The Seattle Mariners have made it clear they are hoping to add an offensive stud with defensive versatility this offseason, and there may not be a better fit on the free agent market than Kris Bryant.
Bryant, 29, is a former National League Rookie of the Year, MVP, and 4-time All-Star, and was a key member of the 2016 World Series champion Chicago Cubs. He’s primarily played third base throughout his career, but he’s seen plenty of action as a first baseman and corner outfielder as well.
With news breaking today that the Mariners will not be picking up Kyle Seager’s $20 million option for next season, third base is officially open in Seattle. With the salary relief of Seager’s departure, and a new opening at the hot corner and in the middle of the batting order, a pursuit of Kris Bryant this winter should be making its way to the top of the Mariners’ priority list.
Kris Bryant has the offensive weapons, positional flexibility, and championship pedigree that could help the Mariners contend for years to come.
Apart from JP Crawford at shortstop and Mitch Haniger in right field, there are no players set in stone at the other defensive positions in Seattle going into next season. Several players are essentially locked into the starting lineup, but their positioning in the field could vary based on who the Mariners acquire this offseason.
If the Mariners land Kris Bryant as their sole position player acquisition this offseason, he’d slide right in at third base, while Abraham Toro and Ty France return to their 2021 roles at second and first base, respectively. However, if they’re able to reel in another major infielder, Bryant would likely move to one of the two corner outfield spots, giving Mitch Haniger and/or Kyle Lewis a chance to DH on a regular basis.
As for Bryant’s asking price, we may need to look back to the 2019 free agent class to get the best comparison for what Bryant’s market will be this offseason. Bryce Harper, after six All-Star appearances, a Rookie of the Year, and an MVP, signed with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2019 for 13 years and $330 million (average annual value of $25 million), while Manny Machado signed with the San Diego Padres for 10 years at $300 million (AAV of $30 million) after four All-Star appearances, two Gold Gloves, and three top-10 finishes in MVP voting.
Harper and Machado both signed their mega-deals at the age of 26, so Bryant’s comparatively higher age could play a factor in his contract negotiations. If Bryant was to sign with the Mariners, I believe Seattle would prefer to pay Bryant a larger annual salary with a lower contract length; they have significant payroll flexibility over the next several seasons, and Bryant may want the option to retest free agency in a few years if things don’t work out in Seattle.
The Mariners’ competitive window hopefully exists throughout the 2020’s, so it’s possible we could see Mariners management offer Bryant 5 years at $175 million (AAV of $35 million). A significant chunk of Seattle’s yearly payroll would be taken up with this decision, but due to Bryant’s seamless fit, Jerry Dipoto may be willing to shell out.