The Mariners have done a good job this off-season of balancing out their roster through trades this off-season. Those moves have also freed up future cash to spend on free agents or on their own players (most notably their starting pitchers). One big question still remains for this team following all the moves they have made this off-season. Who can protect their star outfielder Julio Rodriguez in this lineup?
Sure Mitch Garver, Luke Raley, Luis Urias, and Mitch Haniger are nice additions, but can they really protect Julio? Last season the Mariners attempted to protect Julio by adding outfielder Teoscar Hernandez. While Hernandez's strikeout numbers were bad (he had 211 in 2023), he still produced for the Mariners by driving in 93 runs and hitting 26 HR. The other Mariner who hit behind Julio, Eugenio Suarez, had 96 RBI and 22 HR.
None of the Mariners new acquisitions put up that level of production in 2023. That does not mean that Haniger, Raley, Urias, or Garver cannot match the production of Suarez and Hernandez in the aggregate. However, none of these players hit over 20 HR or came close to 90+ RBI in 2023. Also, the Mariners came into this off-season needing to add offense, and while they did make additions, they also made several subtractions (most notably Suarez and Hernandez).
This is why the Mariners still need to pursue at least one more big bat to provide Julio Rodriguez with the protection he deserves. While trade targets such as Max Kepler and Anthony Santander are possible, there is still one bat available in free agency which is better than any would be trade acquisition. Cody Bellinger is that hitter, and he is by far the best option on the table for the Mariners right now. He brings a solid baseball pedigree, postseason experience, is a former MVP winner, and had a fantastic season in 2023 in which he hit .307, with 26 HR, and drove in 96 RBI.
For the Mariners to clear as much salary as they have this off-season, and leave without making a big splash just does not make sense. Calling the off-season good, while there is still work to do on this lineup, is not good enough. Bellinger gives the Mariners a sure-fire starting outfielder for years to come. He is not only impressive with the bat, but he also has a good glove having won a golden glove in 2019. Even though Bellinger's production has gone up and down before in the past, his upside is worth the risk. The Mariners should take a shot on Bellinger to complete their lineup.