It's back. Hot Stove Season. The best time of the year... although I hear that's debatable.
And so, it's time for me to retrieve from my secret underground lair, the Crystal Ball, which can be used but one time per year or the user sacrifices accuracy.
Last season, the Ball accurately revealed that Jesse Winker & Erik Swanson would be dealt, that the Mariners would add Kolten Wong & AJ Pollock (a lot of good that did us) & that the organization wouldn't spend as much as the Fortune Teller (me) would prefer. But there were plenty of misses, too. Stupid ball.
Had the organization taken my advice, we would have had Dansby Swanson playing SS in 2023. JP would have graciously moved to 2nd base, and Jerry would have re-acquired Ketel Marte & Kevin Ginkel from the Diamondbacks. Think maybe those additions would have created the difference between making the playoffs and just missing? I think so.
But the offseason is clearly never as easy to execute as we Fortune Tellers dream it could be. And still, we try and try again to get it right, to get the Mariners over the top, to use the magical mystical offseason to mold the first World Series roster in franchise history. As your self-appointed baseball oracle, I will never quit. Let's grab the ball.
I see early activity from the Mariners organization... A trade! And just in time for Thanksgiving, so that we can give thanks for the bounty of food, the blessed hands that prepared it, and for the remarkable gift of winter roster construction.
NOVEMBER 22nd, the Eve of Thanksgiving, the Mariners will announce that they've acquired, from Boston, LF Alex Verdugo.
Verdugo: 13 HR 54 RBI 2.6 WAR Slash: 264/324/421/745
Boston pundits are trying to include Verdugo in a blockbuster trade to bring them an ace. I even read one article predicting George Kirby would be the target. Such a move would land Seattle a much larger package than Verdugo, of course. But I choose not to entertain trading George. And that is my right. Furthermore, this fortune-teller believes Verdugo gets moved for something far less than Red Sox fans are presently considering. After all, Verdugo has just one year left on his deal, Boston is seeking to trade from their OF depth and, rumor has it, Verdugo is not exactly a favorite of Red Sox Manager Alex Cora.
While I do have a Crystal Ball, it doesn't predict arbitration numbers. Spotrac forecasts a $9 million 2024 salary for the outfielder. We'll go with that.
Jerry Dipoto and Justin Hollander both made it very clear that they're looking for an everyday lineup that does a better job of putting the ball in play. Thus, Teoscar Hernandez was not given the qualifying offer of $20 mill to keep him from testing free agency. Verdugo struck out just 93 times in 602 PA compared to Teoscar's whopping 211 K's in 678 PA's. The 27-year old Verdugo is also 4 years younger than Hernandez, $11 million cheaper, and he plays a near gold-glove caliber left field.
THE TRADE: The Mariners acquire OF Alex Verdugo from BOS for RP Justin Topa & UT Dylan Moore
Last offseason, the Mariners acquired Hernandez with a right-handed RP coming off a career year. They do the same with Topa for Verdugo. But because Swanson is 7 years younger than Topa, Seattle throws in a quality utility player to replace Keke Hernandez, who the Red Sox dealt at last year's deadline.
And we're off and running.
Now... What is this my Crystal Ball is showing?
This is huge.
On DECEMBER 3rd, the opening day of the Winter Meetings in Nashville, the earth shakes in Tennessee. Shohei is not going to leave baseball fans twisting in the wind for the American holidays. He has made his decision...
And it's not the Mariners.
LIke every seamhead amateur psychic on planet Earth, I do believe Shohei Ohtani will again consider Seattle and ultimately decide to play for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Crystal Ball also believes that the Mariners were expecting this outcome and came prepared for an alternate move involving a talent from the Pacific Rim.
DECEMBER 4TH. MARINERS SIGN OUTFIELDER JUNG-HOO LEE
After struggling during his transition season into the majors, Padres infielder Ha-Seong Kim has developed into a bonafide star in three years. Kim's success benefits the perception of Korean players and has certainly created a market for the next star from his homeland preparing to make the massive leap to America. Unlike Kim, Lee is an outfielder, who hits from the left side. But the culture of Korean baseball was not missed on their latest star. Lee plays with speed, plays tremendous defense & reportedly is an exceptional contact hitter. Again, putting the ball in play is the stated objective for the Mariners as they tweak the roster this offseason.
Right now, projections have Jung-Hoo Lee earning a 5-year, $50 million deal. If that's the price, I say pay it. In fact, pay more to secure the bag. Admittedly, I've never seen Lee play, but I'm a big fan of Kim, and everything I read is that the 25-year old Lee can be even better.
At this point, the Crystal Ball can tell that you're looking for something bigger, something juicier. Be patient, good boys and girls. Christmas is right around the corner.
DECEMBER 22nd. MARINERS MAKE BLOCKBUSTER TRADE
I've just never gotten the impression that the organization is happy with Jarred Kelenic. No one has said anything directly to me regarding displeasure with the temperamental outfielder, but I think they'll use the progress he showed in 2023 & sell the jaw-dropping start he had to the year to move him now, knowing that they could be selling a potential star, while avoiding the potential that he doesn't take the next step in his development, thus stunting his trade value going forward. The organization didn't trust him to put the ball in play once he returned from the IL late in the year, which was the foolish explanation they provided for sitting him in favor of lesser players with the season on the line. I think they're trading him. And CB says it happens just before the holidays.
TRADE: THE MARINERS SEND OF JARRED KELENIC, SP BRYCE MILLER & OF JONATAN CLASE TO THE CHICAGO WHITE SOX FOR OF LUIS ROBERT
Crystal Ball knows this is something I've been pitching for a while. The White Sox are not only rebuilding, the organization is looking to change its identity. Fiery Jarred Kelenic and the Texas swagger of Bryce Miller set the Sox on a different course from their current roster malaise featuring big talents possessing little fire. In return, the Mariners not only get a premiere talent, Robert has a very desirable contract that potentially runs through 2027. You know, John Stanton likes seeing the two years remaining on Robert's current deal for $27.5 million, along with two years of club options at only 20-mill per year. I'd much rather have Robert at 4 years, $67.5 million over one-year of Juan Soto at 27-mill (a player the Mariners are rumored to be interested in).
Robert is a phenom in need of proper motivation. He and Julio could form as great a young offensive/defensive duo as there is in the game. I really want this to happen. Merry Christmas to us.
FEBRUARY 14TH. MARINERS SIGN RP JORDAN HICKS
You know how much Jerry loves his flamethrowers. Well, no one in the game throws harder than 27-year old Jordan Hicks. Spotrac claims Hicks will grab a 2 year, $7 million deal. I say Jerry sends him 2 years, $12 million along with a fancy box of chocolates to express his love for Hicks on Valentine's Day.
FEBRUARY 21ST. MARINERS SIGN BACKUP CATCHER
Personally, I'd love to have Tom Murphy back. But I doubt the free agent will return. I'll miss seeing him at Spring Training, but Cal Raleigh is going to play every game Scott allows. The team will need a backup though. So, on the eve of Spring Training, the M's grab defense-only stalwart Austin Hedges on a 1 year, $2 million deal.
AND THUS ENDS ARE OUR SESSION
It should be noted that the Crystal Ball can not see everything. This, we know. In truth, even the readings I've listed here are fuzzy. But I do see other possibilities for this offseason.
The Crystal Ball likes the possibility of taking a chance on former All-Star shortstop Tim Anderson while his value could not be lower. Anderson had a rotten year, both on and off the field in 2023. Getting knocked out by a passing glance from Jose Ramirez was rock bottom for the gifted infielder, and perhaps he'll be properly motivated to sign a 1-year deal with the hope of redeeming his value. He played 2nd base for America during the WBC, and America's Manager Mark DeRosa called him a joy. Color me interested in an Anderson redemption story playing out in Seattle.
Rhys Hoskins. I wouldn't be surprised, at all, if the Mariners sign free-agent Hoskins to fill the DH role, while complimenting or possibly replacing Ty France at 1B. Hoskins sat out 2023 with an ACL tear. The year before, he hit 30 homers. The 30-year old strikes out quite a bit, but not nearly as much as Teoscar or Geno. And in 2019, he led the majors in BB's, something Jerry, Justin & the nerds love in a hitter.
Brandon Lowe. I don't want Josh Rojas starting at 2nd base for the Mariners, but I do believe the M's are excited for it. That said, Lowe is coming off another injury and he makes more money than the Rays are comfortable paying. Might be a good time to buy low (or lowe) on a 2nd baseman, who hit 39 HR's in 2021.
Jorge Polanco. Maybe I'm silly, but I like middle-infield hit machines with pop. He's not a great defender, and he's had a number of injuries in recent years, but that just lowers the price for a switch-hitter that could upgrade 2nd base. The Twins picked up Polanco's option at $10 million for 2024, but they won't get much for him in a trade. And they are going to trade him to make room for breakthrough rookie Edouard Julien.
A lot of options. Can't wait to see what The Stove bakes up for us. I hope you enjoyed your fortune reading. In truth, I hope you end up totally creeped-out with how accurate I prove to be.