Despite outfield being one of the deepest positions in the Mariners’ organization, they may still be interested in going big there if the price is right.
The first real rumor of the Mariners’ offseason is kind of a doozy. Today, baseball insider Héctor Gómez forwarded a report that the Mariners are among the teams involved in an eight-horse race for the services of impending free agent outfielder Marcell Ozuna. This comes as quite the surprise, especially with Gómez mentioning that teams may go as high as to offer Ozuna a seven-year contract worth around $160 million.
That doesn’t seem like the ideal course of action for a rebuilding team that’s deeper in the outfield than any other position, and gets even more confusing when you factor in that the Mariners have never truly gone big in free agency in the Dipoto regime, outside of last year’s signing of Yusei Kikuchi. But giving out roughly $14 million AAV to a young, intriguing pitcher is far different than doling out $22 million AAV to a player who was worth just 2.6 fWAR last year at a position of strength and depth.
What this all really is, more than likely, is simply agent speak and that these aforementioned numbers and interested teams are merely the conception of Ozuna and his camp. Given the way the free agency market has played out over the last three years, players aren’t getting what they want unless they’re one of the game’s premier stars. Ozuna is not, and with teams balking at offering players like Manny Machado and Bryce Harper big years and dollar figures last year, it’s hard to imagine that any team, let alone the Mariners, would offer seven payroll-restricting years to a two-and-a-half win player.
That’s just not going to happen, though the Mariners’ overall interest in the player makes some sense, despite their outfield depth. In Jerry Dipoto’s first offseason with the Mariners four years ago, it was reported that the team was working on a trade to acquire Ozuna from Miami. That, of course, never happened and Ozuna remained in Miami until the winter of 2017 when he was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals.
That was coming off a career-best five-win season from Ozuna, a mark he’s never even come close to in other seasons, including the past two in St. Louis. That’s not to say Ozuna has been bad over the last two seasons, however; over 278 games played for the Cardinals, Ozuna posted a 5.4 fWAR while slashing .263/.327/.452 with 52 home runs and 177 RBIs. And while he’ll be immortalized for this bewildering attempt at a catch versus the Dodgers earlier this year, he’s been a solid defender in left field for most of his career.
Still, nothing he’s done outside of 2017 warrants $22 million AAV, and I can’t stress enough that the Mariners won’t be the team to give it to him, if anyone does. But there’s still a lot to take from this, including that the Mariners, again, like the player and could go after him if his asking price drops, and that they’re not going to shy away from adding talent, even to a position they’re currently looking to subtract from.
At the very least, adding a quality veteran outfielder such as Ozuna would open the door for the Mariners to explore trade packages that include one of their bigger outfield prospects like Kyle Lewis and Jake Fraley, which, in turn, could help them acquire a young, controllable starting pitcher. There are a lot of fun and intriguing scenarios that could play out if the Mariners were to add to their outfield, though shovelling buckets of money at Marcell Ozuna isn’t really the ideal route to go.