .276/.334/.491 in nine seasons with the Brewers. The right-handed hitter also hit at least 20 home runs in five of his last six seasons. He has at least 24 doubles in six straight seasons, and he has knocked in at least 80 runs four times in his career.

    The veteran will have a lot of pressure to be productive as he hits behind Cano. Hart has always been a good hitter, and the Mariners are willing to take a chance on him. 

Fernando Rodney: Mariners Looking at Free Agent Closer

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    Update: Thursday, Dec. 12 at 12:27 a.m. ET

    Fernando Rodney is looking for a two-or-three-year deal at $10 million per year, sources tell CBS Sports' Jon Heyman.

    At those prices, the Mariners are likely to look elsewhere for a closer.

    --End of Update--

     

    Tuesday, Dec. 10 at 12:50 p.m. ET

    The Mariners are interested in free agent closer Fernando Rodney, per a report from Fox Sports' Jon Morosi.

    Rodney, who has a good relationship with new Seattle manager Lloyd McClendon from their time together in Detroit, is coming off of two successful seasons in Tampa Bay, where he pitched to a combined 1.91 ERA and 1.04 WHIP while converting 85-of-95 save opportunities.

    His numbers are skewed a bit by his remarkable 2012 campaign (0.60 ERA, 0.78 WHIP), but he still posted a respectable 3.38 ERA and 1.34 WHIP in 2013 for the Rays.

     

Nelson Cruz: Free Agent, Seattle Has Interest

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    Update: Wednesday, Dec. 11 at 11:25 p.m. ET

    A source tells ESPN's Jerry Crasnick that the Mariners are still "in" on Nelson Cruz, confirming earlier reports from Fox Sports' Jon Morosi.

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: Wednesday, Dec. 11 at 4:13 p.m. ET

    Sources tell Fox Sports' Jon Morosi that the Mariners still may sign Cruz, even after trading for Logan Morrison and signing Corey Hart.

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: Monday, Dec. 9 at 4:00 p.m. ET

    While the Orioles met with Cruz's agents and plan on speaking again, the Mariners and Rangers both remain in the hunt for the slugger's services, according to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal.

    If the money is close, Cruz could potentially be swayed to Seattle by his relationship with Robinson Cano, as the two are good friends.

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: Tuesday, Nov. 26 at 5:30 p.m. ET

    CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports that Cruz is looking for a four-year, $75 million deal.

    It's hard to imagine any team, even one as desperate to add a slugger as Seattle is, meeting that asking price.

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: Tuesday, Nov. 26 at 12:18 p.m. ET

    ESPN's Buster Olney tweets that Curz, along with Carlos Beltran, have become Seattle's primary targets on the free agent market.

    While the market for free agent outfielders has been slow to develop, shortstop Jhonny Peralta's four-year, $52 million deal with St. Louis serves as notice that Cruz, who like Peralta served a 50-game suspension for his role in the Biogenesis scandal this past season, won't have trouble landing a lucrative, multi-year deal.

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: Tuesday, Nov. 12 at 6:24 p.m. ET

    Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News says that there "serious interest" on both sides to get a deal done and that Cruz landing in Seattle is looking like a real possibility.

    --End of Update--

     

    Update: Tuesday, Nov. 12 at 5:50 p.m. ET

    ESPN's Jerry Crasnick confirms Seattle's interest in Cruz.

    --End of Update--

     

    Despite serving a 50-game suspension for his ties to the Biogenesis Anti-Aging Clinic during the 2013 season, Seattle is interested in signing free agent outfielder Nelson Cruz, according to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi.

    Cruz, 33, hit .266 with 27 home runs, 76 RBI and an .833 OPS over 109 games for the Rangers last season, and has slugged at least 22 home runs and driven in at least 76 runs in each of the past five seasons.

    Once a reliable defender, the older Cruz gets, the worse his defense has become, which opens the door to him possibly splitting time between right field and the DH spot for Seattle if a deal was to be agreed upon.

    Over 187 career plate appearances at Safeco Field, Cruz owns a .238/.299/.442 slash line with 19 extra-base hits (eight home runs) and 18 RBI.

Matt Kemp: Dodgers Reportedly Won't Trade All-Star Outfielder

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    Harry How/Getty Images

    *Update: Wednesday, Dec. 11 at 1:48 p.m. ET

    ESPN's Jayson Stark reports that Dave Stewart, Matt Kemp's agent, has been informed by the Dodgers that they "have no plans" to trade his client.

    Several teams had shown interest in Kemp, including the Mariners. They appeared to be in the best position to land the outfielder, but now that the Dodgers don't intend to trade him, the Mariners will have to look elsewhere for a big bat to protect Robinson Cano.

    --End of update--

     

    *Update: Wednesday, Dec. 11 at 9:20 a.m. ET

    FOX Sports' Jon Morosi wrote that there is a "decent chance" that the Los Angeles Dodgers deal Matt Kemp this offseason.

    Which team does he view as the front-runner to land the outfielder? The Seattle Mariners.

    Morosi wrote that the Mariners have the "strongest desire" to land Kemp. After signing Robinson Cano, the Mariners want a big bat, preferably right-handed, to protect the second baseman.

    The Boston Red Sox recently decided that Kemp isn't a fit right now, and the Detroit Tigers would have to work with their payroll and roster in order to land the outfielder. 

    Seattle appears to have the best chance to land Kemp, but no deal looks imminent. 

    ---End of update---

     

    Update: Tuesday, Dec. 10 at 8:46 p.m. ET

    The Mariners are one of three teams that have met with the Dodgers at the Winter Meetings about Matt Kemp, according to a report from Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal.

    While the Dodgers have let it be known that they are willing to pick up a large chunk of the remaining money on Kemp's contract, questions remain about his health and the Mariners may not be willing to give up the pitching prospects that the Dodgers would likely be seeking as part of a package.

    --End of Update--

     

    Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi says that the Mariners are interested in trading for Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp, who is available in the right deal.

    The two-time All-Star and former perennial MVP candidate has been felled by injury in each of the past two seasons, managing to appear in a total of 179 games since the end of the 2011 season.

    Yet when he's healthy, few players in baseball are as dangerous as the 29-year-old Kemp, whose combination of power, speed and a smooth stroke at the plate have produced some impressive numbers over his nine-year career, emphasized by his lifetime .293/.350/.493 slash line.

    A mediocre defensive player, the option to stick him in the lineup as a DH, sparing his body from the wear-and-tear that he'd normally go through playing the outfield on a daily basis, could be exactly what he needs to stay healthy and get his career back on track.

    What the Dodgers are looking for in exchange remains to be seen, but the Mariners certainly have a plethora of young pitching in the minors that could be used to facilitate a deal.

Dec. 6 : Signed 2B Robinson Cano

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    Al Bello/Getty Images

    Age: 31

    Bats: L

    2013 Stats: .314/.383/.516, 27 HR, 107 RBI, 7-for-8 SB

    Contract Status: 10 years, $240 million

     

    After being left at the altar by the likes of Josh Hamilton last year, the Mariners finally got the superstar hitter that they've desperately tried to add, signing Robinson Cano to the most lucrative contract in franchise history.

    A career .309 hitter, the five-time All-Star immediately improves Seattle's offense and defense, giving the Mariners their best position player since Ken Griffey Jr. While he alone won't be able to turn the Mariners into a contender, adding him to the mix is as good a start as the Mariners could make on their quest to once again become contenders.

    Perhaps the most important aspect of the Cano signing is that it changes the way that free agents will view Seattle. While the money played an overwhelming role in this, the fact that Cano was willing to leave the most storied franchise in baseball history and move to Seattle will certainly make some big-time free agents think twice about writing the Mariners off as a possible destination.

    Will Seattle regret signing Cano until he's 41 years old? Without a doubt. But for a franchise like the Mariners, the impact that he'll have in the first five years of the deal is well worth the pain that the last few will bring along with them.

     

     

     

Kendrys Morales: Free Agent, Declines Qualifying Offer

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    Update: Monday, Nov. 11 at 3:15 p.m. ET

    CBS Sports' Jon Heyman reports that Morales is expected to decline Seattle's qualifying offer by today's 5 p.m. ET deadline and head to free agency in search of a multi-year deal.

    The Mariners could still work out a new deal to re-sign him, but should he land with another team, Seattle would receive a compensatory draft pick in the 2014 first-year player draft.

    --End of Update--

     

    Seattle has extended a one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer to Kendrys Morales, according to MLB.com's Greg Johns, and has seven days to accept or reject the offer.

    Morales, acquired from the Angels before the 2013 season in exchange for Jason Vargas, paced Seattle's offense in 2013, leading the team in batting average (.277), on-base percentage (.336), RBI (80), doubles (34) and total bases (270).

    Losing him as a free agent would setback a team that remains in desperate need of consistent offensive production. While he's represented by Scott Boras—and the thought has been that Morales would decline a qualifying offer, as reported by CBS Sports' Jon Heyman last month.

    But I don't think that's the case. It's hard for me to imagine that any team is going to be willing to sacrifice a first or second round draft pick to add a designated hitter (Morales rarely plays 1B) who is good, not great.

    To be honest, I'd be surprised if Morales didn't accept the qualifying deal and hope to land a multi-year contract elsewhere after putting up another solid season for the Mariners in 2014.