Recent years' free agency results show a distinct inability for the Mariners to sign top-shelf offensive talent. Two years ago, they offered longtime Colorado Rockies' shortstop Trevor Story a significant amount of money, more than the contract he took in Boston. They tried to sign Marcus Semien during the same cycle and lost out to the Texas Rangers. Instead, the team has taken a "draft, develop, and trade" strategy to acquire Abraham Toro, Cooper Hummel, Eugenio Suarez, Jesse Winker, Kolten Wong, and Teoscar Hernandez, with each player offering varying degrees of success and, in most cases failure.
Enter 2023, where this Mariners team is reaping the rewards of another failed free agency cycle (Pollock) and a couple of terrible trades (Hernandez, Wong), stuck with underperforming veterans and no apparent way out. For this exercise, let us focus on Pollock and Wong, two pieces the team valued for their leadership and proven track records.
Both players are above the 100 at-bat threshold, which teams use as a barometer for the season. If manager Scott Servais continues to pencil them into the lineup two to three days a week, the Mariners will accumulate the worst wRC+ and WAR for two positions (2B, DH). Unfortunately, this approach isn't how to help the team flip the switch on a dismal season. There are some serious questions owner John Stanton must answer for the team to move forward – mainly, is he willing to eat a little under $17M in salary?
For General Manager Justin Hollander and Dipoto to make the necessary moves to lengthen the lineup, provide more bat-to-ball players, and infuse the offense with some juice, they will have to open roster spots. Sam Haggerty probably returns to Tacoma this week when Dylan Moore is activated. That leaves Pollock's and Wong's spots on the 26-man roster, which can be ready-made openings if Mariner brass is willing to eat their salaries.
However, if the team's annual free agency performance indicates their desire to admit defeat on these two transactions, chances are 50/50. The bottom line is if the team is serious about competing in a crowded wild-card chase (BAL, HOU, LAA, NY, TOR), the only way to improve the roster is by scrapping the dead weight, even if it's bogged down with gold bricks.