How the Mariners can become a Legit Contender
This year the Mariners became one of only six teams in Major League Baseball to record back-to-back 90+ win seasons, and there is a good chance they can rack up another in 2023. But that will only happen if the team makes the required moves to close the gap between them and the juggernaut, Houston Astros. Remember, despite the drought buster, this team was 16 games back in the AL West standings.
As President of Baseball Operations, Jerry Dipoto has proven he can win a trade (see 2020 deal with San Diego), and thanks to the buzz this team generated this year, he should be able to bring in some free agents. That combination approach is what it will take to continue the upward trajectory.
Mariners Positional Needs
Adam Frazier, Carlos Santana, Curt Casali, Matthew Boyd, and Mitch Haniger are all free agents this offseason. That is a lot of production (and clutch performances) to replace, specifically in the lineup where the four offensive players combined for a .200 average, 31 homers, and 139 RBIs. Yes, that isn’t much, but with this team, you must think past the traditional stats. Mitch was the team leader, Carlos provided tremendous leadership and game-changing at-bats, Frazier showed versatility by playing four positions, and Casali was a solid backup catcher.
Management must replace all those players this offseason through trades or on the free agent market. If we are ranking our positional needs going into the offseason, I will list the following, along with the possible options the order:
- Corner OF
Mariners Offseason Gameplan
I didn’t list top bats Aaron Judge and Trae Turner. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t welcome them to Seattle with open arms as a fan. However, I don’t think there is a world where Dipoto and new General Manager Justin Hollander land one of the All-Stars. Turner has expressed his desire to return to the East Coast, and the Dodgers and Giants have leaked their wish to land the 2022 MLB MVP.
2023 Mariners Needs and Options
|Position||Option #1||Option #2||Option #3||Sleeper|
|2B/SS||Carlos Correa||Xander Bogaerts||Dansby Swanson||Tim Anderson*|
|Corner OF||Brandon Nimmo||Mitch Haniger||Kevin Kiermaier||Joey Gallo|
|RP||Taylor Rodgers (LH)||Matthew Boyd (LH)||Michael Givens (RH)||Kenley Jansen (RH)|
|1B/DH||Jose Abreu||Josh Bell||Anthony Santander*||Anthony Rizzo|
* = Trade
There is a world where they let Mitch Haniger test free agency, and he comes back to them on a two-year deal as the one Mark Canha received from the Mets last offseason (2/32M). That move wouldn’t affect an offseason predicated on spending free-agent dollars. According to Fangraphs/Spotrac, the team has the 21st-highest payroll going into 2023. The team might throw the bag at Correa if Mitch does come back, considering the move would solidify the outfield. If Mitch walks, I’d take a long hard look at Brandon Nimmo.
Correa is getting a lot of flak in the media due to the emergence of Jeremy Pena. This may motivate him to come to Seattle for a revenge tour. You never know, but something about Carlos Correa on the ‘good guys’ side against the Astros is must-watch tv. Plus, his elite defense, bat-to-ball skills, power, and 5.5 WAR are just what the doctor ordered to fix this offense.
If the team does land Correa, it will take a big-time offer. Probably upwards of AAV of $35M. Teamed with resigning Haniger or ponying up for Nimmo will likely change who we can land to fill our other identified positional needs. So long story short, come on down, Matthew Boyd and the Anthonys (Rizzo or Santander), or at least players like them. They are not elite, but they have some tools that could help this team close the gap in the AL West.
Mariners Offseason Moves and Projected Payroll
Guessing what Jerry Dipoto has up his sleeve is tough sledding. The team does a great job at preventing leaks and surprising the fan base (e.g., Luis Castillo). But if I’m in the hot seat, I make the following moves.
|Type||Outgoing||Incoming||Est. Salary||Pos. Need|
|Free Agency||Carlos Correa||6YR/$225M||SS|
|Free Agency||Matthew Boyd||2YR/$10M||RP|
|Free Agency||Brandon Nimmo||4YR/$88M||Corner OF|
Mariners Projected Starting Lineup
- RF – Brandon Nimmo
- 1B – Ty France
- CF – Julio Rodriguez
- SS – Carlos Correa
- C – Cal Raleigh
- 3B – Eugenio Suarez
- LF – Jarred Kelenic
- DH – Anthony Santander
- 2B – JP Crawford
These moves would add $69M to the payroll, jumping the Mariners into the top ten in spending. The team has performed well with a limited budget for the past few years. Now is the time to pay and provide young stars Julio Rodriguez, Cal Raleigh, George Kirby, and Logan Gilbert with the supporting cast to overtake that team in Houston.
This lineup could compete with the best in the AL and the bench offers tremendous flexibility with the likes of a rejuvenated Tom Murphy, Sam Haggerty, Dylan Moore, and Luis Torrens (plus Jesse Winker if he is still around in March).
Mariners Prospects on the Way
Free Agency and trades are just some of the avenues for roster improvement. Despite a few trades last year, there is plenty of impact talent in the minors, especially on the bump, where Emerson Hancock, Bryce Miller, Taylor Dollard, Prelander Berroa, and Bryan Woo made tremendous strides. There is a good chance a couple of those hurlers will make their debuts next year, even if it is a Matt Brash-type relief option.
Most position player talent is in the lower levels, but don’t sleep on Cade Marlowe. If the team allows Mitch Haniger to walk, Marlowe could provide a good speed and power combo in RF next to Julio. He amassed consecutive seasons of 20 homers and 20 steals (23 HR/42 SB) across multiple system levels. Not to mention, he was on the postseason taxi squad, which means Mariner brass sees him as a piece in the future. Of course, that future might be next season.