With Spring Training right around the corner, I have been taking some time to reflect on the Mariners and the 2023 offseason.
I, along with most of you, have been considerably frustrated with the Mariners effort in free agency (or lack thereof) this offseason. It seemed like the winter months were primed and ready for a frenzy of Dipoto signings, but, they never happened. Seattle wasn’t in the mix for any of the top shortstops, or any of the top players of any position for that matter.
For a while, I was baffled. I couldn’t believe they were passing up the opportunity to augment their team with this extra cash they had been supposedly “saving up” for this exact reason. Many options ran through my mind. Was ownership incompetent? Was Jerry Dipoto THAT set on acquiring talent purely through the trade route? Was there something else going on?
I think it’s the third option here. The 20-year drought was incredibly painful. This year the team took a huge step and ended that drought. Now is the time for playoff contention. Luckily, our most consistent and productive players from this last drought-ending year are returning and are locked up for the foreseeable future.
Players like Luis Castillo, Robbie Ray, Logan Gilbert, George Kirby, Julio Rodriguez, Cal Raleigh, JP Crawford, Eugenio Suarez, Ty France, and Andres Munoz are all signed with the team until at least the year 2026. I strongly believe that if even ONE of these players would have been acquired by Dipoto and crew in some sort of “alternate universe”, we all would have been ecstatic as a fan base. All of these players are game-changers and are definitely key pieces of the Mariners success for the years to come.
We have quite a few players that are still very young and just beginning to show us their true potential. I haven’t even mentioned the additions of Teoscar Hernandez and Kolten Wong, who will provide additional consistency in our lineup.
Players like Tom Murphy, Evan White, and Jarred Kelenic are primed for bounce-back seasons, and we all know the potential that these three alone have is tremendous as well. Everything I have said so far is, I’ll admit, great to hear in an ideal world. Down the stretch last year, the injury bug bit the M’s pretty bad. Their depth was exposed and they sputtered to the finish, with many everyday players fighting off injuries.
I believe that this Mariners team is deeper than last year. In a way, we essentially swapped out Haniger for Hernandez and Frazier for Wong. Then, with the additions of Hummel, Pollock, and the returns of the aforementioned Murphy, White, and Kelenic, this team truly feels deeper at all positions.
The Seattle Mariners cannot run into a situation where they have to let one of their amazing home-grown talents like Julio, Gilbert, or Kirby walk away from the team because we do not have the budget to keep them around due to some insanely front-heavy contract like the ones we have seen signed this offseason. These (and other) players are in the prime spot to commit long-term to Seattle, which is what this team needs to succeed.
The core of this Mariners team is extremely special. We can all see that. If we continue to lock up this core and keep pushing forward through the years, we will continue to find success in the playoffs and beyond. That doesn’t mean that big splashes won’t be made. Dipoto still loves his trades and I’m sure there will be rumors upon rumors come this year's trade deadline.
Long story short, the Seattle Mariners got better this off-season. We swept the Blue Jays in the Wild Card series, and then we went back and got better as a team. They are coming back deeper, healthier, better, and stronger.