By Kirby Arnold
Two days after the Mariners’ 2008 season mercifully ended, there might be a problem with the 2009 picture. Jose Lopez doesn’t want to play first base.
Nobody knows if he’ll be asked to play first, but he looked decent there for a dozen games in September while the Mariners played prospect Luis Valbuena at second. Valbuena showed nice range in the field and a glimpse of a line-drive stroke with the bat.
So what happens if the Mariners’ new general manager decides that 2009 truly is a rebuilding season and is willing to live with growing pains that will make the club better in the longrun? What happens if the M’s decide to give Valbuena a season-long look at second and ask Lopez to stay at first?
All we know now is how Lopez would feel about it. “No way,” he said Sunday.
The Mariners need offensive production out of their first baseman and, if they’re not willing to go after it via trade or free agent signing this offseason, Lopez could be their best option.
But, if they’ll have to drag him to first base kicking and screaming, why bother? Lopez is young, he’s cheap ($1.9 million in 2009) and seems to have rounded an important corner in remaining consistent from the beginning of the season to the end.
The Mariners would love to keep that, but if it means his reluctance to play another position will stunt the progress of a kid like Valbuena, then maybe the club should look at what Lopez could bring via trade.
It’s one reason the next few months will be so interesting.