After a weird couple down years, the MLB free agent market has seen well over $1 billion in contracts handed out over the first month of activity. But that doesn’t mean there still aren’t bargains to be had out there.
If you live in the United States, you may be unfamiliar with what Boxing Day is. In that case, in Canada, the day after Christmas is referred to as Boxing Day, which is more or less a second Black Friday to capitalize on gift card recipients and modern day consumerists. It’s a day of deals, and while the free agent market has seen massive dollar figures thrown around this offseason, the Mariners may be able to find a Boxing Day bargain or two of their own as we enter the next phase of free agency.
This has been, by far, the quietest offseason to date in the Jerry Dipoto era. To be fair, Dipoto has made his plan loud and clear: it’s about the youth and giving them ample opportunity to develop into quality major leaguers. Therefore, not too many free agents make a whole lot of sense for them, especially not from a positional standpoint.
The other day, we went over one name that really stands out amongst the rest: Taijuan Walker. The Mariners are in need of a back-of-the-rotation starter and Walker is still young and should be relatively affordable. Alex Wood also fits that bill, as well as Jerad Eickhoff.
Bullpen is another group confirmed to be added to by Dipoto himself, with at least one more veteran reliever expected to be added prior to Spring Training. There are still loads of quality arms out there that should come at an ideal price for the M’s, such as Collin McHugh, Yoshihisa Hirano, Hector Rondon, or Brandon Kintzler, among others.
But where the Mariners could really find value is in the next wave of free agent position players. Potentially a veteran player who could fill in for some time and earn some trade interest over the course of the season. With Dee Gordon still on the roster for the time being, infield doesn’t appear to be an ideal spot to add to.
The outfield, on the other hand, may need some competition. There are two spots seemingly locked down by Mitch Haniger and Mallex Smith, but after that, there are some questions that need to be addressed. Yes, Kyle Lewis was incredibly fun to watch in September, but he did show a lot of swing and miss in his game and could use some time in the minors to work on things to start the season. Jake Fraley and Braden Bishop spent a good deal of the 2019 season on the Mariners’ MLB roster, but injuries kept them off the field for the majority of the time and they, too, could possibly use some more time in the minors.
There are still plenty of attractive veteran outfielders out there. Washington native Steven Souza Jr. seems like a nice fit, or possibly the revitalized Hunter Pence. Hell, bringing Domingo Santana back shouldn’t be out of the question. There’s also Japanese import Shogo Akiyama, who isn’t expected to command a large dollar figure and doesn’t have a posting fee attached to him.
At the end of the day, the Mariners have options, and while the mission is to play their younger players as much as possible, that doesn’t mean they’re going to rush anyone into an uncomfortable situation or that they’ll ignore the opportunities out there. They’re almost certainly aware of it, but now it’s time to see what they decide is best for their 2020 outlook.