It wasn’t long ago that this offseason was called the most important in Mariners history.
After consecutive 90-win seasons and seeing the series’ only real rebuilding pay offs, it was easy to look back in the free agent class and dream of the heights the team could reach in 2023 if Seattle added a big name or two.
How much would Trea Turner change offense? Is Xander Bogaerts the kind of hitter the Mariners lost in the middle of their lineup? Or how about a meltdown to pair Aaron Judge with Julio Rodriguez Abroad? Imagine the possibilities.
Well, fantasizing is the furthest thing from anything like that. Heading into the new year, the Mariners weren’t a factor in a free agency period that saw massive amounts of dollars and star-studded years. This does not mean that they did nothing this winter. Seattle has improved because the trade in Teoskar Hernandez, if he stays as healthy as he has been throughout his career, is an upgrade over Mitch Hanegger as an outfielder. Same for Colton Wong on the man he replaces at second base, Adam Frazier.
That’s how much of an impact Seattle’s moves have made this offseason, and while Chief of Baseball Operations Jerry Dipoto has said he hopes to add another batter or two, it’s clear the M’s will be looking for moves forward by its returning players — and in particular more development. By the youngsters – as they try to chase the World Series champion Houston Astros in 2023.
I think the sailors are approaching the city of Houston 2022 American Youth League Winner of the Year Justin Verlander lost out, catcher Cristian Vasquez and utility man Aledmys Díaz this offseason, as well as replacing first baseman Yuli Guriel with José Abreu, the 2020 AL MVP who turns 36 in January. Are you close enough to erase the 16-game advantage the Astros had over Seattle in the standings in 2022? Maybe not. But maybe it’s enough to be the difference in the playoff series — remember, Houston only had a plus-4 run-on-the-M lead in the three-game ALDS sweep.
The trick for the Mariners is returning to the position in October, though, and that’s where I think Seattle’s stance on free agency will be tested. Because two other AL West teams have looked to the open market to fill some gaps of their own.
Angels don’t mess around
One of the last remaining influential bats in upcoming free agency this week was Brandon Drury, who broke into the 2022 season with the Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres, winning the National League Silver Slugger title as a usefulness infielder. He looked like an intriguing fit for Seattle as someone who could tackle the bat as a cornerback against left-handed throwing, provide rest days for the Mariners, and otherwise be a designated hitter.
The addition of Drury would have changed some opinions about Seattle’s offseason, even if there was justified skepticism about a repeat of his production in 2022 (he’s fared much better with the Reds, who play ballpark, than he did after his trade to the Padres, who do). His garden is very spacious.) Instead, it was a Mariners division rival who picked him up, and suddenly it was the Los Angeles Angels who were raising eyebrows. with off season.
Prior to signing Drury, the Angels made deals for two offensive additions, Hunter Renfroe and Gio Urshela. They also signed rookie pitcher Tyler Anderson, who kicked off a solid two months with the Mariners in 2021 with the Dodgers’ All-Star campaign last season, as well as reliever Carlos Estevez.
Will these additions get the Angels into the playoff conversation? Honestly, maybe. When you have Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani on the same list, it’s definitely possible. And if Anthony Rendon, who has missed basically two-thirds of the last two seasons due to injury, can stay healthy and produce as he did in 2020, then the Los Angeles offense could be a real problem. Lest we forget the 27-17 start, the Angels cruised into last season as well.
Los Angeles has struggled to develop its own talent during its current eight-season drought, but it hasn’t been shy in free agency in recent years. The Angels’ season may be off the radar this year, but if their mix of deals and signings proves to produce a winner in 2023, they could be referred to as the “what if” for one path players haven’t gone down. .
Will the Rangers take it a step further?
Texas has taken a huge swing this past season, signing not just one but two of the shortstops available in free agency. The additions of Corey Seeger and Marcus Semin helped the Rangers move the needle for some, going from a 60-102 record in 2021 to 68-94 last season, but there was clearly more work to be done.
Well, how about Addition of the most impressive bowler in the game?
That’s what the Rangers did, with a big hit in the form of a five-year, $185 million contract with two-time National League Cy Young Award winner Jacob DeGrom.
If there’s one thing the Rangers don’t do about rebuilding themselves, it’s patience. After all, DeGrom is 34 years old and has had all kinds of arm problems over the years. Texas certainly hopes his addition pays off quickly.
In addition to DeGrom, the Rangers have signed left fielder Andrew Heeney, giving them an even more massive rotation than in 2022. These two along with Martin Perez, who was a first-time All-Star last season, give the Texans a solid trio to lead the staff .
The Rangers have some good hitters, too. Along with Semien and Seager, Adolis García and Nathaniel Lowe are both coming off strong 2022 campaigns.
Rome wasn’t built in a day, but a competing slate could probably be built in two seasons. If some breaks go the Rangers’ way, it could reasonably be a factor in the division. At the very least, good luck to their opponents when it’s DeGrom’s day on the mound.
Where does this leave sailors?
Seattle’s performance isn’t over, and more offense is still needed. Whether or not they add another bat or two, concerns about the Mariners’ reticence in free agency, specifically when it comes to hitters, have been raised over the past few months — and frankly, with good reason.
M’s have successfully developed their talents and it’s understandable that they want to stick with that method. They deserve credit for getting as far as they did in just their fourth season after starting to rebuild – that’s a remarkably quick turnaround from demolition, especially considering an entire season of eliminated minor league play in 2020 hurt them. More than just another team because they were so dependent on development at that time. It also makes sense why the extensions would be signed to Julio Rodriguez, Luis Castillo and J.B. Crawford as well as eventual increases to come players like Logan Gilbert, George Kirby and Cal Raleigh in refereeing have the squad. Closely watching future payroll.
Still, there’s no doubt that signing a big name or two in free agency could have gone a long way toward making Seattle a true World Series contender in 2023. That’s not to say the M’s don’t have a chance in that next season, but it’s not. They will probably be seen as the favourites, and in fact they probably won’t be chosen by many to win the degree.
Meanwhile, some notable teams adding free agency this season lie in the AL West in Seattle, and even with a different schedule format in 2023, it would make it difficult for the M’s to improve on last season’s 90-72 record.
As much as the Mariners are chasing the Stars, the Angels and Rangers are now chasing after them, adding to the complexity of returning to the postseason in 2023.
Was Seattle right to largely sit out the frenzy of free agency this winter? The answer may lie in how they perform next season compared to these two divisional rivals.