While the 2023 Seattle Mariners season was a disappointment, that doesn't mean there weren't some fun and exciting moments. From Julio’s streak, the hometown all-star game, and an August to remember, there were some great moments. Watching the Mariners have three of the top 9 strikeout leaders was not one of those moments.
With Eugenio Suarez, Teoscar Hernandez, and Julio Rodriguez combining for 600 strikeouts, it was brutal, a death blow to their playoff hopes, and unacceptable going into 2024. Jerry Dipoto has been very open and clear about the desire to add more right-handed hitters to the outfield and lineup that are more contact-focused than what we watched from Teo this summer. Today we're going to look at arguably the best option for what Dipoto desires, free agent Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
Lourdes Gurriel Jr would be a great second addition to the offense for the Mariners
Lourdes Gurriel Jr. was a highly regarded Cuban prospect, and brother of Astros *infamous legend* Yuli Gurriel, when he signed a 7YR/$22M dollar deal to play for the Toronto Blues Jays in 2016. After five years of slightly above-average offense and valuable defensive versatility, the Blue Jays traded Gurriel and prospect Gabriel Moreno to Arizona for C/OF Daulton Varsho. After a career year offensively and defensively in Arizona, the Varsho deal was viewed as an all-in move by Toronto. Fast forward to today, and the deal turned out to be a World Series move by the Diamondbacks.
Just turned 30, Gurriel just produced a 3 WAR season with a career-best 24 home runs and a career OPS+ of 115 down in Phoenix. Gurriel doesn't necessarily jump off the page with anything that he does great, but he's just pretty darn good at everything.
Gurriel has some pop as we mentioned, doing it in a pitcher-friendly Chase Field and the rest of the NL West ballparks (minus Colorado). Gurriel doesn't walk a ton, but he has some of the very best strikeout and whiff rates in the league while ranking in the 77th percentile in hard-hit rate.
When he's not being a solid hitter in your lineup, he's one of the most underrated left fielders in the game, with above-average range and a blue-chip arm that will record plenty of assists in 2024. If Kelenic was able to move back to right field, the Mariners would have arguably the best defensive outfield in the game.
His fit in Seattle may be about as perfect of an addition that Seattle can make without breaking the bank. Gurriel is projected to sign a 4-year deal worth $54 million dollars. One underrated aspect of Gurriel’s free agency is that he was ineligible to receive a qualifying offer. He will not cost the Mariners a valuable draft pick to sign him.
I also want to be clear. As much as I value a player like Gurriel Jr, he cannot be the “big move” for Seattle this offseason. Gurriel needs to be a player who can come in and support the roster and support its trio of cornerstone hitters (Julio, Crawford, Raleigh). We all saw how excited the fanbase was last winter when Seattle acquired Hernandez, thinking it was the first of multiple moves to get Seattle deeper into October. We saw what happened there, and the Mariners shouldn't put Gurriel in that same no-win position.
At the end of the day, I believe that Lourdes Gurriel Jr is an overall upgrade for Seattle over Teoscar Hernandez, and at a better price. To find one of the more valuable #6 hitters and one of the best corner outfielders in baseball for an AAV of $13.5 million is great value, and worth the deal.