Under the Radar

When the Mariners acquired Rey Sanchez from the New York Mets for outfielder Kenny Kelly on July 29, many groaned that he was the next Jose Offerman. Two weeks later, the deal looks to be a more intregal part to the M's postseason hopes than first thought, as Sanchez is turning heads with his play in the field and at the plate.

When Rey Sanchez was acquired two days before the trade deadline, most fans thought that his acquisition was simply the precursor to a deal that would add a big bat to the Mariners lineup.

As it turned out, the Sanchez trade was not a precursor to a big deal. It wasn't a precursor to any deal. Sanchez didn't join the company of Aaron Boone or J.D. Drew as a 2003 trade deadline acquisition. In most fans' minds, he joined the far less illustrious company of Al Martin, Jose Offerman, Doug Creek, and Ismael Valdes, Pat Gillick's midseason pickups that paled in comparison to the moves that fellow contenders were making.

After 13 games, Rey Sanchez has had just as much impact as Jose Offerman had, and he could play a much larger role than anticipated.

Sanchez was brought in as a stopgap at shortstop, whose only purpose was to fill in for Carlos Guillen while the Mariners' regular shortstop recovered from injury. However, his impressive offensive performance, combined with his always steady defense, have many clamoring for Sanchez to have an increased role even after Guillen gets healthy.

Many pundits are predicting that when Carlos Guillen returns, he will move to third base and Sanchez will become the full time shortstop. If that is the case, Sanchez's acquisition, which barely made a blip on national wire reports, could have far reaching effects on the AL pennant race.

      Since coming to Seattle, Sanchez has hit .356. He has never put up numbers like this, and one would be hard pressed to find a fan who believes that his current pace will continue. However, even if he returns back to somewhere near his career numbers, he'd still be about as productive as Willie Bloomquist at the plate, while providing better defense.

As with any switch of this magnitude, there are a few unanswered questions which could throw a wrench into these plans.

The last time Carlos Guillen played third base regularly, he was quite poor. But he was a rookie in 2000, and some of that could possibly be attributed to having the so-called "rookie jitters." Anybody with the tools to play shortstop can play third base quite easily, in a physical sense. So, the big question is, how quickly can Guillen acquaint himself at third base mentally?

Also muddying the waters is the Jeff Cirillo situation. It's obvious that some in the Mariner organization have lost faith in Cirillo's competence as a major league ballplayer. However, any team is loathe to have a big contract wasting away in the minor leagues, and Cirillo's high price tag could earn him some playing time at the big league level in September.

Any final decision is still a few weeks away, and a few weeks can be an eternity in Major League Baseball. But Rey Sanchez is making the case that he deserves to be a big part of the Mariners' stretch run.

Not bad for a guy who was originally lumped in with Al Martin and Jose Offerman.

Adam is a recent graduate from Timberline High in Lacey, Wash. who will be attending Western Washington University in the fall. He welcomes your feedback at krells@attbi.com.

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