We continue our series of answering the questions that are currently keeping fans of the Seattle Mariners up waiting for the return of Major League Baseball. Today, we tackle what “making a splash” could look like this winter.
Today’s question comes to us from @ryan_p_finch on Twitter who is looking ahead to what sort of potential moves the Mariners could make this upcoming off-season:
So before we begin to answer, let us first break down the question. Ryan specifically sights free agency as the method of acquisition, so we will eliminate the more likely method of making a “splash”, on the trade market. Ryan also asks us to assume they will make a splash, so the most probable answer of Seattle making ripples instead of a splash won’t do.
Now I am also going to assume that Ryan, just like I would, means the 2020-2021 off-season, not the 2021-2022 off-season which would be after the 2021 season. If that isn’t what you meant, feel free to clarify and we will answer that as well.
But with the semantics out of the way, let’s begin to actually answer the question. Making a splash is a subjective term. Technically, signing another reliever to a Juan Nicasio type of contract is what I would consider a splash, but I think Ryan is aiming bigger.
So, who are the biggest names who are currently scheduled to be free agents this winter? First and foremost is Mookie Betts, one of the 5-10 best players in all of baseball. I hate to burst people’s bubble before May 1st, but that isn’t going to happen. Betts will have his pick of the litter and unless Seattle is willing to drastically overpay, teams like the Yankees or Dodgers are going to be interesting to Betts.
But after Betts, there are some interesting options. Perhaps not as big of a long-shot but still hard to imagine is Astros’ outfielder George Springer. One of the most underrated players in baseball, Springer will absolutely be leaving Houston this winter and look to cash in as a 31-year-old. Springer will likely be looking to top the $30 million AAV threshold and it is hard to see the Mariners taking that route, especially for a 31-year-old corner outfielder.
But after Betts and Springer, this isn’t a particularly strong bats class. If Seattle is going to make a splash, it will be in the rotation and thankfully, there are some very interesting options available to the Mariners this off-season.
The most obvious name that fans will point to is Trevor Bauer, an analytically driven pitcher with #2 upside. But Bauer has said he will only sign 1-year deals from here on out, which could hurt his market overall. Other names include Masahiro Tanaka, Jake Odorizzi, Mike Minor, Jose Quintana, and Marcus Stroman, all of whom would certainly qualify as a “splash” signing.
And I fully expect the Mariners to be linked to all of those names at some point. But there is a name that is being completely overlooked by fans and is one that should be familiar to Mariners’ fans: James Paxton.
That’s right, the return of “The Big Maple”. Paxton is familiar with the organization and the city, left on good terms after being traded, and returning would allow him to pitch as close to his home in British Columbia as possible. Paxton’s injury history will prevent him from getting the “mega” deals he would otherwise get and we know that GM Jerry Dipoto has at least jokingly mentioned that they would like Paxton back not days after trading him.
So if the Mariners do make a sizable splash this off-season, I think it would be with the familiar name of James Paxton. There are a lot of positives for a reunion, not the least of which would be getting a starter with #1 upside for #3 money.
Thank you for the question Ryan. Make sure you follow Ryan on Twitter @ryan_p_finch and send your questions our way @sodomojoFS if you would like you’re question answered!