Free agents are officially on the market, qualifying offers have been extended (and rejected), contract options exercised and/or declined and 40-man rosters whittled down. Welcome to the MLB offseason.
It’ll be one of some consternation for the Seattle Mariners, both because of how the season ended and what happened in the immediate aftermath. For the second year in a row, GM Jerry Dipoto will enter the winter with plenty of young talent to build around. Will he — and, perhaps more importantly, owner John Stanton — be more aggressive this time around? Or will they once again nibble at the margins? What are Seattle’s biggest needs, and who might they target to fill them? We’re here to break down the Mariners’ offseason from every angle.
Mariners offseason preview
Season in review
It took Seattle a little while to get rolling, but eventually they did, posting a 38-15 record across July and August and looking like one of the best teams in baseball. And then it all came crumbling down: The team’s offense collapsed amid an 11-17 September, and four straight losses to the Rangers and Astros in the final week of the regular season left them on the outside looking in — not just for the AL West title, but in the race for a playoff bid. Despite a healthy run differential and among the best top-to-bottom pitching staffs in the league, Seattle was sent home for October, and a winter of some discontent began.
Pending free agents
The good news is that Seattle won’t really lose much of note from last year’s team. Teoscar Hernandez, Dipoto’s big splash last offseason, is set to hit the market again after the Mariners declined his option for 2024. Other than that, though, the only other notable piece entering free agency is backup catcher Tom Murphy.
Even with lefty Robbie Ray set to miss likely at least the first half of next season due to Tommy John surgery, Seattle’s pitching staff should once again be very good. Luis Castillo, George Kirby and Logan Gilbert are as formidable a top three as you’ll find, and the emergence of rookies Bryce Miller and Bryan Woo helped weather the absence of both Ray and Marco Gonzales. Now with significant MLB experience under their belt, both should be even better in 2024, and Dipoto has consistently been among the best bullpen architects in the Majors.
The offense, however, needs some work. Julio Rodriguez remains a superstar, and J.P. Crawford enjoyed a career year in 2023, but those two had very little in the way of help. Whiffs were particularly a problem: Only the Twins struck out at a higher rate than Seattle last year, and the Mariners didn’t produce nearly enough pop to make up for that contact deficiency. Cal Raleigh at catcher, Crawford at short, Eugenio Suarez at third, Julio in center and Jarred Kelenic in left are more or less locked in; after that, everything should be on the table as Dipoto targets multiple corner bats and maybe even a full-time DH.
Best free-agent fits
First thing’s first, let’s get this out of the way: There’s almost certainly no chance that Seattle buts into the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes, especially not given Dipoto’s public comments and Stanton’s rather frugal track record as owner.
The good news, though, is that while this is a down year for free agents overall, the picture is a bit rosier in the corners — both infield and outfield — than it is elsewhere. Dipoto has talked about targeting a full-time DH (“a banger who just goes out and bangs,” in his own words) after Seattle got dismal production from the position in 2023, and someone like Jorge Soler would make a lot of sense for a lineup very much lacking in righty power outside Rodriguez. Justin Turner and J.D. Martinez would also fit that bill, as would Joc Pederson if the team is looking for a lefty. The team could also pursue former Rangers postseason hero Mitch Garver, both as a part-time DH and a backup to Raleigh behind the plate.
Cody Bellinger would hypothetically make a lot of sense as both a middle-of-the-order presence and a guy who can go get it in T-Mobile Park’s rather spacious outfield, but again, this doesn’t feel like a team that will be swimming in the deep end of the free-agent pool.
One area in which Dipoto has proven himself very aggressive, however, is the trade market, and he could do so again this winter. There was some talk of Seattle dangling Gilbert ahead of the last year’s trade deadline, and if the biggest free-agent bats are out of their price range, maybe they could move the righty — and/or any number of pieces from an above-average farm system — for some much-needed offensive help. Is Juan Soto too pie-in-the-sky? He’d certainly be a perfect fit, but he’s far from the only option out there. Maybe they strike a deal with the Twins, who have a Sonny Gray-sized hole in their rotation and bats like Jorge Polanco and Max Kepler who would fit very nicely into the Mariners’ lineup. The Reds and Brewers are in need of long-term pitching help and also have infielders to offer in Jonathan India and Willy Adames, respectively.