This offseason represents somewhat of a crossroads for the Mariners. A full rebuild is evidently not on the table per comments from Jerry Dipoto, but going all in on the next couple years might not be practical either.
One beaming bright spot for the 2018 Mariners was James Paxton turning in his healthiest season yet. It would have turned out even better if not for a line drive to the arm and a bout with illness, but alas, career-highs in starts and innings pitched wasn’t too shabby from the big lefty. Along the way, he picked up an incredible 16-strikeout night then immediately followed that with an emphatic no-hitter in Toronto — how could you trade a guy like him?
Ideally, you don’t. But the Mariners are not in an ideal situation. Some of the roster is great; some of the roster is not great. A lot of it is in between or could go either way. There is plenty of heavy lifting that can be done this offseason to help get the franchise on track and that entails deciding what a realistic timeline to the postseason is.
Everybody wants to win with James Paxton, but he only has two years of arbitration left before he reaches free agency. His injury history, age, and the fact that he is a Scott Boras client suggest he won’t be a great extension candidate and the Mariners very well may have to let him walk in free agency when the time comes.
Again, everybody wants to win with Paxton, yet the Astros seemingly have a stranglehold on the division while the Athletics arrived a year early and seem quite legitimate in most respects. Across the country, the Rays seem poised to be in hot pursuit of a wild card spot as well.
The immediate future is packed with great teams at the top of the league and you can’t discount every team that finished behind Seattle either. The Mariners could be quite a good team in 2019, but it’s an uphill climb all the way and that could mean the front office doesn’t believe they should pile onto their roster over the next couple of years.
That means James Paxton could be available this offseason.