Who will step up in Seattle?
Offseason moves leave several questions heading into spring
Triple play: Three questions that need answers
1. Who's on first?
A platoon system could be the way the Mariners go at first base. Left-handed-hitting Russell Branyan has plenty of power and would start against right-handers, for sure. But he has struggled against lefties during his career, which could create playing time for a right-handed batter such as Mike Sweeney or the versatile Mike Morse.
2. Who will replace J.J. Putz as the closer?
Manager Don Wakamatsu prefers to open the regular season with one primary closer. There are plenty of candidates, young and old. Right-hander Mark Lowe leads the pack among the least experienced, while veteran Miguel Batista has the most saves and save chances during his MLB career of anyone on the staff. This figures to be a seven-week battle that won't be decided until the final week of camp.
This could take awhile to sort itself out, especially if general manager Jack Zduriencik secures the services of a free-agent outfielder, possibly Garret Anderson or Ken Griffey Jr. If that doesn't happen, left-handed-hitting Endy Chavez figures to get most of the playing time. The Mariners like his defense, which features speed and strong arm, but offensive run production is another issue. Chavez has little power. Either Wladimir Balentien or Morse could become the starter against left-handers. 2008 record
61-101, Fourth place, American League West Projected batting order
1. RF Ichiro Suzuki:
.310 BA, .361 OBP, .386 SLG, 6 HR, 42 RBI in 2008
2. 2B Jose Lopez:
.297 BA, .322 OBP, .443 SLG, 17 HR, 89 RBI in 2008
3. 3B Adrian Beltre:
.266 BA, .327 OBP, .457 SLG, 25 HR, 77 RBI in 2008
4. 1B Russell Branyan:
.250 BA, .342 OBP, .583 SLG, 12 HR, 20 RBI in 2008
5. CF Franklin Gutierrez:
.248 BA, .307 OBP, .383 SLG, 8 HR, 41 RBI in 2008
6. DH Jeff Clement:
.227 BA, .295 OBP, .360 SLG, 5 HR, 23 RBI in 2008
7. C Kenji Johjima:
.227 BA, .277 OBP, .332 SLG, 7 HR, 39 RBI in 2008
8. SS Yuniesky Betancourt:
.279 BA, .300 OBP, .392 SLG, 7 HR, 51 RBI in 2008
9. LF Endy Chavez:
.267 BA, .308 OBP, .330 SLG, 1 HR, 12 RBI in 2008
1. Felix Hernandez, 9-11, 3.45 ERA in 2008
2. Erik Bedard, 6-4, 3.67 ERA in 2008
3. Brandon Morrow, 3-4, 3.34 ERA in 2008
4. Carlos Silva, 4-15, 6.46 ERA in 2008
5. Ryan Rowland-Smith, 5-3, 3.42 ERA in 2008
The new guys
Gutierrez: Zduriencik insisted on the 25-year-old outfielder being included in the three-team, 12-player deal with the Mets and Indians. Gutierrez is a natural center fielder with great speed and a strong arm, and he has displayed occasional power. His approach on offense, making the pitcher work, is badly needed on a team loaded with free swingers.
Mike Wilson: The power-hitting Wilson belted 27 home runs for Double-A West Tennessee last season, but he also struck out 117 times in 406 at-bats. The former second-round Draft choice (in 2001) ranked third in the Southern League with a .549 slugging percentage and was named to the All-Star and post-season All-Star teams.
On the rebound
Silva: The veteran right-hander signed a four-year, $48 million contract as a free agent and started his first season with the Mariners with a splendid 3-0 record in April. He won two games the remainder of the season, lost 15, and gained a bunch of weight along the way. The Mariners are counting on a complete turnaround from the new-look hurler, who lost more than 20 pounds during the offseason.
Ibanez: The Mariners made a casual attempt to re-sign the team's most productive hitter the past four seasons, but would not have been able to pay him what other teams offered. Ibanez eventually signed a three-year, $30 million contract with the Phillies, and Seattle will receive two Draft choices as compensation.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.