With the Mariners and the MLB as a whole all but done with 2023 free agency following the team picking up Tommy La Stella and a personal hope in Zack Greinke, there is no better time to do a way too early look at the 2024 free agent class.
The biggest needs for the Mariners, if they want to become a true contender, may be potentially filled by players already on the roster. In a perfect world, Kelenic plays at his potential, as an All-Star and Gold Glove outfielder, and the DH role is filled by a revolving door of productive hitters.
Cal Raleigh emerged as a spectacular hitter in 2022, but if he regressed (let's all hope he doesn't) and when Harry Ford eventually comes up, then catcher will become a need for the team. I am under the belief that Ford will become the franchise backstop the team has been looking for, which works as there are little options for the position next season.
In terms of the rotation, Brash, Gilbert, and Kirby all take massive steps forward alongside Ray and Castillo, they remain a formidable rotation with several Cy Young level arms. Even if they remain in the bullpen, there are several minor-league arms that have major-league talent.
Due to the fact that we do not live in a perfect world, I will be looking at candidates to fill an outfield spot (assuming Kelenic does not take a step forward), potentially a new corner infielder, and looking to permanently fill the DH role.
I believe that if those two spots become filled, and the rotation does take a step forward, the Mariners will win the World Series in 2024.
But who are the potential free agents anyways?
The obvious top player is Shohei Ohtani, barring an extension with the Angels at any point this season.
Other than him, some names that will be atop the free agent class potentially include Julio Urías, Manny Machado (opt-out), Matt Chapman, Aaron Nola, Ian Happ, and much more.
It is necessary that I address how much money the Mariners will have, their big contracts locked in for 2024 are with Castillo, Ray, Julio, Marco, Suarez, and Evan White. Of course, they also have a laundry list of players in either pre-arb or arbitration that will eat up some money.
However, the team has a pretty penny to work with.
I would try to get rid of Marco’s contract if at all possible, as he does not really fit in with the grand scheme of things in the Mariners championship window. If the team is able to do that, they could spend like crazy to maximize their young roster and relatively cheap contracts.
The first order of business is to re-sign Teoscar Hernández and Kolton Wong, these two contracts should not surpass $22 million and $15 million each, and for that price, the team can either sign a massive fish and a smaller contract, or a couple of players on slightly smaller deals.
Let’s get to those 2024 free-agent targets for the Mariners.
Every team should be bidding for a generational player like Ohtani. The Mariners should be no different.
They were one of the final teams in the running to sign Ohtani when he first came to MLB, according to Bleacher Report.
Despite missing out on him once, that mistake will not be made again in Seattle. Dipoto knows it will cost a lot, but I hope he knows it is the right choice.
The 2021 AL MVP and 2022 AL MVP runner-up has put up a 24.8 career WAR in 566 games over five seasons. Over the past two, he has been a two-time All-Star, MVP, finished in the top five of Cy Yong voting, and won a silver slugger.
He hit .265/364/.554 for a .918 OPS, had 80 home runs, 195 RBI, and even stole 37 bases. Pitching, he threw 296.1 innings with an ERA+ of 156 and K/9 of 11.4.
If you sign Ohtani, you are a World Series contender and he would fit perfectly as an ace of the staff and everyday team DH.
Joc could be a potentially sneaky good signing for a low price. He would be a DH and preferably would only hit against righties, but that could play well for the Mariners.
In 2022, he hit 23 HR for the Giants and was an All-Star. He is also a proven hitter in the playoffs, winning the World Series with the Braves in 2021.
Happ is a pickup you make if Kelenic continues to struggle and/or you lose Teoscar over the offseason. He won his first Gold Glove in 2022 and was also an All-Star for the first time.
He played in 158 games and hit .271/.342/.440, good for an OPS+ of 119. His Gold Glove defense and above-average bat could pair well with Julio, forming an exceptional outfield in both fields.
Depending on his performance in 2023, his price may be hefty, but if that is the case, he might as well sign back with the Cubs.
The final candidate is a generationally fantastic defender in Matt Chapman.
His signing works if you move Geno to the DH slot in the lineup, which bolsters the lineup and makes the left side of the infield an impenetrable fortress alongside J.P. Crawford.
Chapman is a low-average, high 20’s to low 30’s home run guy. He put up a 115 OPS+ in 2022, and alongside his defense, he becomes a top 10 third baseman in the league.
Best Case Scenario
For me, the best case is that the Mariners win the Ohtani sweepstakes and lock up Happ on a $13-15 million dollar deal to play the field and allow Teoscar to focus on the plate as the team’s definitive DH.