The Hot Stove is lit. And never have Mariner fans been so eager to learn what's coming out of the oven--not in my seven years in Seattle anyway.
Before the free agents fly and trades get swung, I'll take my annual shot at predicting the Mariners offseason moves. This year, I shall guide you on several paths, including the one I might take & the one I think Jerry & Justin will take.
THE BIG MOVE:
By my count, there are only five free agent positional players that will move the (Space) Needle. FIVE! Not all 30 teams will be big-game hunting this winter, but the big game hunters surely will be (NYY, NYM, CHIC, PHI, LAD, BOS, TEX, etc.). Add a few unusual suspects (BAL, SF & SEA), and the competition for "The 5" will be fierce, the spending pricey.
THE BIG FREE AGENT I'D SIGN: DANSBY SWANSON
If we're to believe projections, Dansby Swanson can be signed for far less than fellow FA-SS's Carlos Correa, Trea Turner & Xander Bogaerts. Spotrac has Swanson's market value set at 6 years, $148 million. Trade Rumors has Swanson coming in at 7 years, $154. If Jerry can get Swanson for, say, 7/160, I say "sign the man". The 29-year old Swanson is coming off his first Gold Glove season & his first 30+ HR season. All four FA shortstops are great, but Swanson might still be getting better. Play him at short, move JP to second, hit him first, move Julio to second in the order.
THE BIG FREE AGENT JERRY WILL SIGN: MASATAKA YOSHIDA
Jerry and John will balk at the escalated prices for the Big 5 & tackle the offseason with a "good pieces" approach over the "great piece nucleus" showcase. 29-year old Yoshida has a career slash of 326/419/538 in Japan & is coming off the best season of his seven-year professional career. He struck out only 41 times in 515 playoff appearances last season. He fits the organizational lust for controlling the zone, taking walks and putting the ball in play. He's a left-handed hitter, like Kelenic, Winker & Trammell, but I'm not expecting all three of those gentlemen to return. Last year's incoming Japanese star, Seiya Suzuki, signed for 5 years, $85 million. Yoshida will likely cost more, but at least we have a ballpark.
ANOTHER ROUTE: SIGN JOSE ABREU
He's 36-years old & his 15 homers in 2022 were four fewer than he hit during his Covid-shortened MVP season in 2020. But although his homer total got cut in half, he still slashed 304/378/446/824 last season. He hit 40 doubles in 2022, drew a career-high 62 walks & is a clubhouse leader. Abreu can still play firstbase, but with Seattle he can DH most days, protecting him against advancing age. Bottom line: the guy can still hit, and the Mariners could use his presence in the middle of the order (particularly if Haniger leaves). According to Spotrac, Abreu's market value sits at around 2 years, $25 million. Trade Rumors puts it at 2 years, $40 mill. Pretty big discrepancy. Let's split the difference: 2 years, $32.5. Yah, I'm interested.
TRADES: I'm expecting Jerry to make several.
THE TRADE JERRY WILL MAKE:
Marco Gonzales & Sam Haggerty to Milwaukee for Kolten Wong
A solid starter under two years of control for a 32-year old secondbaseman in his final year. Wong is still playing at a Gold Glove level defensively. At the plate, he's good for 15 homers and a .340 on-base. The switch-hitter is on a one-year, $10 million dollar deal & is the kinda piece a team thinking world championship adds to the recipe.
THE TRADE I'D MAKE: Jesse Winker & Marco Gonzales for Ketel Marte & Kevin Ginkel
Jerry won't bring Marte back. But I would. Marte's injury history is a major concern. His poor 2022 season would also give you pause. But going into last season, MLB Network's, "The Shredder", named Marte the game's top secondbaseman for a second year in a row. He's a switch-hitter. He has a lot more power than you remember him having. He's on a good contract. And I trust the Mariners' medical staff to keep him on the field.
OTHER TRADE POSSIBILITIES:
JESSE WINKER TO TAMPA BAY FOR BRANDON LOWE
This might seem like a fairy tale, when considering that Brandon Lowe hit 39 HR in 2021, but he's coming off just as bad a season as Winker. And Tampa may want to flip Wander Franco to secondbase, making room for defensive-whiz Taylor Walls at shortstop. The salaries are similar. Winker is on a shorter deal.
OR... ERIK SWANSON & SAM HAGGERTY FOR LOWE
Don't laugh. Rafael Montero & Robert Suarez just signed monster deals after seasons not as productive as Swanson's 2022 campaign. The relief pitching market is HOT. And no organization values bullpen arms more than Tampa.
HOW ABOUT WINKER, MARCO & DYLAN MOORE TO MILWAUKEE FOR WILLY ADAMES?
Jerry probably doesn't value Adames, but I do. What a talent! 31 HR last season & tremendous athletic ability, but he's not a very selective hitter.
WOULD THE CUBS BE INTERESTED IN MOVING IAN HAPP OR NICO HOERNER? OR BOTH?
Both would require a blockbuster move, but the Cubs shopped Happ last season & Hoerner could become available if the Cubs are serious about signing one of the big four SS in free agency. Happ won a Gold Glove this year as a left fielder. He switch- hits. He controls the zone. And he has pop. I really like both players, but the Cubs might want more than Jerry's willing to flip.
WHAT ABOUT? Jesse Winker to BOS for 1B Bobby Dalbec OR Chris Flexen to CHIC for lefty RP Brandon Hughes
You're seeing Winker's name come up a lot in this article. Despite what you hear about him, he still has trade value. Undoubtedly, there will be several organizations willing to trust that Winker's track record of success makes his 2022 struggles the outlier season. Seattle moves a hit-only player, who didn't hit & made few friends in the clubhouse, for a young power monster in Dalbec, whose stock has dropped and whose playing time is likely going to super-prospect Tristan Casis.
A SMALLER TRADE I MIGHT MAKE: Chris Flexen to Colorado for RP Lucas Gilbreath & UT Garrett Hampson
Jerry collects 100 mph relievers as a favorite hobby. With my two deals, I've given him two more with Ginkel & Gilbreath. In Gilbreath, we'd finally have one who throws from the left side, rescuing the 26-year old from Mile High pitching. Meanwhile, the 28-year old Hampson can play multiple infield & outfield positions, in case I have to part with Haggerty or Moore to make another deal happen. Plus, he can flat fly.
JERRY ADDS: JURICKSON PROFAR OR AJ POLLOCK
Scott Servais has a history with Profar. Back in the day, he was considered as good a prospect as there was in the game. His career hasn't turned out that way, but he has avoided being a total bust. The 29-year old is coming off a decent 3-WAR season, having collected over 50 extra-base hits as San Diego's everyday leftfielder. He brings offensive versatility with his ability to switch-hit and run, but defensively his days as a super-utility player seem over. He didn't play a game as an infielder in 2022.
As for Pollock, Dipoto has already announced to the world that he's looking for a right-handed hitting outfielder this offseason. Jerry has a history with Pollock, as the two were in Arizona together. The 35-year old Pollock can still play a decent outfield, and he still crushes left-handed pitching (286/316/619/935). A platoon with Kelenic or Winker (should either stay) seems possible.
BRINGING BACK YOUR OWN
JERRY & CHUCK BOTH BRING BACK MATT BOYD
It wasn't long ago that Boyd was considered a solid rotation piece. The Tigers thought so much of him, they set his trade value WAY too high a couple deadlines ago, and ended up getting nothing for the lefty. The life-long Mariner fan should (and I think would) want to sign a 1-year deal with his hometown team. What better place to try and re-establish your market value? And if Gonzales and Flexen are on the way out, as has been hotly rumored, Boyd might emerge from Spring Training having earned the 5th spot in the rotation. If not, he proved this year to be pretty effective coming out of the pen.
OF PROFAR OR POLLOCK
WE BOTH SUBTRACT:
ABREU (free agent)
HAPP (Winker & top 5 prospect)
LOWE (Swanson & Haggerty)
The more I think about these 3, the more I like it...
Which path would you follow?