Ranking the 5 best contracts in Seattle Mariners Recent History

SEATTLE, UNITED STATES: Seattle Mariners John Olerud (5) hits a three-run double off of Tampa Bay Devil Rays pitcher Esteban Yan during second-inning play in Seattle, 21 June 2000. AFP PHOTO/Dan LEVINE (Photo credit should read DAN LEVINE/AFP via Getty Images)
SEATTLE, UNITED STATES: Seattle Mariners John Olerud (5) hits a three-run double off of Tampa Bay Devil Rays pitcher Esteban Yan during second-inning play in Seattle, 21 June 2000. AFP PHOTO/Dan LEVINE (Photo credit should read DAN LEVINE/AFP via Getty Images) /
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Whenever you think about the best of something a team has done, you are inevitably drawn to the worst as well, or vice versa. So, when I wrote about the worst contracts that the Mariners have ever handed out, I knew that I was going to want to write about the best ones as well.

I’m trying to keep it semi-recent, as going too far back into the past can get a bit confusing for value. Yeah, some guy might’ve signed on a $500,000 deal, but when people aren’t making a lot of money, it just makes it a good value contract instead of a steal at the league minimum.

Let’s first look at some honorable mentions for the greatest contracts in Mariners history

Sorry, but the guys from the ’90s are just too long ago. We are gonna keep it to this millennia. There is also one other group that gets kicked out. Anyone playing under team control. Yeah, Haniger was a big-time value last year. He was only being paid $3.01 million and was worth 3.1 WAR. Doesn’t count. Sorry.

If you are curious about any free-agent deals that the Mariners have ever signed, check out Cot’s contracts. You can look at anything since 1991. It’s an amazing source but only shows FA deals. Not every single deal. Still amazing!

I’m also using $/WAR based on how much a win costs. It changes year by year, but I personally use what it cost when the deal was signed, as opposed to finding the average over the life of the deal. The only time I do that is when there are drastic changes, as you will see later on.

I could’ve done this 100% analytical. Find the cost per WAR per year, assign that to each deal based on the year it was signed, and then calculate a player’s surplus value they provided to the team, and average it out over the length of the contract. It definitely played a part in this, but the value a player can bring to a team isn’t just in cost, it can be in culture, attitude, and likeability. For the golfers out there, it’s why you’d take nearly anyone over Sergio Garcia or Patrick Reed.

There are some tough cuts right off the bat. Sorry soft-tossing lefty fans, but Moyer doesn’t make it. He signed back in 99 through 2002, but was awesome. He had a 15.4 WAR for just over $21 million. I said no 90s deals though, and I’m sticking to it. He was good from 03-05, but the 7.5 WAR just doesn’t cut it for best recent deals in Mariners history.

Recent retiree Kyle Seager is a darn good choice, and he actually almost makes the list as well. He signed a 7-100 that started in the 2015 season. If you give it between $7-8 million per WAR, which was the accepted rate back when he signed it, he actually signed for ~$72 million cheaper than he was worth (23 WAR * 7.5 = $172.5 – $100 = $72.5 surplus for the team). It was a great deal, and if you don’t think so… you’re wrong. If not for a rough finish, he would’ve easily made the list.

Then, there are the one-year guys. Franklin Gutierrez in 2015 ($507,500 for a 2.6 WAR) and Jason Vargas in 2012 ($4.85 million for a 3.5 WAR). It was tough keeping Vargas off the list, but he was traded after that season and made a lot more every season after.

Next up is Chris Flexen. He could definitely make the list if it was re-done in a year or two, depending on how he does for the next two years. His contract is funky because it’s pre-arb, but I’m giving the Mariners credit for signing a guy who was in Korea playing baseball. He had a 3.5 WAR in 2021 for only a couple million. If he can put up two more seasons in the same mold, that will be a 10.5 WAR for about $13 million. That’s a massive win for the team.

The last spot was really tough to figure out. Honestly, it ended up coming down to personal preference. I could’ve made it a top 8… but decided to just make some tough cuts instead. It could’ve been Raul Ibanez, as he was so much fun to have on the team. Plus, all the RAAAUUUUUUUUULLLL chants were amazing. 3-$13.25 and a 10.4 WAR was a great job by the team.

I really wanted to put Adrian Beltre in, but couldn’t bring myself to do it. He was a great player, but wins didn’t cost as much back in 05. A 21.2 WAR is awesome, and the consistency he provided (3.2, 5.4, 3.8, 5.6, 3.3) made it fun. The fact that he was a 9.6 the year before Seattle, and averaged 6.2 the next seven years hurts though. His surplus isn’t as high because wins didn’t cost as much in 05, and he barely misses the list.

The last guy to miss was Hiashi Iwakuma. He was so close to making it, and had one of the best seasons by a Mariners pitcher… ever. It was actually the 4th best all-time. That was his first full season as a starter, and he went 7.0, 2.4, 2.6 WAR while making $21 million. A great run, but he barely gets edged out by the guy who comes in at #5. It’s my favorite first baseman of all-time for the Mariners (until Ty France supplants him)…