Mariners must pursue big names to improve the team

Twelve years have passed since the Seattle Mariners made the MLB postseason, a heart-wrenching realization to what’s left of a dwindling fan base.

The Mariners are faced with yet another offseason filled with question marks, but General Manager Jack Zduriencik is poised to make some big splashes, for better or worse.

Seattle’s outfield was absolutely dreadful last season and is the most concerning area for the team. This needs to be addressed prior to the start of next season.

With a platoon of players at nearly all three outfield positions, the Mariners need to solidify a starting outfield, and that comes with pulling the trigger on some big names.

Aging veterans Raul Ibanez and Endy Chavez will hit free agency and create a need for an everyday left fielder come 2014. Although the free agent market for left fielders is rather barren, who is to say another available outfielder wouldn’t be able to learn how to play in front of Edgar’s Cantina in Safeco Field’s spacious left field?

Here is where Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Matt Kemp comes into play.

Kemp was unreal during his time in Southern California, but last year injuries plagued the former MVP runner-up meaning Seattle could potentially get him at a discount.

The Dodgers are also looking to unload some big contracts this offseason in order to sign two-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw to a mega-deal. Kemp’s six-year, $128 million contract is one of those unappealing figures to the Dodgers, and few teams can afford to take on Kemp’s salary. However, one of those few teams is the Seattle Mariners.

Acquiring Kemp in a trade with the Dodgers will not be easy, but the Mariners certainly have the prospects to make something happen.

Abraham Almonte is one of those prospects. A speedy center fielder who was called up late last year can immediately fill the void in center for the Dodgers once Kemp departs. Seattle also has a trio of up-and-coming starting pitchers whom the Dodgers would likely look into to add to an aging rotation.

Giving up top prospects for Kemp would be a tough pill to swallow initially, but with a big-time bat coming to Seattle and plenty of prospects that haven’t panned out in the past, it is a move that has to be made in order to keep fans optimistic.

Now, adding Kemp to play left field would be a head-scratcher to some seeing as he was an above average center fielder in Los Angeles. However, another free agent move that should be considered would provide an answer to that dilemma. That answer is Jacoby Ellsbury.

As the 2013 World Series Champion, Ellsbury of the Boston Red Sox will give Seattle fans something they haven’t seen since Ichiro was in his prime. Ellsbury is a clear-cut leadoff hitter who can wreak havoc on the base-paths and jumpstart an improved Mariners offense.

During the last three seasons, Ellsbury has had a .304 average in addition to an OPS (on base plus slugging) of .833, according to The Mariners’ center fielders during that same span: .229 and a .649 OPS.

The Mariners also declined a club-option on the team’s former center fielder, Franklin Gutierrez, opening up a spot for an everyday center fielder in Seattle. Last season, Ellsbury ranked first in the MLB with 52 stolen bases, an area Seattle can definitely improve on. He also plays tremendous defense in center field and can cover a ton of ground, something that will be needed in Seattle.

Ellsbury’s exit from Boston seems almost inevitable at this point as the Red Sox cringe at Ellsbury’s agent Scott Boras’ $100 million plus contract demands.

Although in addition to high price tags, there are injury concerns with both Ellsbury and Kemp, the upside of both players far outweighs the potential consequences.

Mariners’ fans deserve an offseason of big moves, a plan that deviates from the team’s normal offseason regimen of trading for young prospects and developing young talent, which has yet to pan out.

The ownership also needs to show the city of Seattle that it is in it for the long haul, and that big moves are indeed in upper management’s game plan of getting the team back to its winning ways. Zduriencik at the very least needs to show people the Mariners are out to compete and make moves that give fans a reason to fill Safeco’s seats.

Across the street at Century Link Field, the Seattle Seahawks have proven that aggressive moves and a never-give-up attitude will eventually pay off, which gets people excited about sports in the Emerald City. The Mariners should catch on and do the same or fear losing a fan base that is sick of the same old excuses and pathetic on-field spectacle.