• Seattle Mariners -- Oh, they're better now than they were a month ago. It's impossible to argue with that. For one thing, based on Wins Above Replacement, Robinson Cano has been at least a five-win player for four straight seasons -- while the Mariners haven't had any five-win position players in any of those four seasons. And Corey Hart and Logan Morrison have enough upside to turn into excellent rolls of the dice. So "the way I look at this," said one NL executive, "is, considering where they were offensively, any improvement was real improvement."
But it's also tough to find anyone who thinks the Cano contract won't turn disastrous. And Hart is coming off surgery on both knees. And Morrison's line the past two years has been .236/.321/.387. So "I just don't know if this is the right approach," one AL exec said. "What is this -- the third incarnation of their new, improved, middle-of-the-order offense? Every year, it seems like they're trying to upgrade their offense. Maybe they should try something a little different, and just be all about dominating with their pitching. In their park, it's always going to be about pitching."
• Teams trying to trade starters -- So whatever happened to all those David Price rumors this week? And all those Jeff Samardzija rumors? Not to mention those Max Scherzer/ Ryan Dempster/ Jake Peavy/ John Lackey rumors? Uh, they were pretty much held hostage, that's what. They were held hostage by the glacial pace of the top of the free-agent starter market (Garza/ Ubaldo Jimenez/ Ervin Santana), not to mention the international posting-fee tug o' war that will leave Tanaka's fate undecided for at least another month.
"Until those guys sign and until Tanaka gets resolved," said one exec, "that market can't possibly clarify. It might be mid-January, late January or even February before you see some of those guys move."
• The NL Central other than St. Louis -- The Cardinals? They've already addressed their biggest needs -- more offense at short ( Jhonny Peralta) and an upgraded outfield defense ( Peter Bourjos). But the rest of the NL Central? The Pirates, Brewers, Cubs and Reds mostly have been treading water this winter. Granted, it's early. And clearly, there's more to come for all of these teams (or there had better be). But six weeks into the offseason, the Cardinals have only lengthened the gap between themselves and the rest of this pack.
"This has been the quietest division in baseball," an NL exec said. "I don't think there's any doubt about that."