The Seattle Mariners went into this offseason with a clear plan working as a small part of the major plan that General Manager Jerry Dipoto has created for the team starting in 2018. The biggest part of this offseasons plan was to add bullpen help which Dipoto has accomplished.
Dipoto said, “I’d like to add three or four guys (to the bullpen) that can stabilize the group and give us some certainty as we move toward the end of a game.” He did just that, adding 2 relievers this season via waiver claims, Keynan Middleton off the free-agent market, and Rafael Montero from a trade with the Texas Rangers.
However, it has been rumored that the Mariners are not done yet and are still in the market for one more bullpen arm. The only problem with that is if you have been keeping up with the recent free-agent signings you will have noticed the high price tags for relievers.
On the MLB Trade Rumors top 50 free agents list three top relievers have been signed and all were paid more than their projections. The list projected Blake Treinan to make $14 million over two years but he re-signed with the Dodgers for 2 years $17.5 million.
Washington native Trevor May, who I said was a perfect signing for the Mariners and thought could possibly only get 2 years $12 million, ended up signing with the New York Mets for 2 years $15 million.
The craziest price tag so far of the offseason was Liam Hendriks who to be fair was the hottest commodity on the free-agent reliever market. MLB Trade Rumors had him projected at 3 years $30 million but he ended up signing with the White Sox for 4 years and $54 million (4th year is a team option).
These high paying contracts are bad signs for Jerry Dipoto, Mariners fans, and create a conundrum for Seattle Mariners ownership
For Dipoto this is bad because he might’ve hoped that Seattle’s main position of need, relievers, would be just like the rest of the market this offseason: Slow. However, the top relievers have been signed and now competitors might also pay prices higher than projected for the remaining relievers on the market that Dipoto won’t want to match with whatever his budget is for this offseason.
For Mariners fans, these large contracts are a bad sign because it means that Seattle will probably not be in on any of the top free-agent relievers and will wait to see who they can get for a more reasonable price, crushing our hopes of maybe acquiring a big-time free-agent reliever.
For the Mariners ownership group, these high prices for relievers brings up the question of, “Do we tell Dipoto to spend more with the market or hold off?” I would have to believe the answer will be to hold off as the true competitors (Dodgers, White Sox, Mets) pay the high price while the Mariners aren’t in the same position to spend on a low-value position like a relief pitcher.
It is odd that the market has been slow, with the best starting pitcher, catcher, and outfielder still on the market, while the reliever market has been moving and the top guys have got unexpectedly big deals. It is unfortunate for the Seattle Mariners and will most likely mean that we should stop looking at the top remaining bullpen arms and should be watching out for pitchers like Mark Melancon and Sean Doolittle who could be signed for much cheaper than the top names.