The Mariners are a team that could use more offense. There has been no secret about that, and they acquired a big bat this week when they traded for catcher Jesus Montero from the Yankees.
The Mariners' need for offense also led to speculation that they might give serious pursuit to free-agent first baseman Prince Fielder. But that never materialized and Fielder is headed for the Tigers after agreeing to a nine-year, $214 million contract on Tuesday.
The Mariners and Fielder were probably never a good match at this point. The Mariners are relentlessly rebuilding around some of the best young pitching in the game, they play in a ballpark that is extremely pitcher friendly and Fielder, who lives in Florida, made no secret of his desire to play for a team that is playoff-ready. At this point, he had a much better chance of leading the league in walks rather than home runs if asked to hit cleanup in the Mariners lineup.
General manager Jack Zduriencik, who does not comment on free agents, has a history with Fielder going back to their time with the Brewers. But that wasn't enough to overcome other significant obstacles that kept any Fielder-to-Seattle scenario from really gaining any traction.
The Mariners still have some work to do in putting together a playoff-caliber club, but they also have two young first basemen that they like in Mike Carp and Justin Smoak. Both still need to prove they can be productive at the Major League level for a full season, but both have shown enough to convince the Mariners stick with them going into 2012.
Pitching is still the Mariners' strength, with Felix Hernandez and Blake Beavan at the Major League level, Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton leading a strong group in the Minor Leagues and Hector Noesi being included in the deal with the Yankees for Michael Pineda.
But there is still some offense to get excited about beyond acquiring Montero. The Mariners certainly need outfielder Carlos Peguero to show the power that he has in the past three years in the Minors at the Major League level, but Dustin Ackley hit .273 with a .348 on-base percentage and .417 slugging percentage in 90 games after making his debut on June 17.
In a couple of years the Mariners could have an exciting young infield with either Carp or Smoak at first, Ackley at second, Nick Franklin at shortstop, Kyle Seager, Alex Liddi or Francisco Martinez at third base and Montero behind the plate. Outfielder Phillips Castillo, given a franchise-record bonus out of the Dominican Republic in 2010, could be right behind.
At some point, the Mariners may need to get more involved in high-priced free agents. But Zduriencik has preached patience through scouting and player development and the Mariners continue to make significant progress in that regard. They are not there yet, not in a division that includes the Rangers and the Angels, but they are committed to the process and don't appear ready to try a high-priced short cut to success.
After almost three months of speculation, it was obvious at the end that a marriage between Fielder and the Mariners was never in serious danger of happening.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.