The wild card games have been played and we are on to the Division Series round, a series that the Mariners and their fans are hoping to see them play sometime in the next 3 years.
But before the Mariners can get there, they have some more building to do. But before they go shopping this off-season, they need to see what they have in the cupboards. In other words, what are they looking at contractually?
Seattle and GM Jerry Dipoto spent a good chunk of the past year trying to get as much payroll off the books for the future as possible and he’s going to get even more relief this winter. The most notable free agent to be, Felix Hernandez, and his enormous $27 million payroll hit will be off the books.
In fact, entering this off-season, the Mariners only have 4 players on their 40-man roster with guaranteed contracts. Those 4 players are; Dee Gordon, Kyle Seager, Yusei Kikuchi, and Marco Gonzales. The rest of the players are either pre-arbitration, entering arbitration, or unrestricted free agents.
So there is a lot of flexibility here. Now, we say they only have 4 players with guaranteed deals, but the reality is that most of the players on the 40-man are going to be tendered contracts. Players who fall into this category are Mitch Haniger, Mallex Smith, and Omar Narvaez, all of whom are entering arbitration for the first time and will get their first significant pay raise as a result.
As a result, the Mariners have just $83 million committed to their 2020 roster in the form of the 4 players with guaranteed deals and the salaries they ate in their trades over the past year. The team has 9 players who are arbitration-eligible and of those 7, only one has reached arb2 status.
Assuming they tender contracts to all 9 arbitration players, which is unlikely, they figure to add between $20-$30 million to the payroll. Now when you add all the minimum salary guys, you end up with a figure of roughly $110 million on 30 players, leaving them just about $35 million to reach their 2019 spending levels if they so desire.
The Mariners only have 1 option to consider this off-season, the $5 million team option on Wade LeBlanc. The overwhelming odds say that Seattle will decline that option, so it isn’t much of a factor in this discussion.
In conclusion, the Mariners will enter this off-season with at least $30 million to spend and somewhere between 4-7 spots to fill in their 40 man roster. These figures will change the more we learn, but this should represent at least a ballpark figure of where the team currently stands.