Are the Mariners Saving Their Money for Cody Bellinger?

The Seattle Mariners have cut back on payroll this offseason, but could it all be a part of a master plan to save for Cody Bellinger?
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The Seattle Mariners have cut back on payroll so far this offseason and it has fans up in arms over the lack of spending by this front office and ultimately the ownership group. Could there be a master plan going on behind the scenes being orchestrated by President of Baseball Operations Jerry Dipoto and General Manager Justin Hollander? What if they have been making these moves with the plan of signing big time free agent Cody Bellinger?

The Mariners ownership seems to have told Dipoto that he has to cut payroll for next season in some form. We will have to wait until Opening Day to see what the payroll ultimately looks like, but we do know a few things. The Mariners have cleared payroll room so far this winter with the trades of Eugenio Suarez, Jarred Kelenic, Marco Gonalez, and Evan White.

If the Mariners wanted to sign or trade for a player making significant money maybe they have the ability to do so and they just had to clear some payroll space first. Mariners ownership could have said we can't go over a certain number and you can add larger contracts but you'll have to trim some of the payroll in other places. This leads to a possible scenario where the Mariners could be in on former MVP Cody Bellinger.

First of all, we know that to some extent the Mariners were interested in Bellinger according to Jon Morosi. Yes, his reporting about baseball news and team interest in certain players has been spotty in the minds of some fans, but he must have some source saying the Mariners were interested in the lefty hitter.

This report came right after the Mariners made the trade with the Atlanta Braves, sending them Jarred Kelenic, Marco Gonzales, and Evan White. This was also after the Mariners dealt away Eugenio Suarez so the baseball industry knew that the Mariners were cutting payroll. Since those deals have been made and no other players have been added there have been multiple stories and reports from Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times that the Mariners are limited on payroll.

Seattle also cleared a few 40 man roster spots by losing Kaleb Ort, Ryan Jensen, and Cooper Hummell to other teams on waivers which leaves them with four open roster spots. That is not common for teams during the winter so the Mariners must have some idea what they are going to do with those open spots. If the M's front office had plans to make an offer to Bellinger after clearing some other payroll that would make sense, but some people might use that to their advantage.

The former Dodger and Cub is represented by mega agent Scott Boras and we know Boras doesn't like negotiating with the Mariners because he thinks they are cheap and he always wants to get the most money possible for his players. If he knew the Mariners were interested in Bellinger before those money saving trades were made then he could told Seattle that things have changed after those moves.

Perhaps Boras is using the reports of a tight budget against them and going to other teams and trying to drive the price up to get Seattle to either match a higher offer or to ultimately convince Bellinger to sign with a different organization. If the Mariners had hopes to sign him to a deal before his market got bigger and more expensive then maybe those hopes are gone or they are still trying to sign him quietly behind the scenes

If this possible scenario is happening behind the scenes, how would Cody Bellinger fit on the Mariners? He would not replace Julio Rodriguez in center field, our number one Mariner. He played a little over 60% of the time in center last year so he would mostly be the Mariners right fielder. He fits in right because he has a plus throwing arm. Baseball Savant has him in the 86th percentile in arm strength.

Bellinger could also play first base semi-regularly for the Mariners. He played the other 40% of the time at first base last year so Seattle could play him at first base against some right-handed pitching to give Ty France more time off. The Mariners could go with Dominic Canzone and Cade Marlowe in the corner outfield spots with Cody Bellinger at first base against righty starters sometimes to make sure that France isn't getting overexposed or in case he struggles.

Bellinger is better in the outfield defensively, but France isn't an elite defender at first base so there isn't much difference there. The real boost that Bellinger would provide is in the lineup. The Arizona native had an absolutely incredible MVP season back in 2019 with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He slashed .305/.406/.629 with 47 home runs, 115 RBI, 15 stolen bases, scored 121 runs, and posted a 161 wRC+ (100 is league average).

He has never repeated those numbers but he did have a good bounce-back year last year after two down years. He hit .307/.356/.525 with 26 home runs, 97 RBI, 20 stolen bases, scored 91 runs, and had a wRC+ of 134. Those numbers are all elite and would make a huge difference in the Mariners lineup in 2024 and beyond. Putting him in the three hole behind JP Crawford and Julio Rodriguez would be a lethal top of the lineup.

There are some possible red flags with Bellinger's offensive season last year and with him in general. He had lower expected numbers than actual numbers, meaning that based on his batted ball data that he theoretically should have hit for a lesser average than he actually did. That is concerning but he has had multiple seasons of high batting average on balls in play. His exit velocity was down slightly from the past few seasons, only about a mile and a half.

Regardless of whether or not the Mariners are making this Cody Bellinger a secret priority in free agency, I hope they are trying to improve their team by signing him. He does come with some real risks but with the position the Mariners are in now they have to take big swings and this guy could give the team two MVP caliber hitters in their lineup hitting back to back for years to come. That is the type of thing that gives you a chance to win a World Series.