Sign J.D. Martinez (2 yr/$30M)
Dipoto recently spoke about shifting the team's thought process of the designated hitter from a rotating spot to acquiring a professional hitter who bangs baseball. The poster child, or the aging veteran who best sums up that statement, is J.D. Martinez.
Martinez has racked up more than 1,600 hits in his 13-year career and isn't showing any signs of slowing down. Last year, the 36-year-old designated hitter hit 33 long balls and drove in 103 runs, amounting to a .271/.321/.893 slash.
At this point in his career, Martinez is genuinely a designated hitter, so you lose that rotational spot on the roster. However, Dipoto and Hollander can't be picky in this market with a limited budget. A two-year deal at $30M should get Martinez to T-Mobile Park and in Mariner teal. I'd backload the deal to create more cap space this season, paying him $13M in 2024.
That leaves $17M in the piggy bank.
Trade Bryan Woo, Gabriel Gonzales, and Walter Ford to Tampa Bay for Randy Arozarena and Shawn Armstrong.
The Mariners were linked to Randy Arozarena last week, which makes sense. Tampa Bay is in the roster churn phase, finding ways to cut costs by shipping high-end talent out the door for cost-controlled prospects. Arozarena will make $7M in 2024, and he has two additional years of arbitration, driving up his salary into a tier Tampa isn't willing to enter.
The Mariners need a running mate for superstar Julio Rodriguez, especially since Jarred Kelenic is no longer with the organization. The effervescent Arozarena would fit perfectly in left field, and he fits the Mariner mold in the batter's box—the 28-year-old outfielder barrels at a high rate (12.7) walks at an above-league average clip (12.2) and offers a power/speed combination this team needs.
The cost is immense, but you have to give up something to get something. Adding Walter Ford to the package nets Shawn Armstrong ($2.8M), a proven relief ace who could provide some veteran leadership lost with the team trading Paul Sewald at last season's trade deadline.
We'll round up to $10M for Arozarena and Armstrong. Now, there is $7M left to sign a backend starter to replace Woo.
Sign James Paxton (2yr / $16M)
Now that Bryan Woo is a Ray, we look to the free agent market for a backend starter. How about bringing "Big Maple" back into the fold? Yes, he is injury-prone, but when he is right, he's right.
2023 was a solid year for the Canadian lefty, as he made 19 starts avoiding bats and finishing with a 1.30 WHIP. That sure sounds like your number-five starter. He isn't the same guy who would rachet it up to 98 mph, but he is one of the better, cost-effective options on the market. Would he be open to a hometown discount? With yet another backload, a two-year pact at $16M might get a deal across the finish line.
In this case, the Mariners would pay him $7M for the 2023 season.
With these moves, you slide James Paxton in the rotation, adding a lefty to the mix. Shawn Armstrong provides a bullpen veteran who can take high-leverage pockets—and the bats, oh, the bats. Eight above-league average bats in that lineup.
2024 Projected wRC+
The plan could be better; Dipoto and Hollander would probably need one more proven bat, specifically at the hot corner (Spencer Steer). However, when owner John Stanton is pinching pennies, this is the best we could do without giving up the entire farm system, which would be a massive mistake.