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Sam Barbee
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Mariners making moves, moving up

12/06/2014 7:08am
last edited:12/06/2014 11:45pm

Let me start my saying I like the moves the Mariners have made so far. I do.

Now, let's talk a little about what they are.

First, they signed right-handed bopper Nelson Cruz to a 4-year $58 million deal. The M's needed a bat, they got a bat. 

Second, they traded oft-injured (but still one of my favorite M's) to Toronto for left-handed pitcher JA Happ. Saunders had to go. I like him, but he had to go. It's hard to earn your money when you're constantly on the DL. But I'll get to that.

Cruz can swing it a bit. He hit 40 bombs last year to lead MLB, but he did it in Camden Yards where Brady Anderson (remember him?) hit 50 in 1996. So it's expected that Cruz's dinger list will be shorter. Some say significantly shorter. I say b.s.

There's a myth about Safeco Field that you can't hit home runs there, that it's a place where power hitters go to die, where it's easier to find parking than to hit a home run. That's all nonsense. It's more a product of the hype around Mariner signings than the actual numbers.

I watched as the Washington Nationals stroll into Safeco last summer and hit home run after home run. Bryce Harper took one off the glass of the Hit It Here Cafe. They hit eight that series and swept the M's. You can hit homers in Safeco.

"Well why didn't Robinson Cano hit more home runs last year?" you might ask.

Well, because he played in Yankee Stadium, where right field is so short Johnny Damon took one to the upper deck, and because he had the likes of Justin Smoak, Kendris Morales and Corey Hart protecting him. There's no way on God's green earth I'm pitching to Cano when I can get a double play or a harmless grounder out of those guys. No way. Now, the Mariners have a guy to get Cano some pitches to hit, because, similarly, I'm not going to let Cruz hit one 1,000 feet off me. Better Cano hits one 395 than Cruz hitting one 1,000. Easy call.

Plus, Cruz likes Safeco. He said it's one of his favorite places to hit. He hit the farthest ball I've ever seen leave Safeco. It went into the upper deck above the bullpens. I didn't think it was possible to get a ball up there. The guy will be fine. Plus, Cano-3, Cruz-4, Seager-5 is as good as there is in baseball now.

Let me make a disclaimer that I really liked Michael Saunders. When he was healthy, he was a very good right fielder. But that's just it: when he was healthy. The guy couldn't stay off the DL. It was almost like he felt more comfortable there. When you have a guy like that, who hits .270 but only in 60 games, he's a liability. I like Saundo, but he was a liability.

Happ's numbers, though, don't blow you away. He's got a career 4.36 ERA, 1.387 WHIP, about nine hits per nine innings. Not stellar, but you have to remember he pitched the last four years in Toronto, which is a lot like Camden Yards. The Mariners needed a back-end starter and got one, and at the same time unloaded a guy who can't stay healthy.

So I like these moves. There was a lot of negative chatter about them in the Northwest and I can't really understand why. These M's, at least on paper, are looking pretty good. I like it. Can't wait for the spring to come.

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