Aaron Goldsmith explains the high stakes of this Mariners offseason

Nov 6, 2021, 1:10 PM | Updated: 1:13 pm
Mariners Kyle Lewis...
Kyle Lewis of the Seattle Mariners reacts after a home run against the Baltimore Orioles on May 4. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners are coming off a 90-win season, have a young core of key players and a stocked farm system, and have plenty of capital at their disposal this offseason.

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Just three years after general manager Jerry Dipoto started tearing down and rebuilding the team, the time has arrived for the Mariners to set their sights on contending for an American League West division title. And with that comes a different set of expectations.

“It’ll be a big winter, obviously, for the Mariners,” said Aaron Goldsmith, the team’s play-by-play announcer, during a visit Thursday with 710 ESPN Seattle’s Mike Salk Show. “They’ve been committed to talking about that and I feel strongly, and we all should, that they will back that up.”

Especially when it comes to building up their depth.

If the Mariners find themselves in a position like they did in 2021 when star center fielder Kyle Lewis was lost to a season-ending knee injury, they probably need to take a page out of the book of the World Series champions in Atlanta, who answered the loss of superstar Ronald Acuña Jr. in July with the addition of several outfield bats that helped win a championship.

“I don’t think the Mariners are in a position anymore where you can afford an injury and you replace that player with a replacement-level player or a below-replacement-level player,” Goldsmith said. “The stakes are beginning to get too high for the Mariners, especially with what we were projecting them to do over the winter. And what that means for them from a competitive standpoint and trying to track down a division and take that away from the Houston Astros – if you lose a guy, you need to replace him with a guy, not just a replacement.”

The good news for Seattle on that front is that while the Astros are coming off their third World Series appearance in the last five seasons and have continued to develop star players, changes are coming in Houston. Pitching coach Brent Strom is not returning next year, and the Astros have a number of key players hitting free agency, most notably Carlos Correa, Zack Greinke, Justin Verlander, and a familiar name in Seattle, Kendall Graveman. The Mariners also have more flexibility to add talent this winter than Houston thanks to having just under $45 million worth of payroll (26th in MLB) committed to next season, per Spotrac, compared to Houston’s $120 million (10th).

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Not that the M’s are limited to adding players through free agency, though.

“The other thing I think has maybe gotten lost a little bit is not only from the free agent standpoint, but they have a lot of different ways that they can pivot here,” Goldsmith said of the Mariners. “When you talk about trades, we know that that is part of Jerry’s DNA. They have a lot of capital in that regard, as well – they have one of the best farm systems in the entire game at various levels… so there are a lot of directions (to go), whether you want to talk about from a trade standpoint or from a purchasing a free agent standpoint. I think the possibilities for Jerry and his staff are almost limitless.”

The available money to spend should still factor in in a big way, though Goldsmith doesn’t expect the same kind of extra-long deals that superstars in their early 30s like Albert Pujols and Robinson Canó commanded last decade.

“I think the Mariners will not spend foolishly. I think what is most intriguing to me with some of these high-priced free agents like a Kris Bryant, for example, I think the days of giving a guy on the back nine of his career the Albert Pujols contract or the Robbie Canó contract – the 10 years for $300 million – it’s not going to happen,” he said. “I’m guessing that the Mariners are much more interested in something along the lines of we’ll give you a shorter deal with a very high average annual value, and so we want to cash in on the last let’s call it four to five or six years of just pure meat on the bone that’s on your career. We know you’ll still play after that, but we want the prime beef that’s left.”

You can hear the full conversation between Goldsmith and Salk at this link or in the player below.

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