Looking Ahead Into The Offseason

Hey gang.  I know I’ve been fairly quiet around here lately (and for that I apologize profusely), but it’s for a good reason, I swear!

I’ve been hyper-busy over at ProBall Northwest over the last few weeks as the season has drawn to a close, and part of that has been the creation of a brief series of posts looking into what might happen with the Mariners this offseason.  The series came in three parts, first looking at who might leave in free agency, what prospects could fill holes, and finally some things that could happen on the trade front.  I also took a brief look at the free agent catcher market, and wrote up a rather large prospect wrap for the Tacoma Rainiers to kick off a series of posts recapping the M’s minor league prospects.

Back to the subject line of the post, though…

This offseason should prove to be a very interesting one for the Mariners’ organization.  With all the turmoil that the 2010 season brought, there’s going to be a lot of story lines to keep track of.  Here’s just a taste:

  • The Search For A New Manager: There’s already been a lot of speculation as to who might get the M’s job in 2011 (and hopefully beyond), ranging from Joey Cora, to Eric Wedge, to Ted Simmons, to Bobby Valentine, to Willy Randolph, and to others that I’ve left out or have forgotten.  While no one is quite sure how a manager really effects how his team performs, who mans the post is still important for the team, and finding out just who that is will be the most important piece of the early stretch of the offseason.
  • Where Will David Aardsma Land?: Unfortunately for many M’s fans, it seems unlikely at best that The DA will return to Seattle in 2011, at least not in a Mariners’ uniform.  Just where he winds up and what the M’s get back for him could be a critical cog in the M’s winter plans.  I wouldn’t expect a J.J. Putz trade again, but Aardsma’s status as an “established closer” means that he will probably net the M’s the highest return they can get for anyone outside of Felix and Ichiro.
  • Josh Lueke: No matter where you stand on the situation surrounding Lueke, you’ll be paying attention to what happens to him this winter.  Given all the drama he’s created here in Seattle, it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if other teams come calling asking about him, as he is a top relief prospect with future closer written all over him.
  • Battling The Budget: This could be the most crucial element of the offseason.  The M’s ended with a payroll of slightly over$91 million in 2010, a drop of over $7.5 million from 2009.  It has been frequently speculated of late that the budget will drop again, but recent estimates place the current 2011 payroll at just over $85 million, and that’s with conservative arbitration awards and a number of minimum-salary players.  That won’t leave GM Jack Zduriencik much room to maneuver with, but he’s been able to get creative with money before.  Seeing how he does it this time, though, may wind up being akin to watching Houdini.

The managerial search is starting to heat up a bit as the playoffs start to wear on, so grab a hat and get ready to hang on for dear life…

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