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M's pursuing Bay ... but why?

The Mariners are in the Jason Bay sweepstakes? Really? Yeah, according to Geoff Baker:

    We've been told the Mariners have made a concerted push to land B.C. product and local resident Jason Bay, a Type A free agent left fielder from the Red Sox. This despite the fact that Bay (who gained his U.S. citizenship this year), is not the defensive whiz Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik has preferred in other deals he's made.

    There have been prior rumors suggesting the Mariners might go after Bay, but those were usually greeted with skepticism, given his relatively poor ranking defensively in the outfield. Bay is particularly weak coming in on balls, something that plagued Raul Ibanez in his latter years playing the cavernous left field spot at Safeco Field. Bay is also a right handed slugger, which doesn't play as well at the Seattle park as it does for lefties.

    What Bay does bring to the table is a sorely-needed middle-of-the-order bat. So badly needed, that the M's are willing to overlook some of his defensive liabilities. He posted a .921 OPS last season with 36 home runs and 119 RBI. Put him in left and re-sign Russell Branyan at first base and all of a sudden, the M's would appear quite formidable on offense. This argument is apparently winning the Mariners over because they continue to get deeper into talks with Bay's camp.

    Bay is also being pursued by the Red Sox to re-sign with them. He's a Type A free agent, meaning the Mariners would have to fork over a first-round draft pick to sign him.

The 18th pick in the draft, to be precise.

I don't get it. The Mariners already have a young outfielder named Michael Saunders, who struggled terribly in his 46 games with the big club last season, but tore up Triple-A and just turned 23 two weeks ago. I know Jack Zduriencik wasn't around three years ago, but maybe one of the old hands can remind him about Shin-Soo Choo, another talented young outfielder who was cast aside after a brief tryout.

Center field and right field are spoken for already. That leaves three positions for hitters: left field, first base, and DH. We know that Ken Griffey Jr. is going to suck up a fair number of DH at-bats.

It seems to me exceptionally odd to suggest that re-signing Branyan and signing Bay will make the Mariners' offense "quite formidable." Branyan isn't going to hit as well as he did in 2009, and Bay is just one man. The Mariners finished last in the American League in scoring this year. Last! Granted, the ballpark doesn't help, but they just barely edged the Royals to avoid finishing last in road scoring, too. Adding Bay might move the Mariners from terrible to non-embarrassing ... but considering defense, the difference between him and Saunders might be just a couple of wins.

And that's in Year 1, at a considerable expense. When you start talking about the out years? Well, I don't know that Saunders will be a better baseball player than Bay in 2012, but considering the money I'd probably take my chances.

I know the Mariners have a lot of cash burning a hole in their pockets. But considering how many positions they have to fill this winter -- in addition to first base, they're also soft at third base and behind the plate, not to mention DH -- it seems strange that they would even consider spending $60 million to fill a hole that doesn't actually exist.