How does Bucky fit in with the 2005 Mariners?

After the disastrous Mariners 2004 season, are you longing for Carlos Beltran? Does your mouth water at the thought of adding some big lumber like that of Carlos Delgado? Do you believe that Adrian Beltre or J.D. Drew is the answer to the Mariners offensive woes? Perhaps a gamble on a guy like Troy Glaus is your course of action?

All are intriguing options that the Mariners will have this off-season, with around $25 million to spend in free agency. However, before the team begins to spend millions on free agents, it first needs to make a long-term decision on Bucky Jacobsen, the larger-than-life designated hitter who won over the M's fan base after his mid-season promotion.

After all, the decisions the Mariners make in free agency largely depend on how they perceive Jacobsen, the 29-year old slugger. A bit of an afterthought after being signed to a minor league deal in November of 2003, the Bucky Backers began to form during Spring Training and only multiplied once Jacobsen started his assault on Triple-A pitching.

It was there, with the Tacoma Rainiers, that he grabbed the M's attention by hitting 26 home runs and driving in 86 RBI's in only 81 games, earning his first trip to the big leagues. Now the question is, after hitting .275 with 9 home runs and 28 RBI in 160 big league at bats, can he produce the same numbers over the course of a full, 500-plus at bat season?

Bucky was one of the few "feel good" stories that the casual M's fans could latch on to in the gloom of the 2004 season. The legend of Bucky grew as the story continued to be told by the fans and amongst the media, and we all felt good that he received a chance to achieve his dream of playing in the big leagues. But a 99-loss team does not have the luxury of handing out jobs based on 160 at bats to career minor leaguers, and with a payroll hovering around $90 million for next season, they have the option to look elsewhere.

Don't get me wrong, Bucky should be on the team next season and should see some significant time as a part-time DH/1B, but the M's cannot pass on players like Carlos Delgado and Richie Sexson at his expense. Another consideration - if Jeremy Reed is going to open the 2005 season on the roster (and assuming Randy Winn is still with the club), Raul Ibanez will also need at-bats at 1B or DH.

Let me throw out a hypothetical scenario. Wouldn't the sports-talk shows and the internet explode if Bill Bavasi announced in early December that the M's had acquired Doug Mirabelli to be the M's full time DH? My point? Check out how similar the numbers are:

Jacobsen: 160 AB, 9 HR, 28 RBI, .275 AVG, .335 OBP, .500 SLG
Mirabelli: 160 AB, 9 HR, 32 RBI, .281 AVG, .368 OBP, .525 SLG

The Mariner's need to add quality middle-of-the-lineup hitters to what was the worst offense in the American League in 2004, and fortunately there are a number of good options on the free agent market. If one of those sluggers can be enticed to come play half their games at Safeco Field (a whole different topic all together), the Mariners shouldn't let Bucky stand in their way.

As long as Doug Mirabelli isn't the solution.

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