Mariners on the verge of getting Kotchman from Red Sox
Just how concerned the Mariners are about the status of first baseman Russell Branyan’s health became strikingly evident Tuesday.
The Mariners were poised Tuesday to trade infielder Bill Hall to the Boston Red Sox in exchange for first baseman Casey Kotchman. The deal will go through once the Red Sox complete a contract with former Mariner free agent Adrian Beltre.
That move probably eliminates a return to Seattle for Branyan, who hit 31 homers for the Mariners a year ago. He missed the last month of the year with back problems, and he was still experiencing stiffness a few weeks ago, Mariner insiders say.
Ultimately, general manager Jack Zduriencik
seemed to believe he couldn’t risk having his primary first baseman a candidate for the disabled list from Day 1.
Kotchman, a left-hander, won’t provide anywhere closer to the power that Branyan did. He hit just seven homers last year for Boston while averaging .268 in 126 games and 385 at-bats as a part-time player. The 26-year-old has 40 big league homers.
Hall, picked up midseason from the Brewers, is due to make $8.4 million in 2010. The deal that sent Hall to Seattle called for Milwaukee to send $7.15 million to Seattle to help defray Hall’s 2010 salary, and that money may open up some doors to get the one more starting pitcher that Seattle wants.
The club would like to add Jarrod Washburn, who was 8-6 with a 2.49 ERA in 20 starts for Seattle last year before being traded to Detroit, where he struggled. Washburn told seattlepostglobe.org Monday that he’d like to come back, but he was concerned the club wouldn’t have the money.
“The Mariners have had an active off-season,” Washburn said. “I don’t know about how much money they’re going to have left after they’ve made all these moves. I’ve voiced my opinion with those guys. They know that I want to be … or would enjoy coming back. I loved my time there.”
The Mariners, too, have made it clear they’d like Washburn back as the No. 3 man in the rotation behind Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee, but weren’t sure they had the financial ability to make it happen. Washburn, who made $9.85 million last year, is thought to want about $6 million this year. Before the Hall trade came through, the Mariners had only about half of that total available.
And there may be other priorities for the money. The Mariners don’t have a proven home run hitter in the lineup if Branyan doesn’t return. And with Branyan and Kotchman playing the same position, first base, there doesn’t seem to be room for both men on the roster, not with Ken Griffey Jr. and Milton Bradley likely to consume most of the at-bats as the designated hitter.
It’s likely that the acquisition of Kotchman scuttles any plans the club might have had to move Jose Lopez from second base to first. Chone Figgins now likely settles in a third, with Jack Wilson at short, Lopez at second and Kotchman at first.
John Hickey is a writer for AOL FanHouse (www.fanhouse.com).