The Seattle Mariners reshaped their 2011 plans Wednesday, declining contract options on Jose Lopez, Russell Branyan and Erik Bedard while trimming their 40-man roster to 30.
Outfielder Ryan Langehans and catcher Guillermmo Quiroz declined outright minor league assignments and became free agents, right-handed pitcher Brian Sweeney was claimed off waivers by the Arizona Diamondbacks and pitchers Ryan Feierabend, Chris Seddon and Sean White were outrighted to Tacoma.
The decision to decline those three options saved the Mariners $17 million. It also made Bedard and Branyan free agents, while Lopez remains arbitration-eligible and under team control. The team will pursue trade possibilities, but it’s unlikely Lopez will be in a Mariners uniform next season.
"We made our decisions and will move forward," general manager Jack Zduriencik said.
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Branyan and Lopez often batted third and fourth in Seattle’s lineup, spots vacant for now unless the team wants to make Justin Smoak it’s cleanup hitter.
"It's hard to have kids fill those roles, although they may fit in," Zduriencik said. "We're wide open to options that will improve the team and upgrade our offense."
Bedard, the 31-year-old left-hander acquired in trade three years ago, didn’t throw a pitch in 2010 and hasn’t been able to get or stay healthy in Seattle,. Over three seasons, he’s won 11 games and had three surgeries.
The Mariners declined his $8 million option, paying a $250,000 buyout.
Branyan, the 34-year-old first baseman-designated hitter, hit 25 home runs in 109 games - 15 of those homers coming in his 57 games with Seattle. Acquired from Cleveland on June 26, Branyan wound up leading the Mariners in home runs.
He also missed the final 16 games with back problems, and has a history of similar issues. The Mariners held a $5 million option on Branyan for 2011, but the Indians are responsible for his buyout.
The contract most Mariners fans seem polarized by belonged to Lopez, who switched from second base to third last spring and then batted .239 with 10 home runs, 58 RBI and a .270 on-base percentage that was among the lowest of any regular in the big leagues.
Coming off a career season at the plate in 2009, when he hit .272 with 25 home runs and 96 RBI, Lopez has been a Seattle fixture since he began playing fulltime in 2006.
The Mariners held a $4.5 million option on Lopez, and chose the $250,000 buyout.
The money saved might then be used to acquire offense, through trade or free agency, and begin to address Seattle’s glaring need for run production.
As for the other moves, the only surprise may have been taking White off the roster. The 29-year-old right-hander had a marvelous ‘09 season in relief, going 3-2 with a 2.80 earned run average in 52 games.
Hamstrung with injuries last year, White appeared in 38 games - and went 0-1 with a 5.24 ERA.