One of the best players on the free agent market that not many have talked about being a fit for the Mariners is first baseman Freddie Freeman. That is mainly because Ty France had a breakout season at first base last year, and fans believe that he is now the clear-cut first baseman. Freeman coming to Seattle is all predicated on him not going back to the Braves, but he did not sign before the lockout, so who knows what the situation could be with him. Could the Mariners swoop in?
Freddie Freeman is an absolute star in the game of baseball. He is nearly a shoe-in to play 150+ games, which is very unique now a days, and he could be a star Seattle needs. He could be their “go all-in” splurge signing that puts them over the top in the A.L. West. Last year, he nearly slashed .300/.400/.500. That is incredible, and much better than anyone on the Mariners currently. He also adds thump that Seattle is lacking in their lineup as well, as he hit 31 homers last year.
The Mariners would certainly have to pay Freeman, but they would not be going over and beyond their expected budget. MLB Trade Rumors has him projected to earn a 6 year, $180 million contract. That is about the realm that the Mariners would have to pay Kris Bryant or Trevor Story, who they have been heavily tied to. They could make this kind of contract happen for Freeman, and it would not burden the franchise.
Freeman just brought a World Series title back to Atlanta, so one would think they would want to keep him around. However, he did not re-sign with them right away like many thought, so he is still a free agent and there are several what-if scenarios that could be very intriguing for the Mariners if they were to sign him.
What if the Mariners miss out on big bats not named Freddie Freeman?
While the Mariners have been linked to Kris Bryant and Trevor Story for much of the offseason, there is no guarantee that the Mariners will come away with either of them. The Mariners could miss out on the two of them and have no where left to turn with the infield. While Ty France was a very good player last year, he is not Freddie Freeman. Freeman is a perennial MVP candidate, and would certainly be an upgrade over France, who fortunately has some positional flexibility.
If the Mariners added Freeman to their current roster, they would have a ton of new options that no one has talked about yet. If they added Freeman, they could potentially move Ty France to DH full-time. However, that takes at-bats away from Luis Torrens and Kyle Lewis, and it forces Mitch Haniger to be almost a full-time right fielder. They could try to get about 40 games of Ty France at second and third base to get other guys DH time, but it could clog the roster.
Even though signing Freeman could clog the roster, it can easily be unclogged. The Mariners could trade Lewis and/or Torrens, who will need most of the year to get their at-bats from the DH spot. That could lead to acquiring a player like Matt Chapman with either of those two (plus prospects), or adding another starting pitcher. Adding Freeman gives the Mariners a chance to trade their depth pieces for something more.
This scenario ends up with an infield of Freddie Freeman, Adam Frazier, J.P. Crawford, and either Abraham Toro or someone the club trades for that is not quite at the level of Bryant or Story. Also, Ty France would be the main DH with him hopefully playing once every week or so in the field. That still improves the offense for next year, and raises the floor tremendously.
What if the Mariners get Kris Bryant or Trevor Story?
In another world, Seattle could sign one of Bryant or Story to fill one of the holes at second or third base. This would nicely fill out the infield, but with Freddie Freeman, it would turn the Mariners into a whole new level of good. A lineup now with one of Kris Bryant or Trevor Story, Freddie Freeman, Ty France, and Mitch Haniger before you even get to anyone else, is incredibly deep. This would again move France to DH, unless the Mariners took another approach.
What if the Mariners traded Ty France?
This might be where things seem to get crazy, but hear me out. If the Mariners sign Freddie Freeman, he is their everyday first baseman. He is simply a much better player than Ty France, and France would then be relatively expendable. Instead of using France as the DH every day, they could trade him. Now, this would only be for the right deal, but doesn’t the idea of trading Ty France along with some prospects for an absolute star thrill anyone?
Imagine if the Mariners signed Trevor Story to play second base and Freddie Freeman to play first base. They could now go to the Cleveland Guardians and offer Ty France to headline a package for Jose Ramirez. A deal with France and two Top-10 prospects for Ramirez suddenly makes a whole lot more sense for both sides. The Mariners don’t have to sell their farm, and the Guardians get three years of a high-quality first baseman.
That would give the Mariners an infield of Jose Ramirez, J.P. Crawford, Trevor Story, and Freddie Freeman. That is the best infield in baseball right there. Even if they didn’t sign Story or Bryant, and added Ramirez and Freeman, that is without a doubt the price of trading France along with prospects. Even if it is Adam Frazier at second instead of Story, that is still a great infield.
Seattle could also go to the Miami Marlins and offer a France-centric package for stud pitcher Sandy Alcantara. Imagine him in the Mariners rotation next year… A rotation of Robbie Ray, Sandy Alcantara, Marco Gonzales, Chris Flexen, and Logan Gilbert suddenly is the best in the A.L. West. That rotation would be phenomenal, and would be the best way possible to getting to the playoffs.
The idea of signing Freddie Freeman opens a whole new avenue of possibilities for the Mariners that practically nobody is talking about, and they would not have to give a much larger contract to Freeman compared to what they would have to give to Kris Bryant or Trevor Story to come to Seattle. The Mariners should pursue these interesting avenues and see what happens.