It seems as though the MLB Hot Stove is underway this offseason with a few outfielders, pitchers and lesser-known free agents already signing. Obviously the big one, Ohtani, was sort of the first domino to fall, one that the Mariners had a slim chance of acquiring. A few of the next wave of free agents have signed however, and today we look at a couple of names the Mariners will be kicking themselves for not signing, come July or August. We will also look at 1 name that the Mariners wisely passed up as the cost to acquire that player was too costly.
They will regret passing on these 2 outfielders
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. - Signed with Arizona Diamondbacks on a 3-year deal worth $42 million
There’s no question the Mariners need some help on the offense. There is also no question that the Mariners ownership has been noticeably cheap, certainly limiting Dipoto's ability to acquire 3-4 solid bats that the team needs. When looking at who they could target this offseason, it seems important to take into consideration said budget restrictions.
How about a player that has been a really solid bat, limits strikeouts, plays solid defense and isn’t overly expensive considering production. He signed a 3-year deal worth $42 million, an AAV of just $14 million, with the Diamondbacks. Lourdes Gurriel was a near perfect fit for the Mariners this offseason. That’s what makes it so frustrating to see the Mariners on the sideline as Gurriel returns to the NL pennant winning, Arizona Diamondbacks. Maybe the Mariners could learn a thing or 2 from the Diamondbacks.
Gurriel was really solid in 2023, putting up a 2.1-win season, with a career high 24 home runs. He is also a criminally underrated defender with a 77th percentile arm strength rating, that contributed to an incredible defensive runs saved (DRS) of 14. Both of those would have played extremely well for the defensive minded Mariners.
Perhaps the most interesting part of Gurriel's free agency is that his contract stated that upon entering free agency, the last team he played for could not attach a qualifying offer to him, ensuring the Mariners wouldn't have lost a draft pick. This is something the Mariners have been hesitant to do in years past.
When you have the opportunity to sign an above average bat and glove, on a relatively low AAV, without having to give up any draft compensation, it's a no brainer. This just feels like it is going to be a deal we look back on and kick ourselves for not beating.
Jung-Hoo Lee - Signed with San Francisco Giants on a 6-year deal worth $113 million
Jung-Hoo Lee was one of my favorite targets for the Mariners this offseason. He is a high contact hitter with solid speed and a plus defender. Lee will be 25 for most of the 2024 season and fits the Mariners timeline as far as young, controllable bats go. In his 7 seasons in Korea, he slashed .340/.407/.491 and walked, 383, more than he struck out, 304. Lee was the perfect target to fill in the right field void left my Teoscar Hernandez.
Lee signed a 6-year deal worth $113 million with the GIants; it includes an op-out after 4 seasons. The AAV on this contract is just over $18 million, which seems high, but for an outfielder that has yet to hit his peak, along with a lot of production in Korea, this will end up becoming a steal. Lee has all of the potential in the world to be a .300/.380/.430 hitter and could flirt with a 20-20 season, while playing above average defense in a corner outfield spot. This fits the mold of what the Mariners needed in a corner outfielder and it's frustrating to see ownership scale the budget back on Dipoto in a season that is pivotal for the Mariners. This is a deal that John Stanton will look back and regret not forking up the cash for.