While the Rangers claimed the American League pennant over fellow AL West rival Houston Astros, the Mariners are sitting at home. It stings and it sucks to watch, knowing how close Seattle was potentially experiencing this moment. We all know that changes need to be made and that Jerry Dipoto and Justin Hollander will need to be aggressive in order to make the jump in 2024.
While I would love to see owner John Stanton open up the pocketbooks and attack free agency in a way we haven't seen since 2014, we know how Dipoto and Stanton like to operate: Draft, develop, trade. With that in mind, I do expect the Mariners to look for a star bat to help this team, and today we'll look to the Sunshine State for a playoff team that is at a crossroads at the moment.
Mariners Offseason Trade Target: Randy Arozarena
While Tampa Bay has been a good to great baseball team for the past 15 years, they have historically lacked star power, but that all changed in 2020. While our world was rocked by the COVID pandemic, sports was one of our first steps back to normalcy. While the 2020 season was unique and probably deserves an asterisk (60-game season, 16-team playoff bubble), one of the biggest storylines was the rise of Randy Arozarena.
Called up as a rookie, Arozarena instantly became a star in Tampa, helping to guide the Rays to the best record in the American League. In the postseason, Arozarena made MLB history by smacking 10 playoff home runs. His breakout performance included knocking out Toronto, New York, and Houston to win the AL championship, before falling to the LA Dodgers in six games.
Randy's smashing debut was not a one-hit wonder, as he's continually played at an all-star level the past three seasons. Carrying a 124 OPS+ since 2021, Randy Arozarena brings a massive upgrade to the offense. Luke Arkins recently wrote at Mariners Consigliere that if Arozarena was a Mariner in 2023, he'd rank top 3 in OBP, SLG, OPS+, stolen bases, and walk rate.
Randy is as exciting of a player in baseball, but that doesn't mean he's a perfect player. Randy is a slightly above-average defender in LF, but is a negative defender in RF. Does Seattle want to move Kelenic to right, and risk messing with his offseason preparations? For those wanting a guy that's not going to strike out, Arozarena had a 23.9% K rate this season. That's an improvement over Teoscar Hernandez, but not exactly a massive jump.
There's also the question of where the Rays are at as a franchise right now. Since their World Series appearance, the Rays have won 100, 86, and 99 games, but have gone 1-9 in their past ten playoff games, being easily eliminated in all 4 rounds. This frustration for a small market team is only compounded by the clock ticking on their franchise players. Tampa's payroll is due for a massive spike, and it's unrealistic to think they'll financially commit after the constant playoff disappointments.
While their Ace Tyler Glasnow (1yr/$25 mil) is the most likely trade candidate, Randy Arozarena would easily bring home the biggest package for Tampa. The Rays have a strong farm system in terms of hitters, but are in need of a pitching talent infusion.
Would a deal involving Bryce Miller and Jonatan Clase get the deal done?
It's a heavy price to give away Miller. But Randy is the type of player the Mariners need offensively. Another benefit is his contract. Arozarena still has 3 years of arbitration left, and is projected to make around $9 million dollars this winter. It's that type of controllable asset that could make Jerry Dipoto feel comfortable about striking a deal.
Randy isn't perfect, but he's an all-star player, a monster on the base paths, is a clutch postseason performer, and would bring a swagger and energy that the players and fanbase would buy into.
If Tampa is willing to make a deal, Jerry should strike.