Nowadays, when the Mariners make any sort of financial commitment to a player, there are a lot of reservations about it.
Deservedly so, as the Bill Bavasi regime has placed a crippling fear of long lasting failure that the Mariners have been living with for a decade. Now, it appears after a frantic winter meeting of rumor, after rumor, after rumor, the Mariners are in a nice spot to make a play on the best free agent slugger on the market - and for some reason the question of whether or not to sign Josh Hamilton still remains.
Jon Morosi of Fox Sports News wrote a column this morning saying the Mariners need more than Hamilton to make it worth it, and that if it is just Hamilton it will be a "costly calamity". This is the line of thinking the Mariners have been in for quite some time. This is the line of thinking the team needs to get out of.
Unless Mariners ownership is prepared to take its payroll to around $110 million - as it has before - it should pass on the top free-agent hitter and shop elsewhere. It makes no sense for the Mariners to sign Hamilton unless they are committed to surrounding him with a championship-caliber lineup.
To Morosi's credit, much of his column is also about how the Mariners need more than just Hamilton. This is true, the Mariners need more than just Hamilton. But to pass on Hamilton because the rest of the parts aren't there is a bit strange. Building a line-up and a playoff team is a fluid set of circumstances where adaptability reigns supreme. If the Mariners are poised to land the pre-eminent free agent slugger to a three- or four-year deal to a deal they can afford, they need to do it.
What Morosi forgets is that you do not need a championship-caliber lineup any more. The second wild card spot for the playoffs changed all of that. At the beginning of August, the Mariners were only 7.5 games out of the wild card race. Maybe with Hamilton on your team at that point next year, the Mariners are only 5.5 games out of the wild card race in August. A couple games here and there can make a big difference.
Larry Stone of The Seattle Times hits the nail squarely on the head when it comes to the fandom of the decision. The Mariners, for what it is worth, need a huge PR boost in Seattle. The past year has seen another rebuilding season without much apparent rebuilding actually working, and the Mariners bone-headed decision to remain vocal about their opposition to a new arena for a NBA team won Armstrong and company no fans.
Meanwhile, the Mariners have dropped 60 percent in attendance over the past decade - worst of any team in any major sport. The team isn't exactly in crisis mode, but that is more because there are less and less people who care about the crisis of the Mariners with every passing loss.
But you also can't live in fear of a bold move.
There is a limit to the patience for a rebuild to take off - a process that is in the third year for Wedge, but has gone on much longer for the team's fans.
This right here is the key point. The Mariners have been terrible. The Mariners' offense has been wretched, finishing worst in the league in hitting more often than any team should. Games are borderline no fun to go to. The fans are at their wits end, and to pass on someone actually capable of hitting balls over the fences in Safeco just because the team needs more than that piece is going to get this team nowhere. The rebuilding effort is on a path, and whether or not it is the right path remains to be determined.
No one is arguing, or should argue, that Hamilton is the be-all, save-all for the Mariners. But Hamilton is an improvement, and also an improvement that allows the Mariners to retain all of their prized prospects. Yes, Hamilton will cost some serious cash. But in no way will spending money on Hamilton be viewed a waste when the team is still paying the ghost of Chone Figgins to not be a Mariner.
The "costly calamity" wouldn't be to sign Hamilton; it would be to have him presented to you on an Ethan Stowell grade silver platter and not do anything about it.