Seattle Mariners: FanSided Offseason Simulation Final Recap

SEATTLE, WA - APRIL 08: A fan holds a scorecard prior to the home opener between the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland Athletics at Safeco Field on April 8, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - APRIL 08: A fan holds a scorecard prior to the home opener between the Seattle Mariners and the Oakland Athletics at Safeco Field on April 8, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) /

Colby and I spent the majority of last week nerding out and finding ways to make the Mariners a better team in 2019 and beyond if we were in Jerry Dipoto’s shoes. Those were tough shoes to fill, but we feel pretty good about our attempt at doing our best Dipoto impression in the trade and free agent markets.

If you’ve read our three-day recaps, then you’ll know exactly who we went after, who we acquired, and who we parted with. Of the biggest names, James Paxton, Ben Gamel, and Nelson Cruz are no longer Mariners in our simulation. In total, we were able to shed roughly $15 million in expected salary, which was greatly assisted by Paxton and Dee Gordon‘s separate departures. That gave us about $42 million to work with and help supplement the massive holes left by our departed stars.

We had a lot of fun with that and were able to find great deals to add significant talent for relatively cheap. That started with the trade for Danny Salazar, which saw Gamel and Wyatt Mills head to Cleveland. Salazar is only expected to make $5 million in arbitration this year, and he could possibly be one of our TOR starters or a strong piece in the back of our bullpen. We also got back Iván Nova in our Gordon salary dump. While Nova is a pretty mediocre pitcher making $8.5 million this year, he’s on a one-year deal and lines up to be one of the better fourth or fifth starters in the MLB.

When we acquired Nova, however, we had assumed that we would be able to either flip he or Mike Leake. As it turns out, not a lot of GMs in our sim are huge fans of either one of them, despite their relatively team-friendly deals, and we weren’t able to reach a deal. Thus, we wound up with an excess of starting pitching, especially after signing Yusei Kikuchi and acquiring Max Fried and Kyle Wright in the Paxton deal. Of course, if we were given more than three days to work with, we probably could have worked out a deal for Leake or Nova, so we didn’t sweat it too much.

With Paxton leaving and Wade LeBlanc likely heading to the bullpen with the way we constructed this roster, we’ve lost a total of 5.5 fWAR from the rotation last year but made about 3.3 of it back with the acquisitions of Salazar and Nova (this is based on Salazar’s 2017 numbers). We also got a younger pitcher in Kikuchi, who comes with six years of club control, and we firmly believe he’d be able to pick up the rest of the slack and then some.

Positionally, we found ourselves with holes at several significant positions, including left field and catcher. The real-life swap of Mike Zunino and Mallex Smith had been accounted for, so that gave us another $4.2 million in payroll flexibility. We looked at several catching options in trade packages, especially when looking for a Paxton deal, but the issue landed on the back-burner when we got back James McCann in exchange for Daniel Vogelbach.

Vogelbach wasn’t the only first basemen we dealt away, as we also sent Ryon Healy to the division rival Rangers for outfielder Delino DeShields. We love what DeShields could bring to the roster we’ve constructed, serving as both a late-game defensive replacement and threat on the base paths. We didn’t view him as a direct replacement to Gamel but felt comfortable enough in allowing him to start if we had failed to acquire another left fielder of greater talent.

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The first major task on our list was to find a way to replace Neslon Cruz, however. Paying the 38-year-old Cruz anywhere in the mid-teens in AAV was not something we were interested in doing, so our attention turned to find a relatively cheap option on the trade market. We mostly eyed two players: Domingo Santana and Carlos Santana, contingent upon the Phillies eating most of the latter’s salary. A much better option fell into our laps, however, when the Cardinals offered us a deal of James Pazos and Max Povse for José Martinez.

Martinez is coming off a 2018 season in which he hit 17 homers and slashed .305/.364/.457. At the age of 30, Martinez is still in the pre-arbitration period of his deal and offers more positional flexibility than Cruz ever did. Though Martinez isn’t very good in the field, he’s capable of playing first base or a corner outfield spot competently for a handful of games.

Next up was figuring out the conundrum of whether or not to make Robinson Canó a first baseman full-time or move him back to second base. Initially, the plan was to move him back to second, especially given our consideration for a Carlos Santana deal. But then free agency started, and the rich second baseman was hot as expected, but the GMs in our simulation seemed to have forgotten about the great season Jed Lowrie had posted in 2018.

Lowrie had one offer on the table from the Twins for two years and $20 million. We felt pretty comfortable in our ability to beat that, giving him three years and $30 million. Colby and I were willing to go slightly higher on that if we were outbid, but to our surprise, no one else made an offer and Lowrie was ours. Therefore, Canó is our first baseman, and we feel confident in his ability to learn the position over the course of the Winter and Spring.

Even after the Lowrie and Kikuchi acquisitions, we still had a really good amount of money to spend and decided to go all-in. After offering a pretty conservative four year, $45 million contract to Michael Brantley, we decided to try and address our catcher spot in a major way by targeting Yasmani Grandal.

We were awarded Brantley for the initial contract we had offered, but were unfortunately outbid on Grandal. So instead, we settled on Robinson Chirinos to fulfill our starting catching duties. While replacing the elite defense of Mike Zunino is nearly impossible, matching or besting his offensive output in 2018 wasn’t a very hard task to accomplish. The 34-year-old Chirinos is an upgrade offensively, after slashing .222/.338/.419 last season, and is solid enough behind the plate to allow us a sense of comfortability in handling this pitching staff.

By once again doing another fWAR comparison of the positions we subtracted from and later supplemented, the results are pretty startling:

That’s about a two-win swing, with a lot better talent at the top.

So yeah, we feel pretty good about how we did. Let us know what you think about our moves and how we ultimately constructed this roster. We’d love to hear your comments! Thank you for keeping up with our simulation. It was a lot of fun!

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Go M’s!