Jason A. Churchill, 1090 The Fan

After splurging for the No. 1 free agent in Major League Baseball at the price of $240 million, there are indications that the Seattle Mariners are just about out of money. While we all know that’s a load of bull and a freaking joke — MLB does not have a salary cap, the M’s are far from up against the luxury tax threshold and the world knows about two influxes of cash the club has on its way in the form of the league-wide revenue bump that is shared among its 30 franchises and the team’s own acquisition of controlling interest in the regional sports network Root Sports that is set to take over next year — that’s word the club is putting out there.

“We’re trying to do a few more things. I’m not sure that anything is going to be a huge splash,” said general manager Jack Zduriencik on MLB Network Wednesday.

First off, it’s important to remember that this doesn’t actually mean they won’t make a “huge splash,” as Zduriencik phrased it. Second, it’s important to remember that this is the Seattle Mariners we’re talking about right now. The frustrating part of the possibility that the club is done making impact additions is that the momentum and cache the club created for themselves by committing to Cano for 10 years and $24 million per season — the largest contract the franchise has ever doled out — will be gone. As they sit today, the Seattle Mariners might be a team capable of winning half its games or so. If they find some smaller pieces — perhaps a veteran starting pitcher, No. 2 catcher and a reliever — they may be an 85-win venture in 2014.

That’s not good enough. It’s not good enough for the fans. It’s not good enough for the city of Seattle. I cannot imagine that’s good enough for Cano — or Corey Hart or Willie Bloomquist, who were also brought in on free-agent contracts — and it’s not good enough for the Seattle Mariners as an organization.

Pinching pennies now goes against every corner the club turned, both on the field with talent acquisition and in terms of the possible changing of the general perception of the team.

They shouldn’t spend money just to spend money, so just because outfielder Shin-Soo Choo is out there doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to pay him what he wants. Same goes for the starting pitching available, including right-handers Matt Garza, Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez.

Trades the M’s have been linked to also would bring on payroll — Tampa Bay Rays lefty David Price is set to earn about $13 million in 2014 and about $17 million more in 2015 before hitting free agency, and Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Matt Kemp is earning around $20 million per season.

The Mariners have about $67 million and change committed to the 2014 roster and they spent about $84 million last season, suggesting there is indeed room. There had been no indications of a payroll cut prior to the start of the offseason, including comments from CEO Howard Lincoln saying the number certainly wasn’t going to be reduced.

If that’s the case, there’s at least $17 million left just to equal last year’s number. Some of that will be eaten up by the arbitration eligibles Justin Smoak, Michael Saunders and Logan Morrison. If all three are retained, they’ll earn a combined total of about $8 million, probably at a maximum. There’s a great chance, however, that one of those three, perhaps two, are traded this winter.

There are incentives for Hart and newly-signed outfielder Franklin Gutierrez that have to be part of a contingency fund, but typically the Mariners have planned for such separately than the Opening Day payroll.

In the end, there’s reason to believe Zduriencik and the Mariners just don’t presently see any possible deals they’re willing to make — such as Choo at $20 million per season over 7-8 years — or one of the starting pitchers at $15 million or more per year over at least five years. If that’s the case, one can argue that’s a smart path to walk. Saying publicly that maybe the club is done making big moves doesn’t mean they are. It may simply mean that at the current asking prices, both for free agents and impact players on the trade market, they aren’t interested.

It’s difficult to believe that any major business would follow such a route of shutting it down and tightening the purse strings after bringing in the game’s best second baseman. It’s the equivalent of buying a big piece of land and never building a house on top of it.

If we learn later this offseason that the club has essentially pinned their entire offseason attempt to become contenders on Cano, Hart, Morrison, Bloomquist and Gutierrez, plus other smaller pieces, we’ll all have another conversation in April, one that will not be as forgiving and is certain to contain numerous replacement terms. Because, you know, expletives are not allowed here.

– Jason A. Churchill, 1090 The Fan

(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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