A Full-Fledged Plan for a Mariners World Series
Thankfully, the World Series is over. With the Houston Astros finally achieving a legitimate championship and becoming a dynasty, it is time for the Seattle Mariners to come for the throne. The Mariners finally broke their playoff curse and experienced the joy and heartbreak of the playoffs. Now, with my offseason plan, I believe I have put a team together that can not only overcome the Astros but bring a World Series to Seattle.
So before we go through the plan, let’s talk about finances. The Mariners are currently sitting at a projected 2023 total payroll of around $122 million, which would put them right around the 13-15 range in comparison to the 29 other MLB teams. That’s a far cry from the Astros and Phillies who are projected to be around $191-196 million in projected payroll, and neither of those is the highest in baseball. If Seattle is truly committed to winning a championship, ownership will need to step up.
I may be in the minority here, but I truly believe that John Stanton will step up to the plate. I’m not expecting a team to break $200 million, but I think $185 to $190 million is realistic and should be the goal in terms of matching Houston. With that in mind, we’re going to put a cap on added payroll at $70 million, which would be right where the Astros and Phillies sit, before those teams potentially splurge in free agency this year.
Another important factor in building my team is the basis that I am building a championship-caliber team that will be a perfect fit for superstar Shohei Ohtani next winter. The Mariners finished as a runner-up to his services back in 2018. No more a bridesmaid, the Mariners have to be the bride and sign the greatest player of our generation. The fit could be what the Warriors and Kevin Durant experienced when they teamed up…a dynasty.
Now that we have our budget and focus, let’s go build a championship team!
Task #1- Call San Diego about Tatis and Snell
Before you roll your eyes and move on to the next slide, hear me out. The San Diego Padres have been dealing with Fernando Tatis Jr drama for an entire year. Injuries, poor communication, maturity issues, and now the PED suspension. This has not been a good year for Tatis. Meanwhile, without Tatis, the Padres acquired Juan Soto, upset the 111-win Los Angeles Dodgers, and lost a hard-fought NLCS to Philly.
The Padres proved they could win without Tatis, as well as with a below-average version of Juan Soto they got in the trade. An improved Soto could mean the World Series is within reach. The Padres are also within reach of the luxury tax, and that is a place they don’t want to be. If they want to hitch their wagon to Juan Soto and stay under the tax, then they need to seriously consider trading the suspended star in Tatis.
The Mariners don’t have an overwhelming amount of prospects to wow San Diego, but they have enough, plus the desire to help give the Padres a get-out-of-jail-free card.
The Mariners can offer the Padres a package involving Logan Gilbert, Jarred Kelenic, Chris Flexen, Penn Murfee, and Gabriel Gonzalez in exchange for Fernando Tatis and Seattle native and former Cy Young winner Blake Snell.
In this trade, San Diego is acquiring a young potential ace of their rotation in Logan Gilbert, a solid depth starter in Flexen, who don’t forget, pitched very well against a Padres team that is expected to lose most of their rotation between now and 2024. Murfee had a strong year out of the bullpen and can be an asset for them. From the hitting perspective, Kelenic could be a star with a fresh start, and Gabriel Gonzalez is a top 5 prospect in the system.
I’d be open to throwing another top 10-12 prospect to San Diego, but not much more. I don’t want to gut my team, but I am willing to take the financial risk on the ceilings of both Tatis Jr and Snell. It’s a risk, but if right, Seattle may have the two best hitters in baseball by next year.
I fully expect the Padres to hang up the phone on this deal, but before I do anything else this winter, I make them an offer.
Task #2- Sign a Franchise Shortstop
The Astros and Phillies taught us that there are multiple ways to win a pennant. You can develop, or buy elite talent. In my building plan, the Mariners do a little bit of both. They don’t mess with the established core of Julio, Cal Raleigh, and Ty France, but they are open to adding the right talent that fits their timeline. I believe Carlos Correa is the perfect fit for the Seattle Mariners.
While many will clamor for Trea Turner, who I think would be a great fit initially, I believe that Correa’s talent will age much better than Turner’s. With a career OPS+ of 129, including a 140 in 2022, Correa is the best bat available not named Aaron Judge in free agency. Correa is also the best defender of the crop of shortstops.
While the concerns about his size and back are fair, I believe he could eventually replace Eugenio Suarez and instantly become a top 5 defensive 3rd baseman. In a world where the shift is in the process of being eliminated to an extent, the ability to move J.P. Crawford to 2nd base could be huge in Seattle keeping an elite defense again.
The other big concern is how he’d fit in Seattle after the cheating scandal from 2017-2019. The majority of those Mariners are gone, and while it may be a little awkward at first, remember…the enemy of my enemy is my friend. In case you haven’t seen it, go watch Correa interview Jeremy Pena after Houston swept Seattle on TBS. Yeah, Correa wants to get paid, but he also wants revenge. The unity of Carlos Correa and Seattle gives them each exactly what they want, a star joining a contender that can beat the Astros.
If Correa is not interested in Seattle, we’d divert our attention to Xander Bogaerts. The price for Bogaerts is less than Correa, but the ceiling is lower offensively and defensively. He might not be a star, but he’d definitely make Seattle better.
In this scenario the Mariners are aggressive early in free agency, putting Houston and the league on notice.
Seattle signs Carlos Correa for 10 years and $330 million
Task #3- Get Your “Alvarez” Guy
After watching this postseason, especially the American League side of the bracket, it’s not that far-fetched to say that if the Mariners could find a way to get Yordan Alvarez out, they’d have been playing in the World Series. While local boy Matthew Boyd showed some promise late this year, I’m willing to spend a little extra, and take a shot on a bounce-back year from left-handed reliever Taylor Rogers.
Rogers has been an underrated and borderline-elite reliever during his six years at Minnesota. His 2022 season was a bit of a nightmare. A terrible first half in San Diego led to a midseason trade to Milwaukee, but things did not get any better. With a brutal season heading into free agency, you have to think he’s interested in a one-year deal to rebuild his value. Seattle should jump on this opportunity.
With a great bullpen last year, the Mariners can still use more depth and a potentially elite left-handed option that the pen desperately needs. A left-handed specialist that could also be a setup man, Rogers will be called upon this season to sit down the Kyle Tucker’s and Yordan Alvarez’s of the world.
Seattle signs Taylor Rogers for 1 year and $8 million
Task #4- Rebuild the Outfield
To the fans that are hoping for Aaron Judge to Seattle, hope harder. I would be cautiously excited if I was wrong, but it sure seems that Judge will wind up back in New York, or somewhere in California. While we chose to go after Correa instead of Judge, we’re still looking to get better and more consistent on both offense and defense.
Mitch Haniger has been a key part of the culture in Seattle and is one of the faces of this rebuild. When healthy he’s been a great player, but his health has been and will always be an issue. His ability to hit anything other than fastballs in 2022 was very concerning. He’s a Mariners legend in my book, but if he finds any deal over $14 million then I’d thank him and wish him the best of luck.
Jesse Winker has been anything but a key part of the Seattle Mariners success in 2022. Other than the “pizza brawl”, Winker has been negative in almost every facet of this ballclub. The Mariners are on the up and don’t have time for a cancer that can’t hit, or field. I’m trading him to the Chicago White Sox for relief pitcher Jake Diekman and a top-25 prospect in Chicago’s farm, 1B/3B Wilfred Veras.
Diekman had a terrible season in Chicago but has a history of being a strong left-handed relief option. His salary is $4 million, less than half of Winker’s. He is under contract through 2024 but has a $4 million club option.
The Mariners are getting a young bat in Veras that is most likely a 1st baseman but definitely has some major pop in his bat. He’s likely 3 years away from sniffing the bigs but could be of value to Seattle. The Mariners dump the locker room cancer, getting a prospect and a bounceback candidate reliever.
With Haniger and Winker gone, my first addition to the outfield is left-fielder Andrew Benintendi. Benintendi, a former world champion in Boston, won a Gold Glove in Kansas City last season, was a finalist this year and was an all-star before getting hurt shortly after a trade deadline move to the Yankees. At just 28, he’s never been a power hitter but has consistently been an above-average hitter (career OPS+ of 109, 120 in 2022), while being the best defensive left fielder in baseball the past few years.
We feel like replacing Jesse Winker, both offensively and defensively, with Benintendi, could be as valuable of a signing as Correa, and for less than half the cost. A solid hitter in the 2 or 6-hole, his lack of power lowers his average annual value to around $15 million. We’re jumping all over that.
Seattle signs Andrew Benintendi for 5 years $80 million
In right field, I feel comfortable giving Jarred Kelenic another year to become the prince that was promised, but I’m going to create more safety nets. We saw some good and bad in Kelenic’s return late in the season. Injuries to Winker and Sam Haggerty forced him into a starting role for the playoffs and he wasn’t great, but he did have some good moments at the plate while playing really good defense.
He’ll be 23 until the middle of July, and still has the potential to be something even if it’s not the star we thought was going to partner up with Julio. I give him the opportunity to win the job in right field, but he’s going to have to win it over many challengers.
In-house, I really liked what I saw from utility glue guys Dylan Moore and Sam Haggerty. Both are better suited for utility roles, but could easily take on a starting role in the outfield. You have Taylor Trammell who’s shown flashes, but has never quite put it together consistently yet. While their health will always be questioned, don’t forget about former starters Kyle Lewis and Evan White. If either is healthy and can swing the bat like we’ve seen flashes of, they could push Kelenic.
Outside the organization, I’m going to sign right fielder/DH and Seattle native Michael Conforto to a deal. Conforto had a weird free agency under Scott Boras lost year, where he eventually had a major shoulder operation that essentially cost him to sit out the season. Now a full year off, rested and healthy, Conforto is ready to get back to his all-star level of play.
Before injuries affected him in 2021 and cost him 2022, Conforto was an all-star quality hitter. With a career OPS+ of 124 and the consistent threat of hitting 30 home runs from the left side of the plate, he brings something that Seattle desperately needs in their lineup.
The addition of Conforto now gives Seattle multiple options in the event that Kelenic struggles or injuries happen.
Conforto’s contract will be somewhat unique. I’d expect a 2-year deal, filled with incentives and a player opt-out after year 1.
Seattle signs Michael Conforto for 2 years and $37 million ($12 mil base in year 1, with incentives up to $17 mil)
Offseason Plan in Review
We started our off-season with a clear focus and set our budget at $70 million. The signings of Correa, Rogers, Benintendi, and Conforto equal $74 million in AAV. Take in the trading of Jesse Winker and his $8.25 million dollar salary for Jake Diekman’s $4 million, and that puts our off-season additions at $69.75 million, just under budget. That also doesn’t account for me looking to trade Flexen and his $8 million dollar salary for some prospect depth in the aftermath of the Luis Castillo trade.
So what does that money look like out on the field? Well, we added a superstar talent with a middle-of-the-order type of bat in Carlos Correa. We improved our depth, our defense, and our offense dramatically in the corner outfield spots. We added two former elite left-handed relievers with the hope one of them bounces back.
Here’s my 2023 Seattle Mariners roster
- Rodriguez – CF
- Benintendi – LF
- Correa – SS
- Raleigh – C
- Suarez – 3B
- France – 1B
- Conforto – DH
- Kelenic – RF
- Crawford – 2B
When I look at this roster, I see a realistic path to the World Series. The starting lineup only has one player with an OPS+ under 100, and the defense in a post-shift world may be the best Seattle has seen in a decade. We added a star in Correa, and expect to see continued growth from Julio Rodriguez. Don’t forget, the team is now getting the potential for a full season from both Castillo and Kirby in the rotation.
The 2023 Seattle Mariners are better at every facet of the game than in 2022. This is a team capable of winning 100 games, and can now put enough pressure offensively on Houston, a potential playoff series may come down to who gets home-field advantage.
This team is ready, and I hope Ohtani is watching…