Salk: It’s go time — why this is Mariners most important offseason ever

Nov 5, 2021, 12:20 AM | Updated: 1:31 am

Mariners Scott Servais Jarred Kelenic...

Manager Scott Servais and OF Jarred Kelenic talk during a Mariners game against Arizona on Sept. 10. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

It’s go time for Jerry Dipoto, John Stanton and the entire Mariners organization.

Mariners Offseason Tracker: Keep up with moves, free agents and more

The 2021 team did its part. The players outperformed their expectations. The manager built a winning culture and nearly took his undermanned group to the postseason.

Now it’s time for the front office to help that group take the next step.

When free agency officially opens Monday and the 30 MLB general managers gather to talk in Carlsbad, Calif., the most important offseason in Mariners history will be underway.

Yes, I think it is the most important offseason, and I don’t say that to undersell what happened in the mid-1990’s when the franchise was saved at the zero-hour from bolting to a warmer climate. There is no now without that moment. But, respectfully, this is the opportunity to create the roster that can get this team to its first playoff appearance in over 20 years and eventually its first World Series.

The Mariners took a tremendous risk in 2018 when they opted to strip down a roster that was competing for a playoff spot until the final days of the season. They dealt away stars, restocked the farm system, and planned to come back with some young stars that could form the nucleus of a championship future.

They took on further risk by taking down payroll. Some of that was the necessary outcome of a roster full of youngsters – any player with fewer than three years of service gets paid the major league minimum. But as they dealt away more and more payroll, the tacit agreement with fans was that the savings would be reapplied when the team reemerged from its self-created hibernation.

Well, like a bear in spring, nap time is over. And just as that bear needs to find immediate food for its hungry cubs, so too does this group need to feed its starving fan base.

The Mariners have some $45 million committed to payroll next year. An additional $85 million would get them to the league average from 2021, and $105 million would get them just to where they were in 2018 when they spent $155 million.

They don’t need to spend every one of those dollars in this offseason. Spending money requires players that want to accept your offer. I also don’t think they should take on contracts that they’ll regret years from now when they’ll want the additional flexibility to retain budding stars like Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodríguez as their free agency approaches.

But with plenty of money to spend and a free agent class that is worthy of the investment, this is a perfect match for Dipoto and company to set up the future. Throw in the tradable assets that the team has in its top rated farm system and the stage is set to go big.

As big as any offseason yet.

More Mariners coverage from 710Sports.com

Jerry Dipoto Show: M’s sights set on “centerpiece-type players”
Casey Sadler: Mix of “different styles of arms” key for M’s bullpen
Talking Mariners Podcast: Names to watch, Seattle’s “untouchables”
Drayer: Offseason starts with surprise as Yusei Kikuchi elects free agency
Reliever Paul Sewald goes in-depth on secret to bullpen’s success

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