Does Leone Fit into the Future at Third? (Getty)
In 2005, the Mariners will once again try to add some offense to a
position that has been in search of its first all-star since 1992. This
is a position where Jim Presley still tops the Mariner charts in games
played, and a spot that has manned by such illustrious names as Bill
Stein, Darnell Coles, Danny Meyer and, of course Lenny Randle.
The Mariners will have plenty of options this off-season and have seemed
to indicate that third base will be a position they will look to upgrade
offensively. The candidates include holdovers, free agents and players
that could be available via trade.
Scott Spiezio: There really is no easy way to spin this as a
positive. Spiezio started by injuring his back late in spring training
and never found his bat. The M’s had hoped that Spiezio could hit at or
near his career numbers, while moving back to a position he played early
in his career and throughout his time in the minor leagues. Instead, he
had career lows in batting average (.215), on-base percentage (.288) and
slugging percentage (.346). Although it would seem more likely for
Spiezio to have better numbers in 2005, it would be hard to imagine the
M’s opening the season with him at third base.
Justin Leone: The Mariner’s Minor League Player of the Year in
2003, Leone began the season in AAA Tacoma putting up big power numbers.
As it became clear that the 2004 Mariner season was a lost cause, Leone
was one of the players to earn a promotion. Leone’s power quickly made
a contribution as his first career home run, put the Mariner’s in the
lead to stay in their victory over Cleveland on July 15, a narrow 2-1
win. Unfortunately, Leone’s audition was cut short after 102 at-bats by
a broken hand. While Leone displayed some power, he struggled overall at
the plate - fanning far too many times - and in the field, where he had
nine errors in limited starts. It doesn’t sound like Leone is part of
the M’s plans in 2005, but he could be an option should the M’s fail to
Jose Lopez: Could a holdover from the 2004 Mariners who did not
play a single game at third base be considered for the position in 2005?
Well, it depends. Some see Lopez’ future at third base, not shortstop.
If the Mariner’s agree, and sign a free agent shortstop, Lopez could be
moved to third base, a place where his extra-base power could fit right
in over the course of his career.
Greg Dobbs: Dobbs entered the major leagues in a big way,
becoming the first Mariner to homer in their first at-bat on Sept. 3
against Cleveland. After missing virtually the entire 2003 season with
an achilles injury, look for Dobbs to be the full time third baseman at
Tacoma next season.
Jolbert Cabrera and Willie Bloomquist: Assuming both of these
players will be back, neither will be the starting third baseman barring
an off-season disaster, at least lets hope not.
Adrian Beltre: Is he the player that put up MVP-caliber numbers
in 2004, playing half his games in a pitcher-friendly park where he hit
.334 with 48 home runs and 121 RBI, or is he just a one-year wonder? At
the age of 25, Beltre already has 147 career home runs and should be
entering the prime of his career and is considered a gold-glove caliber
third baseman. He will be high on the Mariner’s list of free agent
targets, but don’t expect him to come cheap as his is represented by
Scott Boras. Consider Beltre a long-shot at best.
Troy Glaus: The Angels third baseman since 1999 has missed large
portions of the last two seasons battling a shoulder injury. However,
Glaus did return to the Angles lineup as a designated hitter for the
last month of Anaheim’s push to the playoffs. Injury concerns aside,
Glaus has always shown tremendous power and at age 28, already has two
seasons with 40 or more home runs and three seasons with 100 or more
RBI. Assuming the shoulder is sound, Glaus would be a great fit in the
middle of the Mariner lineup. His chances of being a Mariners?
Probably about 20 percent.
Corey Koskie: Doesn’t this sound like Scott Spiezio all over
again? Here’s an older player (he’ll be 32 next June) whose numbers
dropped off this past season. Koskie drove in 103 runs on 2001 but
hasn’t driven in more than 71 in any other season. There are better
ways for the M’s to spend their money than on Koskie, but that doesn't
change the fact that he's available.
Other Free Agents: Joe Randa, Shea Hillenbrand, Tony Batista
Mike Lowell: It was reported last week that perhaps the Marlins
would look to deal Lowell, who contains a unique opt-out in his contract
if the Marlins do not secure stadium financing by November 1. The
details of the opt-out are sketchy, however, and if they were to deal
him (assuming no strange contractual clauses), he would be an excellent
candidate in a potential trade. The Marlins are said to be looking for
an outfielder, and would move promising young talent Miguel Cabrera to
third base in that scenario. Randy Winn or Raul Ibanez anyone?
Pedro Feliz / Edgardo Alfonzo: The Giants could possibly be
looking to move one of these this off-season. The M’s hopefully
wouldn’t be interested in Alfonzo, but the 27-year-old Feliz, who hit
.276 with 22 home runs and 84 RBI could be a player on the rise. Would
the Giants be interested in Randy Winn hitting in front of Bonds?
Sean Burroughs: There were some rumors earlier this season that
the Padres would be willing to part with their youngster at the hot
corner. Burroughs would be an interesting possibility if it were not
for his complete lack of power shown so far in his career. The Mariners
already have that, and would be better off finding some power at the
third base position.
Casey Blake: Keep in mind that the Indians signed third baseman
Aaron Boone to a contract this past season, perhaps making Blake
expendable. Blake has shown some power in the last two seasons with the
Look for the Mariners to focus their attention on free agents Beltre and
Glaus, two young sluggers who will command big-dollar, multi-year
contracts but would solidify the position for years. One of those two
could very well open the 2005 season at third base for the M’s. If
neither signs, look for the M’s to move on to signing a free agent
shortstop and move Lopez to third base.