Offseason Outlook: Seattle Mariners – MLB Commerce Rumors

The Mariners lastly ended their postseason drought, and took a step additional in October with a dramatic sweep of the Blue Jays within the AL Wild Card Sequence earlier than falling to the Astros within the ALDS.  Now, the Mariners want to shed their different ignominious label as the one one of many 30 MLB groups that has by no means reached the World Sequence.

Assured Contracts

  • Julio Rodriguez, OF: $195MM by 2034 (primarily based on a number of membership and participant choices, deal could possibly be value as much as $455MM by the 2039 season)
  • Luis Castillo, SP: $101MM by 2027 (conditional possibility for 2028, both a $25MM vesting possibility for Castillo or a $5MM membership possibility for the Mariners)
  • Robbie Ray, SP: $94MM by 2026 (Ray can decide out after 2024 season)
  • J.P. Crawford, SS: $41MM by 2026
  • Eugenio Suarez, 3B: $24MM by 2024 (consists of $2MM buyout of $15MM membership possibility for 2025)
  • Evan White, 1B: $20MM by 2025 (consists of $2MM buyout of $10MM membership possibility for 2026; Mariners additionally maintain $11MM membership possibility for 2027 with $1MM buyout, and $12.5MM membership possibility for 2028 with $1MM buyout)
  • Marco Gonzales, SP: $18.5MM by 2024 (no buyout on $15MM membership possibility for 2025)
  • Jesse Winker, OF: $8.25MM by 2023
  • Chris Flexen, SP/RP: $8MM by 2023
  • Andres Munoz, RP: $6MM by 2025 (Mariners maintain membership choices value $6MM in 2026, $8MM in 2027, $10MM in 2028)

Arbitration-Eligible Gamers (projected 2023 salaries through MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz)

Different Monetary Commitments

Complete 2023 commitments: $96.125MM
Complete future commitments: $536.07MM

Free Brokers

The Mariners obtained a leap on some offseason enterprise in August and September when Julio Rodriguez and Luis Castillo have been each signed to contract extensions.  Since 2022 was solely Rodriguez’s rookie season, there was much less urgency to lock up the burgeoning celebrity instantly, and but the advanced and doubtlessly record-setting deal (that would span a lot of the subsequent 20 years) underlined the Mariners’ dedication to Rodriguez as the brand new face of Seattle baseball.

Castillo would’ve been a free agent after the 2023 season, and in signing him by at the least the 2027 season, Seattle doubled down on its dedication to the right-hander after already paying an enormous prospect worth to amass him from the Reds on the commerce deadline.  Extending Castillo additionally represents the Mariners’ newest funding of their beginning rotation, which now consists of two high-paid stars (Castillo and Robbie Ray), two homegrown skills of their pre-arbitration years (George Kirby and Logan Gilbert), and two veterans on affordable contracts (Marco Gonzales, Chris Flexen).

After all, Flexen wasn’t a starter for a lot of the second half, as he was moved to the bullpen as soon as Castillo got here aboard.  He nonetheless amassed sufficient innings to hit a vesting threshold in his preliminary two-year, $4.75MM cope with the Mariners, thus assuring Flexen of an $8MM wage in 2023.  Flexen and Gonzales have fairly comparable profiles as low-strikeout, pitch-to-contact hurlers, although Gonzales has a way more established observe document of limiting laborious contact, in addition to only a longer observe document as a longtime Main League starter.

With six beginning candidates for 5 rotation spots, it may be assumed that Castillo, Ray, Gilbert, and Kirby aren’t going anyplace.  That leaves Gonzales and Flexen as doable commerce candidates if the M’s did need to deal from this obvious surplus, and Flexen already reportedly obtained some curiosity from different groups previous to the deadline.  Flexen is the youthful and cheaper of the 2, and had a 3.73 ERA/5.00 SIERA and 0.7 fWAR over 137 2/3 innings in 2022, whereas Gonzales had a 4.13 ERA/4.99 SIERA and solely 0.1 fWAR in 183 frames.  These numbers barely favor Flexen, however as his SIERA implies, the superior metrics weren’t impressed along with his work final yr.

Emerson Hancock, Taylor Dollard, and Bryce Miller signify Seattle’s subsequent wave of younger pitchers, with all three anticipated to make their Triple-A debuts to start out off the 2023 season.  If all goes properly, at the least a kind of prospects could possibly be prepared to leap to the majors later in 2023, maybe turning into a brand new sixth starter/swingman kind of their first style of the massive leagues.  Or, the Mariners may probably purchase a veteran for such a job within the offseason, if one in all Gonzales or Flexen was traded.

The opposite possibility, naturally, is for the M’s to only stand pat with what’s already a robust rotation combine.  The Mariners obtained an uncommon quantity of fine fortune with the well being of their beginning pitchers in 2022, and so they would possibly simply need to preserve each Gonzales and Flexen within the fold as further depth, contemplating how uncommon it’s for a group to dodge the harm bug for 2 straight years.

Then once more, it’s additionally fairly uncommon for a group to put up consecutive years of dominance in one-run video games.  The Mariners adopted up their 33-19 mark in one-run video games in 2021 with a 34-22 document final season, defying the traditional knowledge that groups “ought to” typically end round .500 in such shut contests.  Seattle once more beat these odds thanks largely to an excellent bullpen that ought to return principally intact.

The unpredictable nature of aid pitching signifies that most likely not all of Paul Sewald, Andres Munoz, Erik Swanson, Diego Castillo, Penn Murfee, and Matt Brash will proceed to pitch in addition to they did in 2022, but that’s nonetheless fairly a core group to have in place because the Mariners search for a number of extra reinforcements.  Buying and selling from that group can also be a chance, as identical to with the rotation, the Mariners’ pitching depth offers them some leverage in exploring offers.  As famous, any of the highest prospect starters may additionally break into the majors as relievers, including extra depth to the pen.

When it comes to big-league additions, the M’s already made a transfer by claiming Luke Weaver off waivers from Kansas Metropolis.  Weaver’s first full season as a aid pitcher resulted in a 6.56 ERA over 35 2/3 innings with the Royals and Diamondbacks, however his superior metrics point out that Weaver was fairly unfortunate to put up such an unsightly ERA.  There isn’t a lot left-handed depth within the aid corps, although the M’s may at the least tender Ryan Borucki a contract and preserve him round.  Seattle can also be prone to discover re-signing Matt Boyd after he delivered some strong late-season work, however Boyd would possibly favor a clearer path to a beginning job now that he’s additional faraway from his September 2021 flexor tendon surgical procedure.

Whereas the Mariners have one of many extra secure pitching conditions of any group in baseball, their lineup has a number of query marks.  Bettering the position-player combine will certainly be the precedence for president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto this winter, and given Dipoto’s signature aggressiveness, nothing may be dominated out.  Signing a serious free agent, buying and selling pitching for hitting, buying and selling a youthful place participant for a extra established bat — all of those choices and extra could possibly be on the desk.

There must be a superb quantity of payroll area to work with, as Roster Useful resource tasks the M’s round $131.5MM in 2023 participant payroll (together with arbitration estimates), with most likely a number of million to be shaved off that complete through non-tenders.  This leaves Dipoto with loads of spending capability earlier than he even reaches the Mariners’ team-record $158MM payroll from 2018, and it additionally appears fairly doable possession would possibly present some extra funds to assist preserve the playoff revenues rolling.  Swapping Gonzales or Flexen can be a method of reallocating some cash that’s already on the books, and the Mariners may maybe take a flier on one other undesirable contract by buying and selling Evan White, who now not appears to be within the group’s long-term plans.

For a 90-win group, Seattle doesn’t have a ton of positions settled heading into 2023.  Rodriguez will play heart discipline, J.P. Crawford will ostensibly play shortstop (extra on that later), Ty France is slated for first base, Eugenio Suarez for third base, and Cal Raleigh slugged his method into establishing himself because the beginning catcher as soon as Tom Murphy’s season was lower brief by shoulder surgical procedure.  Both Murphy or Luis Torrens could possibly be non-tender candidates, as neither may be optioned again to the minor leagues.

Jesse Winker will obtain at the least a share of on a regular basis responsibility in left discipline, although he might be making an attempt to re-establish himself after an underwhelming first season in Seattle.  Winker hit solely .219/.344/.344 over 547 plate appearances, with a reversal of his career-long splits; he struggled badly in opposition to right-handed pitching in 2022, whereas truly posting respectable numbers in opposition to southpaws.  If Winker can regain his outdated kind subsequent season, that will alone assist the Mariners add some extra pop to the batting order, although his struggles have been considerably mitigated by Suarez (additionally acquired from the Reds in mainly a wage dump as a part of the Winker commerce) rediscovering his hitting stroke as soon as becoming a member of the M’s.

Between Winker, Kyle Lewis, Taylor Trammell, Jarred Kelenic, Sam Haggerty, and utilityman Dylan Moore, the Mariners could have loads of choices for the nook outfield positions….or none, at the least for a group that hopes to contend.  Lewis continues to be working his method again from a torn meniscus in 2021, and whereas he hit properly in Triple-A final yr, he struggled over 62 PA within the majors.  Trammell is barely 25 years outdated and is a former top-100 prospect, and he did handle roughly league-average offense in a part-time position final season, however it stays to be seen if he nonetheless develop into being a lineup common or if he is perhaps a fourth-outfielder kind.  Haggerty may need hit his personal fourth-outfielder ceiling, although he did play fairly properly in part-time responsibility in 2022.  Kelenic is a former consensus top-10 prospect, however he has seemed completely overmatched on the plate in 558 PA on the massive league degree.

There may be sufficient potential on this group that the M’s may simply roll the cube and hope at the least one participant breaks out as a dependable on a regular basis possibility to fit alongside Rodriguez.  As such, Dipoto would possibly wait till nearer to the commerce deadline to see if any upgrades are essential to the outfield or DH spot.  Carlos Santana won’t be re-signed after posting middling numbers in 2022, and Seattle may simply cycle a number of gamers into DH responsibility until a extra constant bat is required.

Buying and selling from this outfield group is one other chance, if the Mariners maybe tried to bundle one or two of the controllable outfielders to a rebuilding group with a longtime veteran out there.  Such a deal may conceivably occur with or with out Mitch Haniger re-signing, although a reunion with Haniger could possibly be the smoothest reply.

Haniger carries loads of harm baggage.  He missed most of 2019 and all of 2020 recovering from a ruptured testicle, core muscle surgical procedure and again surgical procedure.  He was then restricted to solely 57 video games in 2022 attributable to a excessive ankle sprain (which required a 60-day injured listing stint) in addition to a two-week absence recovering from COVID-19.  With this current historical past in thoughts, Haniger could possibly be a candidate to just accept a qualifying provide, besides the Mariners could not need to provide $19.65MM on a one-year deal.  Not issuing a QO, in fact, would imply the Mariners wouldn’t get any compensation if he signed elsewhere, and any variety of groups will certainly have curiosity in including Haniger to their rosters.

Seattle may additionally discover different free agent outfielders past Haniger, looking for a participant who may present considerably comparable offense on a less-expensive one-year deal than the price of a qualifying provide.  On paper, the M’s have the necessity and the payroll flexibility to be a part of the Aaron Choose dialog, and it’s most likely secure to imagine the group will test in with Choose’s representatives.  However, there’s a cause Dipoto is called “Dealer Jerry” versus “Signer Jerry” — the manager typically turns to the commerce market to make his largest strikes, reasonably than any enormous splashes within the free agent pool.

Then once more, Ray was signed for $115MM final winter, which already indicators a change in Dipoto’s most popular player-acquisition technique because the Mariners transfer into win-now mode.  Dipoto has already indicated he plans to discover the shortstop market this winter, with such notables as Carlos Correa, Trea Turner, Xander Bogaerts, and Dansby Swanson headlining a deep class.

The catch is the M’s won’t essentially be viewing any of those shortstops as shortstops, since Dipoto’s acknowledged “nice choice” is to maintain Crawford at shortstop and use any new infielder as a second baseman.  This appears to shut the door on the probabilities of Adam Frazier being re-signed, which isn’t stunning for the reason that former All-Star struggled by a tough 2022 season.  It additionally reaffirms the Mariners’ dedication to Crawford, who was already signed a contract extension again in April.

Dipoto was additionally adamant final winter that Crawford was Seattle’s on a regular basis shortstop, which appeared to considerably restrict the Mariners’ involvement in final offseason’s deep shortstop class, although the M’s did have curiosity in such gamers as Trevor Story and Marcus Semien.  It’s value noting that Dipoto’s most up-to-date statements appeared at the least a contact much less dedicated to Crawford as a shortstop, saying “we’re not going to shut the door to something in that regard,” and that Crawford “does an excellent job in something that we requested him to do.”

Transferring Crawford to second base could possibly be the extra logical transfer.  MLBTR’s Darragh McDonald explored this topic in higher element again in August, as Crawford’s glovework declined sharply within the view of public defensive metrics (-11 Outs Above Common, -3 Defensive Runs Saved, -0.9 UZR/150).  Crawford was coping with some knee issues final yr and due to this fact would possibly carry out nearer to his 2020 Gold Glove kind when wholesome, however a shift over to second base would additionally assist him from a defensive perspective.

Inside choices like Moore, Abraham Toro, and even Haggerty and France may assist out at second base in a pinch, but the keystone positively looks as if the Mariners’ prime want on the diamond.  If the M’s don’t transfer Crawford or can’t persuade one of many massive free agent shortstops to vary positions, one other route can be to only signal a correct second baseman.  Brandon Drury and former Mariner Jean Segura (if the Phillies decline their membership possibility on Segura) could possibly be focused, or Seattle may gauge commerce prospects with middle-infield heavy groups just like the Guardians, Reds, or Cardinals.

For a group that thrived on its success in tight video games, there’s some irony in the truth that the Mariners misplaced all three ALDS video games to Houston by a mixed complete of 4 runs.  The M’s are hoping the slim nature of that collection is an omen of how they’re beginning to shut the hole with the Astros for AL West supremacy, and the 2022-23 offseason could possibly be some of the essential in franchise historical past as Seattle is perhaps a number of ending touches away from a championship contender.

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