Do you think the Mariners are serious bidders for Masahiro Tanaka after spending so much for Robinson Cano?
-- Duane J., Coeur d'Alene, Idaho
That's the million dollar question these days, or perhaps the $100 million question, as negotiations for the Japanese standout have been kept very quiet. Tanaka returned to Japan last weekend after spending several days in Los Angeles with his agent while meeting with officials from numerous teams.
One Japanese newspaper reported that the Yankees, Dodgers and Angels have emerged as the leading contenders, but it's hard to know if that is purely speculation, a negotiating tactic or actual insight from Tanaka's camp. My guess is things will remain secretive until the ace right-hander announces a decision -- and he has until Jan. 24 if he wants.
One thing to remember: This isn't strictly a highest-bidder-wins situation, as with the former posting system. Any team now willing to put up a $20 million refundable posting fee can make an offer and Tanaka is free to choose whatever team he wants from that group. And while the Mariners certainly have a strong history with Japanese players and could be a serious contender, Tanaka's wife, Mai Satoda, is a well-known pop singer in Japan and there is speculation among some Japanese journalists that I've spoken with that she might prefer going to a large-market city in the U.S.
Who did the Mariners receive as the player to be named when they traded Brendan Ryan to the Yankees last fall?
-- James W., Vancouver, Wash.
As often happens in those type of deals, the Mariners accepted a cash settlement instead of a player as Ryan's trade value was very low at the time -- given it was mid-September and he'd long since lost his starting job -- and they primarily made the move to give him a chance to play the last few weeks and possibly help himself before becoming a free agent at season's end. It worked out well for Ryan, who signed a new deal with the Yankees last month that will pay him at least $5 million over the next two years to provide some insurance behind Derek Jeter.
Who are the 10 players with the most home runs in the history of Safeco Field?
-- Jordan M., Graham, Wash.
That's an interesting list: Raul Ibanez 83, Bret Boone 62, Richie Sexson 55, Edgar Martinez and Adrian Beltre 54, Ichiro Suzuki 53, John Olerud 42, Alex Rodriguez 40, Jose Lopez 38 and Mike Cameron 30. And in case you're wondering, Ken Griffey Jr. is 11th with 29.
What is the status of D.J. Peterson after his jaw surgery and could you see him as a callup at first base if Justin Smoak doesn't pan out?
-- Tony M., Sandy, Ore.
Mariners director of Minor League operations Chris Gwynn says Peterson is fully recovered from the broken jaw that occurred when he got hit by a pitch in late August while playing for Class A Clinton and has been cleared by doctors to report for the start of a Minor League minicamp on Feb. 15 in Peoria, Ariz.
Peterson, the club's first-round Draft pick (12th overall) last June out of New Mexico, will be at FanFest on Jan. 25-26 and is certainly one of the team's bright young prospects. But it's a little early to project him to the Majors as he's played just 55 games of Class A ball so far while hitting .303 with 13 homers and 47 RBIs at Everett and Clinton before his injury. He played 45 games at third, nine at DH and one at first last year.
I know the Mariners have several first-base and DH options, but why don't they try to bring Kendrys Morales back? He was a solid hitter and did well as a replacement at first and would add extra lineup protection for Cano as well as veteran leadership.
-- Evan M., Kent, Wash.
Morales seemingly priced himself out of the Mariners' market when he turned down their $14.1 million qualifying offer with the intent of looking for a longer-term deal in free agency that presumably would be worth that much or more. They wound up signing two-time All-Star Corey Hart for a $6 million base salary that could rise another $4.65 million if he stays healthy and performs.
Hart is a similar first-base and DH option who could also play some outfield if his knees are healthy after sitting out last year. And Logan Morrison can do the same, while Smoak started ahead of Morales at first base last year because he was regarded as a better defender. The only way I could see Morales returning now is if the Mariners deal Smoak and go with a Morales/Hart combo at first and DH. But they'd like to get the first-round supplemental Draft pick that would come if Morales signs elsewhere, so I'd be surprised if they take that path unless his price drops dramatically.
Why haven't the Mariners retired any numbers yet? Aren't Ken Griffey Jr. and Edgar Martinez eligible?
-- Aaron C., Vashon Island, Wash.
The Mariners' policy on retiring a number states that they will do so "only very selectively and subject to substantially higher expectations than those applied to the Mariners' Hall of Fame." To be eligible to have a number retired, a player has to have either been elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and played at least five years for Seattle or "come close to such election and have spent substantially his entire career with the Mariners."
No player will be eligible to have his number retired until he has been voted on at least once by the National Baseball Hall of Fame, or essentially six years after retirement. The decision to retire a number is made by the team's Board of Directors. So under those guidelines, Martinez would be eligible now, though it's a matter of debate whether he's "come close" to Hall of Fame election, while Griffey won't be eligible until after he's voted on for the first time for the Hall of Fame in 2016.
Randy Johnson will be eligible next year after his first Hall of Fame vote, though he's in an interesting situation since his No. 51 later was worn by Ichiro Suzuki, who himself could be a candidate to have his number retired once he retires and is eligible for a Hall of Fame vote.
Most teams only keep one backup infielder and I would expect that to be Bloomquist, barring unexpected surprises this spring. Brad Miller and Nick Franklin have also played some third base and would be options, but I suspect whichever of those youngsters doesn't win the starting shortstop job will wind up at Triple-A Tacoma to start the year if they're still with the club.