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Mariners rumors: Masahiro Tanaka, David Price, Nelson Cruz all still in play

Seattle's front office is hoping to make another big splash. Will ownership stand in the way of making that happen?

Jim Rogash

The Seattle Mariners are still "weighing a number of options" -- including Masahiro Tanaka, David Price, and Nelson Cruz -- but must first convince ownership that "pressing forward" is the club's best option, reports Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports.

Seattle made a trio of aggressive moves at the beginning of December -- signing Robinson Cano and Corey Hart, acquiring Logan Morrison -- but has done little to follow up on that flurry in the month since. The M's are still a constant presence on the rumor mill, but they've been the darlings of that front on many occasions in the past -- see: Justin Upton, Josh Hamilton -- with almost nothing to show for it. The common refrain dictates that Seattle needs to make at least one more splash to be considered a real postseason threat in 2014. Whether the club will make that move or again be a bridesmaid in the effort to bring home a big-name free agent seems to hinge on the fine folks at Nintendo -- the owners.

Rosenthal wrote recently that the M's were closing in on their payroll limit in the wake of the Cano/Hart/Morrison additions, and the news that the front office needs to convince ownership to keep spending seems to reinforce that idea. A quick glance at the club's payroll commitments for 2014, however, reveals that there is money to spend if the team really wants to.

The three early December moves, along with the re-signing of Franklin Gutierrez, added only about $33 million to the club's payroll for 2014. If you add that to existing payroll and throw in the estimated arbitration money (~$4.8 million) going to Michael Saunders and Justin Smoak, the M's overall commitments sit at around $74 million, per Cot's Contracts. That number is a good $10 million shy of Seattle's year-end payroll for the last two seasons and almost $20 million less than was doled out in 2011. Given the state of revenues in the game and the club's burgeoning TV contract, it would stand to reason that the M's actually have plenty of room to sign a Tanaka or Cruz.

It's feasible that ownership really is hesitant to make another big move so quickly after throwing huge money at Cano, but it's also possible that the team is keeping the "we have no money left" idea alive in order to keep expectations down should the remaining targets sign elsewhere. The M's are the presumed favorite to land Tanaka, and have been the only club with consistent ties to Price, but there's still the possibility they land neither. Having an excuse at the ready should that happen isn't the worst strategy, especially when the more positive outcome is resolved with a quick "just kidding."