The Hot Stove increases in intensity and rumors of potential trades are rampant. As the Mariners look to end a six-year playoff drought, questions abound, and that's where we come in. If you have a question, send it in and we'll do our best to answer it.

With Jose Guillen apparently leaving, do you think the Mariners would shake up their outfield and sign Torii Hunter, and then move Ichiro back to right field?
-- Matt S., Fargo, N.D.

For the amount of money it would cost to sign Hunter, and the outfield depth in the Mariners organization, it would make more sense to me to use the money to bolster the starting rotation, which is the area that needs the most improvement.

Will Jarrod Washburn be a Mariner for the 2008 season?
-- Shelly V., Gig Harbor, Wash.

Yes he will. Washburn has reached the halfway point of the four-year, $37.5 million contract he signed with the Mariners prior to the 2006 season. So far, he has an 18-29 record and a 4.49 ERA in 63 starts, numbers that are far short of expectations.

Do you think the signing of Mel Stottlemyre as pitching coach will help attract better pitching? He is considered one of the best coaches in the game, so will this play any factor in attracting the top-notch pitchers? And who do you think the Mariners could pick up due to signing him?
-- Dan C., Coeur d'Alene, Idaho

Having an experienced and successful pitching coach like Stottlemyre definitely should entice free-agent pitchers into exploring the possibility of pitching for the Mariners. Stottlemyre has an impressive resume that includes five World Series rings, and you can bet that will be used during the recruitment of potential starters. But it is hard to say exactly which pitcher(s) would consider coming to Seattle just because Stottlemyre is now the pitching coach. If left-hander Andy Pettitte was younger and not thinking about retirement, he might be a candidate.

Wasn't Adam Jones an infielder when he was drafted? Is there any chance he could be considered for second base and leave the outfield as is?
-- Sheila H., Walla Walla, Wash.

Yes, Jones was a shortstop/pitcher during his high school career at Morse High School in San Diego, the same school that produced former Mariners star Mark McLemore. Jones batted .406 with four home runs and 27 RBIs during his senior season and also posted a 3-3 record and a 2.71 ERA as a pitcher. There is no chance of him moving to second base, however. His future in the Major Leagues is in the outfield, probably playing right field because his arm is so strong.

I'm curious about how teams get around all the language barriers that must arise constantly in the clubhouse. I've noticed that Ichiro and many of the Japanese players have translators, but these guys can't be at their side all of the time. It must be difficult for Kenji Johjima to manage a pitching staff, especially a 21-year-old Venezuelan like Felix Hernandez. Do you know anything about how clubs manage?
-- Jon H., Spokane, Wash.

The Mariners have two Japanese interpreters that work with Ichiro and Johjima. One of them deals mostly with the media interview requests, while the other does most of the on-field work with Ichiro and Johjima. Kenji speaks enough English and Spanish to be able to communicate with all of the pitchers. Ichiro isn't fluent in English, but speaks it well. However, he still refuses to speak English during an interview.

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Don't you think it would be better to shorten the first two rounds of the playoffs to the best-of-five series instead of the best-of-seven? Regular-season series are only three or four games, so the teams should be able to handle a best-of-five series in the playoffs.
-- Rick G., Puyallup, Wash.

That would shorten the postseason a bit, but it also would deprive the players/owners of playoff money, so your idea would never fly. There is a better chance of all three rounds becoming best-of-seven series than two of them being a best-of-five series.

I loved your answer as to how to get the World Series to end in mid-October. But what do you think the chances really are of having a doubleheader each month? Wouldn't the Players Association and everybody else throw a shoe at that concept? It would be great for the fans, but the money teams could loose on not having those extra games would be one big stumbling block.
-- Jeff P., Yokosuka, Japan

Well, Jeff, my plan would not cause any teams to lose any home dates, and as long as the players have a scheduled day off after 20 consecutive playing dates, which is part of the collective bargaining agreement, I would think the players union would be OK with it.

Why did the Mariners trade Jamie Moyer, and who did they get for him?
-- George G., Vader, Wash.

The Mariners traded Moyer to the Phillies on Aug. 19, 2006, for right-handed Minor League pitchers Andrew Baldwin and Andy Barb. Moyer was in the final year of his contract with Seattle and not in the teams' plans for the 2007 season. Moyer helped pitch the Phillies into the playoffs this past season, while Baldwin, 25, had a 5-12 record and 4.23 ERA for Double-A West Tennessee. He had 115 strikeouts and just 19 walks in 166 innings. Barb, 23, was 3-1 with a 2.33 ERA and 10 saves for Class A Wisconsin in 32 relief appearances. His strikeout/walk ratio (55-14 in 38 2/3 innings) also was outstanding.

How likely is it that Philippe Aumont will pitch in the rotation next year?
-- Kevin K., Bellevue, Wash.

Not likely at all. I would think the first-round Draft choice this past June would start the season at the Class A level and perhaps end it at Double-A. He needs a lot of work before reaching the big leagues.

What is the news on Japanese right-hander Hiroki Kuroda? Also, do players like Ichiro and Kenjii talk to Japanese free agents to convince players to play in Seattle?
-- Ross A., Mount Vernon, Wash.

The news is that Kuroda has filed for free agency and is available to all MLB organizations. The Mariners are one of the teams expected to make the right-hander an offer. If Japanese players would ask Ichiro and Kenji for advice, I am sure they would be willing to discuss their experiences and offer any advice.

David Eckstein was always a scrappy player with the Angels and played extremely well against the Mariners. What are the chances the club seek his services for next season?
-- Greg S., Helena, Mont.

With Yuniesky Betancourt firmly entrenched as the Mariners' shortstop, I would say the chances of the Mariners pursuing Eckstein are zero.

With all of the trade talk circulating around Miguel Cabrera, do you think it's possible that the Mariners could trade for him? Perhaps if they were to trade Richie Sexson to another team for a few prospects, they could create a deal with some of their own prospects and the prospects received in the Sexson trade to send to Florida for Miguel Cabrera. This would allow Cabrera to play first base for the Mariners.
-- Johnny M., Woodinville, Wash.

Well, Johnny, you are among a boatload of Mariners fans that apparently believe Sexson can be traded, and I really don't think that will happen. Sexson has a huge contract and is coming off a horrible season -- a combination that makes other MLB general managers take a hands-off approach. The Mariners can only hope that Sexson has a tremendous comeback season in 2008, and I personally think he will.

The Marlins have put Dontrelle Willis on the trading block. He's young and one of the best hurlers in the big leagues, so it would only make sense for the Mariners to try to acquire him. Do you see that happening?
-- Ryan A., Spanaway, Wash.

I could understand the Mariners inquiring about Willis, but you might be stretching it to say he is "one of the best hurlers in the big leagues." The left-hander had a 10-15 record and a 5.17 ERA last season, which is not much better than, say, Jeff Weaver (7-13, 6.20) or Horacio Ramirez (8-7, 7.16). Willis also has thrown a lot of pitches during his five-year career with the Marlins, so be careful what you ask for.