Welcome to the first Mariners Inbox of 2011, which means two things. One, we can officially turn the page on a tough 2010. And, two, it's now only five weeks until pitchers and catchers report in Peoria, Ariz.!
It's also time to answer more of your questions, so let's get to it ...
Seems like we ask this question every year. Is Ichiro Suzuki going to finally hit third? It seems like his hits would be more valuable there and then Chone Figgins could lead off. And where will Figgins play in the field this year?
-- Greg H., Rocklin, Calif.
New manager Eric Wedge said during the Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., last month that he has no plans to move Ichiro out of the top spot in the batting order. He feels that is Ichiro's natural spot and Figgins will be far more comfortable in the No. 2 spot now in his second year there. That makes some sense, given Figgins hit much better in the second half of '10.
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Meanwhile, general manager Jack Zduriencik talked to Figgins recently about moving to third base and, as expected, that will now be the plan heading into Spring Training. That move gives Brendan Ryan and Josh Wilson the chance to compete at second base and opens the door for Dustin Ackley's arrival at second later in the season. Figgins was an excellent third baseman with the Angels, so that move was a no-brainer once Jose Lopez was traded.
I came up with an awesome tribute for Dave Niehaus. Every time a Mariner hits a home run, the broadcast team should have the "Fly, fly away" keyed up and played. Any chance of that?
-- Bob M., Spokane, Wash.
Bob, while I love the heartfelt emotion behind your suggestion, every broadcaster has their own identity and it's probably not fair to ask them to replay Niehaus' great catch-phrase over and over again for the rest of time instead of establishing their own work, no matter how cool that might seem initially. I don't think Niehaus himself would have wanted to saddle his peers with that sort of arrangement.
There is a spontaneity to calling a baseball game, a timing and emotion to each home run call depending on the situation that would be lost if everyone stopped and pushed a replay button every time a ball was hit deep.
The Mariners have several nice tributes already in the works, including a statue to be built outside Safeco Field and memorial patches to be worn on the uniforms of their players throughout the upcoming season. And I have no doubt his fellow announcers, particularly long-time partner Rick Rizzs, will keep Niehaus' memory alive with countless stories and recollections throughout the coming season.
Who was the player to be named later the Mariners received in the Mike Sweeney trade last season?
-- Eric W., Polson, Mont.
Turns out, the Mariners didn't receive a player from the Phillies. Instead, that deal wound up being a cash payment to Seattle. Just as with the recent Rob Johnson-to-San Diego deal, the Sweeney agreement was either for a player to be named later or cash considerations. On those deals, the two teams typically predetermine a cash payment if the PTBNL can't be agreed upon by a certain date.
With Michael Saunders in left field and Jack Cust at DH, how does Milton Bradley fit in?
-- Matthew W., St. Peters, Mo.
That appears to be the Mariners' $12 million question heading into Spring Training. Bradley reportedly is back to full health after missing the final few months of '10 with a knee ailment. Zduriencik says he's eager to see how Bradley approaches things upon his return. Wedge says his issues with Bradley are far in the past after the two had a run-in that led to Bradley's ouster in Cleveland in '04.
But by signing Cust, it does appear the Mariners are preparing to move ahead without Bradley. Or at the very least, aren't leaving themselves dependent on the mercurial veteran. But if Bradley comes to camp and hits with the authority he's displayed in the past, certainly the Mariners could use his offense, and Saunders hasn't been handed the job in left field. So the door remains open. It just isn't going to stay open for long, given Bradley is entering the final year of his $12 million deal.
Whatever happened to former Mariners pitcher Bobby Madritsch?
-- Jon C., Lawrence, Mass.
After being released by the Mariners following the '05 season, Madritsch spent a year with the Royals' organization but never got back to the big leagues. He attempted a comeback with the Long Island Ducks in the independent Atlantic League in '08 at 32, but pitched a grand total of one inning over two games before retiring from baseball. I tried unsuccessfully to find out what he's up to now, so if anybody has a Madritsch update, let us know!
What do you think about the Mariners signing Jermaine Dye? He's a veteran who would be pretty cheap and can certainly hit 20-plus homers and drive in 80 runs to help the offense.
-- Adrian P., East Los Angeles
Dye could help the Mariners' offense, but after sitting out last season because he didn't feel anybody was offering him the kind of money he deserved, it seems unlikely that Seattle winds up as his comeback spot. Dye, who'll turn 37 later this month, has said he wants to play for a contender and isn't going to take a Minor League deal. He made $11.5 million for the White Sox in '09 and turned down several offers for far less than that last year.
My dad heard on the radio there's a possibility of the Mariners trading Felix Hernandez. Do you have any info on those trade rumors?
-- Kevin V., Redmond, Wash.
Kevin, you can rest assured that Hernandez isn't going anywhere. The recent "rumors" that arose were fueled by a blog post by Larry Stone of the Seattle Times, who suggested the Mariners were in prime position to extract a literal king's ransom from the Yankees after the Bronx boys missed out on Cliff Lee. Stone's point was that the Yankees might dramatically overpay in a trade for Hernandez right now.
But that's all it was, a pondering of what Hernandez might bring on the trade market if the Mariners wanted to fill numerous holes by dealing one of the game's premier players in his prime. It's an interesting sports debate and one that made for a hot topic on sports radio and such. And while any player could be traded if another team is willing to make an offer too good to refuse, Zduriencik is not looking to move Hernandez. The Mariners just signed him last season to a five-year deal that locks him up through 2014. At 24, he's the superstar they want to build around, not a guy they want to trade away.