Mariners Offseason: 4 positions where they could still make a signing
Jerry Dipoto is still Seattle Mariners general manager, though it’s understandable if you have wondered if that’s still the case given how little news the M’s have made this offseason – a decidely un-Dipoto-like development.
Since the end of the 2020 regular season, the Mariners made a trade for potential closer Rafael Montero, added free-agent reliever Keynan Middleton, signed starting pitcher Chris Flexen after an impressive year in Korea, and… not much else when it comes to new players on MLB contracts.
It’s been a peculiar offseason for most teams, though, and the caveat that keeps being brought up is that Dipoto isn’t out of time to make moves in free agency.
But at what positions could those moves come at? Mariners insider Shannon Drayer discussed that with James “Boy Howdy” Osborn on their most recent Talking Mariners podcast, which you can listen to at this link or in the YouTube player below (the discussion starts around the 40-minute mark).
Let’s take a closer look at what she said about four roles on Seattle’s roster that get additions before opening day.
1. The left-handed bat
Priority level: High
This has been something Dipoto has mentioned several times over the offseason, whether it’s been on The Jerry Dipoto Show (which airs at 8:30 a.m. Thursdays on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant), a recent visit with the Mariners Hot Stove Report (7-9 p.m. Tuesdays on 710 ESPN Seattle), or his press conference during the Mariners Virtual Baseball Bash. He’s specifically pointed to lefty-hitting players that can play two spots on the field as his priority, but that has apparently loosened up some.
“If you take it all the way back to the start of the offseason,” Drayer said, “you heard Dipoto talk quite a bit about the infield/outfield-type player that they wanted, and that’s changed a little bit (in his recent interviews). He said that they are still looking for that player – definitely in free agency, they’re not looking trade right now – and there was a little bit of a twist when he said second base and left field. It wasn’t and, it was or. They were looking for a guy who could handle second base or left field.”
Drayer believes someone who can play second base would be more important to Seattle, even though the expectation currently is that Dylan Moore will get a chance to run at the spot after a breakout 2020 season.
“I think we can all agree, as much as I would like to see Dylan Moore play at second base every day to see what he is, ideally that if you had a playoff-contending team, you want Dylan Moore as your super utility player,” she said. “You want him playing a lot, but because he can do that (play multiple positions), that’s what you want. His skills are probably not best utilized parked at one position (so) I think second base is a position that they’re looking at a little bit more.”
While some veteran left-handed bats are available in the outfield, including 37 year olds Brett Gardner and Nick Markakis, their ages don’t fit the bill for the Mariners. There is still one option the M’s could pick up who would check all the boxes, however: Brock Holt, who has played at least 40 MLB games at every position on the diamond in his career other than center field, catcher and pitcher.
“Brock Holt is somebody who could come in and play second base and left field. Did not have a good 2020 but had a very good 2019 and basically was pretty good in his role for the Red Sox for a long time. Getting a little older at 32 but he’s just a year separated from a season where he put up a .771 OPS,” Drayer said.
2. The bullpen
Priority level: A notch below high
This is the one area the Mariners have put a lot of focus into this offseason, not just with big league additions but by taking fliers on unpolished arms with MLB experience on minor league deals, including Taylor Guerrieri and JT Chargois this week alone.
Still, with plenty of players available, don’t be shocked if a somewhat more recognizable name ends up in Seattle’s bullpen by the end of the month to further solidify a part of the roster that has already been improved.
“I think Dipoto definitely wants to add to the bullpen and I think it’s a situation where there are so many names out there that you can wait for the player that kinda falls to him because they were never in the market for the big closer,” Drayer said. “What they’ve done so far with the bullpen, I think exponentially it’s better. You might not know the names but from where they were starting, I think they without question have improved that bullpen greatly.”
3. A starting pitcher
Priority level: In the middle
If the Mariners are going to make a signing that creates some waves, it will be in the rotation. Drayer believes Dipoto is exercising patience like a lot of other GMs in the hopes that an opportunity develops.
“There’s a chance a starter falls to you,” she said. “That’s something that you keep an eye out for. There are so many players right now that are still on the free-agent market, and you know Jerry Dipoto is just dying to get his hands on something that is going to be a bargain, a value, something that he can do something with. … There are names out there.”
Including one that could result in a repeat of last offseason.
“Taijuan Walker is still out there,” Drayer said. “… I think a lot of teams are probably doing the same thing with him to just kind of see where this all shakes out. He should be a multi-year (contract) candidate but there just haven’t been that many. I think unfortunately for him, he again will be a late sign and there will be a flurry of activity and competition for him at the last minute.
“The Mariners like him; that has never changed. What they’re able to do in regards to going and getting him and what kind of deal, that I don’t know.”
4. Another option for first base
Evan White won a Gold Glove as a rookie in 2020, but his performance at the plate was cause for concern. Drayer said Seattle should consider adding somebody who could first should White struggle again, but it may be hard to make room for another first baseman as the Mariners plan on having just three bench players due to their use of a six-man starting rotation.
“What we’re not hearing, what I’d like to see is somebody that can play some first base, too. If you have to send Evan White back to the minors or give him some time down, I don’t think they are very well covered there unless (José) Marmolejos makes the final roster.”