Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik has whiffed on some big contracts – four years, $36 million for free-agent third baseman Chone Figgins, two years, $10 million for second baseman Jack Wilson – but a number of his lesser deals are looking good.
Free-agent catcher Miguel Olivo (two years, $7 million) and designated hitter Jack Cust (one year, $2.5 million) have played significant roles during the team’s 12-3 run. So have second baseman Adam Kennedy (one year, $750,000) and shortstop Brendan Ryan (two years, $2.75 million after arriving in a trade from the Cardinals).
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The energetic Ryan didn’t quite fit in the staid St. Louis clubhouse, but Zduriencik attributed the infielder’s offensive dropoff last season to the surgery he underwent on his right wrist shortly before spring training. The Mariners liked the idea of getting an elite defender who was under club control for three years, especially when the price was only Class A pitcher Mikael Cleto.
Ryan is hitting, too, at least by the feeble standards of a team that ranks next-to-last in the AL in runs. Entering Wednesday’s play, Ryan ranked third on the club with a .700 OPS. Kennedy was second at .755. First baseman Justin Smoak, the principal piece that Zduriencik obtained for Cliff Lee, led the club at .825.
Kennedy, like Ryan, is a former member of the Cardinals. He offered a left-handed bat and the ability to contribute at second, third and DH. He has been playing mostly second, and the Mariners will need to figure out how to keep him in the lineup once they promote Dustin Ackley.
“I almost signed (Kennedy) two years ago when he signed with Washington,” Zduriencik said. “I regretted not doing it. When he was available again, it was easy.”
Kennedy, Ryan, Olivo, Cust.
Without them, the Mariners would be buried.
Ichiro is fighting through a career-worst offensive season. Figgins has the lowest OPS in the AL. Yet, the Mariners are only a half-game out in the AL West.
The M’s, of course, are doing it with pitching – they’re second in the AL with a 3.39 ERA. Yet scouts find even the performance of their bullpen to be somewhat mysterious.
One scout, referring to righties David Pauley (0.84 ERA) and Aaron Laffey (1.78) says, “You go to 10 scouts, and nine or maybe 10 will tell you that you don’t want those guys on your staff.”