The Seattle Mariners made a pair of transactions Monday, apparently for financial reasons as much as anything else. The club traded 34-year-old 1B Greg Colbrunn to Arizona in exchange for switch-hitting OF Quinton McCracken. Later, the team signed free agent Scott Spiezio, a switch-hitter who can play both corner infield positions. Spiezio's three-year, $9 million deal is will be completed once the veteran passes a physical.
On the surface it seems as if the team planned on saving some payroll by swapping the two reserves; Colbrunn is set to make $2.8 million in 2004 while McCracken can make as much as $1.7 million, seemingly saving Seattle more than a $1 million in payroll space.
The Spiezio signing, however, changes that thought. With the M's giving the 31-year-old the kind of money they did, it appears the veteran will likely be the Opening Day starter at third base for the Mariners in 2004. Spiezio hit .265 with 16 homeruns and 83 RBI last season with Anaheim. Acquiring Spiezio made Colbrunn somewhat expendable as a bench bat, and McCracken will be used as the team's fourth outfielder, something GM Bill Bavasi was looking to add regardless of any financial gain in a trade of such nature.
Colbrunn hit .276 with three homeruns and seven RBI in 22 games in 2003. He spent most of the year on the disabled list with wrist and neck injuries.
Spiezio, being a switch-hitter, will probably start at the hot corner the majority of the time while spelling John Olerud at first versus some of the tougher left-handers. When Spiezio plays first, it's likely that Willie Bloomquist or rookie Justin Leone, both right-handed hitters, will play third. Carlos Guillen is currently slated to return to shortstop and can also play third. Spiezio struggled with the bat from the right side in 2003 but over the past three seasons is a .281 hitter as a righty, and should be a solid asset to the club in 2004.
McCracken, 33, hit just .227 in 2003 and has no power to speak of, but is a solid fielder with better than average speed and hits from both sides of the plate, all talents that bode well for a reserve outfielder. The former Colorado, Tampa Bay, and Minnesota outfielder played two seasons in Arizona, and spent one of those seasons with M's manager Bob Melvin, who was then the Arizona bench coach. Melvin believes McCracken is a perfect fit in the clubhouse as well as on the field.
The team's bench now consists of the backup catcher, either Ben Davis or Dan Wilson, utility man Willie Bloomquist, outfielder Quinton McCracken, and the possibilities of Mariner minor leaguers Justin Leone, Chris Snelling, and Jamal Strong. Bavasi would still like to add a veteran in one of the final two spots.
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