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Garrett Jones – Free! Garret Jones is free! It is exceptionally rare for a player of Jones’ talent level to be DFA’d, but that’s exactly what happened this week after the Pirates decided they had no room for him and couldn’t wait for a trade partner to emerge. He’s coming off a dreadful year and isn’t much in the way of a defensive asset, but in 2012 he was an excellent hitter. He could be had for super cheap and would be a great platoon bat at first base. Given the cost, the Mariners absolutely should be trying to add Jones, although a limited role would likely suit him best.
Shin-Soo Choo – Everyone is expecting Choo’s market to be insane, which is probably accurate. Not that it would be unwarranted – Choo is an awesome player. He had an on-base percentage over .400 last year, and sits at .389 for his career. He’s fine as a defensive corner outfielder and can consistently add value on offense as his 130 career wRC+ shows. He’s asking for over $100 million and will probably get it. If the Mariners give it to him, I’ll find it hard to be particularly distraught.
Corey Hart – A buy low candidate coming off three straight years of superb offensive production, Hart would be a good bet to accept a nice one-year offer in the American League. The thing about his three straight superb years, of course, is that we’re talking about 2010-2012, since he spent all of 2013 on the shelf with an injury. He’s fine now, apparently, and will only require a short deal with a low base salary. As a slugging righty he’d be a great fit for the Mariners roster, and would be a guy who could handle the 1B/LF/DH shuffle. Despite the lost year he projects as an above-average player for 2014, which is exactly the kind of bat the M’s should be targeting.
Jacoby Ellsbury – This is the biggest non-Cano name on the market, and almost assuredly a guy who is going to make somewhere around $140 million. Note that everyone to appear on this list so far is a mediocre-at-best defender, unless you trust the Dexter Fowler eye test way more than you trust the metrics. Ellsbury is a fantastic defender, an athletic natural center fielder who also provides loads of value on the bases. His power is mysterious and occasional, but it’s there, somewhere, and emerges from time to time. His ceiling is fantastically high, as evidenced by his ludicrous 2011. In 2011, Ellsbury was almost Mike Trout. Last year he was a six-win player at a premium position and won a World Series ring with the league’s best team. He’s young and can be had for the next six or seven years at a price that is only kind of ridiculous. He’s a perfect fit for the roster and is quite likely to age gracefully. The Mariners want to make a big splash. They want to improve on defense while adding a true impact bat. Players like Ellsbury don’t come around often, and he’s the best option that allows the Mariners to keep their current talent base intact.
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