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<  Shannon Drayer

Approach the hot stove with caution and smarts

By Shannon Drayer

We're just a few days into the hot stove season and the Mariners' pot is already boiling over. A word of caution to those of you who haven't figured it out by now: The Mariners are going to be linked to just about every free agent and every trade possibility out there.

There are reasons for this. First and foremost - and we saw this last year and to a lesser extent the year before - the Mariners are a team that is seen by the national media, agents and other teams as a) having lots of dollars to spend, and b) having to spend those dollars because they are in a position where they have to improve.

It is impossible to say exactly how much general manager Jack Zduriencik has to spend. We know a sizable amount came off the books at the end of the season as the only players not under club control remaining are Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma.

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Expect general manager Jack Zduriencik and the Mariners to be linked to just about every free agent this offseason. (AP)

Then there is the matter of the team's assertion in recent years that it can go above and beyond for the right player at the right time. We saw this with Hernandez but have yet to see them land a premier free agent from the outside. There were attempts but limits, which in the case of Josh Hamilton appears to be a good thing.

Despite the recent inability to land a top-tier free agent, the Mariners are still seen as a team with somewhat deep pockets. Not as deep as the Dodgers or the Yankees without A-Rod, but deep enough to be in on any free agent this side of Robinson Cano. Actually, I wouldn't be surprised if we heard that one at some point either. We will see them mentioned in a number of trades as well.

The talk is running the gamut right now with reports ranging from the Mariners being hell bent on landing one of Jacoby Ellsbury or Shin-Soo Choo to the most recent report of Seattle having no interest in Ellsbury. The team is said to "have expressed interest in Matt Kemp." Who expressed the interest and to whom did they express it?

You are going to have a barrage of names thrown at you as the Mariners are inquiring on a large number of players. That is what you do this time of the year. Some of these players they would love to acquire. Some are fallback plans. Some they are taking the opportunity to learn more about. Word will get out or two and two will be put together and the association will be written about and/or tweeted.

Speaking of which, one of the more interesting and encouraging (if true) tweets I have seen came across Tuesday morning:

First, the interesting: Jhonny Peralta. This makes some sense in that there is a good chance we see Kyle Seager at second once DJ Peterson is ready. There was some talk of moving Peterson to first but that didn't happen last season and Peterson recently told me that they put intensive work in at third with him before his season came to an end when he was hit in the face. Peralta could be a placeholder and more importantly a right-handed infield bat.

Also interesting about this possible interest is that Peralta comes from Detroit. Is he a Lloyd McClendon pick or was he on the radar to begin with? Regardless, McClendon knows a thing or two about him. There is nothing better than first-hand knowledge when it comes to acquiring a free agent.

Now, for the encouraging: We will see if this plays out but I would like to see the Mariners make a significant move involving offense in the next week. Strike first. Fill a need. It may not be their prime target but get the ball rolling and most importantly, don't be left high and dry. Don't wait to see what happens with your primary big-ticket target. That most likely is going to drag on perhaps past the holidays.The entire outfield could be replaced and Zduriencik has suggested that he could go with platoons. Great. Go get someone right now.

On U.S.S. Mariner, Dave Cameron suggests Chris Young in his offseason plan. That's one name. How about Rajai Davis? Neither player will cost a ton in years or dollars and a little overpayment to get them early could pay off. Proportionally at their projected salaries, a little overpayment is just that in the grand scheme of payroll. Little.

It is far too early to freak out about names that come out in the media. I would suggest you look at them more as varying levels of interest, and in some cases interesting rather than, "OMG! The Mariners are going to sign ..." And yes, that is going on. Take a second and breathe. Think it through. Case in point, Matt Kemp. Do you think the Mariners are the only team to inquire about him? Of course not. Or not being interested in Ellsbury. It very well could be true but it also could be an attempt by the team to distance themselves from the player to avoid being the team that drives the price up.

By all means feel free to discuss the names and ask questions if you like in the comment section but realize you could hear something completely different tomorrow that may or may not be more accurate than what you heard today.

Welcome to the offseason.

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