Jake and Stacy’s Mariners Wishlists: Pitchers who can lead the rotation

Nov 5, 2021, 3:01 PM | Updated: 3:06 pm

Mariners Giants Kevin Gausman...

Kevin Gausman started his All-Star season with an opening day start against the Mariners. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

When MLB free agency kicks off Monday, there are a few spots the Mariners are likely to be paying the most attention to.

Mike Salk: Welcome to Mariners’ most important offseason ever

There is the need for a infielder at either second or third base that can occupy a spot in the middle of the order. Center field has emerged as a position that could use a defensive upgrade. And above all, the Mariners need starting pitching.

With Yusei Kikuchi and Tyler Anderson hitting free agency, the Mariners have just Chris Flexen, Marco Gonzales and Logan Gilbert as players who finished the 2020 season in their rotation under contract for 2022. And it’s not like the Mariners just need two starters to fill up the five-man rotation, as it has been proven in this day and age that teams with postseason hopes need to be more like eight or nine pitchers deep to get through a full year.

Above all, the Mariners could use a veteran arm or two with experience as an ace to help lead their rotation in 2022, and there are a good number of names in free agency they could go after to fill that need.

On Thursday, 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy discussed some of those names as they shared their wishlists for the Mariners offseason. Here’s a look at what hosts Jake Heaps and Stacy Rost and producer Curtis Rogers had to say.

The Cy Young winners closing in on 40

In 2011, Justin Verlander won the American League Cy Young Award as a member of the Detroit Tigers. Two years later, his teammate, Max Scherzer, was the AL Cy Young. Now they’re both multi-time winners of that award and hitting free agency, but they’re also closing in on the ends of their careers. Scherzer was still an All-Star in 2021 but turned 37 years old, while Verlander is 39 and has been recovering from Tommy John surgery since he suffered a torn UCL in the first game of the 2020 season when pitching against the Mariners.

“Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander, even at 39 years old, still really intrigue me,” Rost said. “I think there is absolutely no problem going after one of those older guys because they might end up being some of the more reliable arms given the group that you have right now. … I am not gonna look a gift horse in the mouth and be like, ‘No, I don’t want 39-year-old Verlander.’ I am all-in on Verlander in Seattle and I don’t care that he’s almost 40.”

Heaps is especially high on the idea of Scherzer coming to Seattle.

“Max Scherzer would be incredible,” he said. “Even still at this point he is pitching very dominantly and he would be an ace unlike you’ve ever had here in quite some time, outside of Félix (Hernández), of course. Just with his mentality, what he brings to the table as a veteran, I really think it would be an awesome addition to the Mariners.”

Scherzer’s age doesn’t give Heaps much concern, as he explained.

“Max Scherzer is one of the most tireless workers in Major League Baseball, so I have a lot of faith in him because he’s been durable throughout the majority of his career and because he’s a tireless, obsessive worker that I believe that he will get himself ready to roll and be a frontline ace for you.”

The new aces

While Verlander and Scherzer could likely be had on shorter contracts, two 2021 Cy Young candidates that should command high-priced, long-term deals are also be on the market. The Mariners have plenty of money to spend, however, so it’s not out of the question they make a run at either of them.

First up is Kevin Gausman, who at 30 enjoyed his first All-Star season leading San Francisco’s rotation.

“The last two years, the shortened 2020 season and then (2021) with the Giants, he was incredible,” Rogers said. “Career-high numbers in total strikeouts, strikeouts per nine innings, he threw nearly 200 innings this last year. He was an All-Star, 14-6 with an ERA sub-3.00. I mean, he was really good this last season and he’ll only be 31 coming into this next season. … I think he is somebody that I would not be afraid of to give maybe a three- or four-year deal.

“Same goes for Robbie Ray of the Blue Jays.”

And that’s the second name. The left-handed Ray, also 30, came on strong in the second half and could pull of a feat Félix Hernández did in 2010, which is win the AL Cy Young despite being left off the All-Star team that same year. Just like in the wild card race last season, however, Seattle would likely have competition with Toronto if it decides to go after Ray.

“Toronto could very easily pony up the cash to get him back, and looking at the season that he had, I would imagine the Blue Jays are very interested in doing so because of how dominant he was,” Rogers continued.

More Mets-turned-Mariners?

The Mariners have made a habit in recent years of getting the goat of Mets fans, first with the blockbuster trade that sent Robinson Canó and Edwin Díaz to the Big Apple for a package headlined by Jarred Kelenic, then with the emergence of Flexen and relief ace Paul Sewald in 2021. If they wanted to truly turn the Mets into a secondary farm system, Heaps has a couple ideas.

“Marcus Stroman is somebody that intrigues me from the Mets. I really like him a lot,” Heaps said. “He’s somebody that I definitely would be stoked about if they brought in here, but also from that same Mets team, what about bringing in ‘Thor,’ Noah Syndergaard?”

Stroman tied for the MLB lead with 33 games started and finished with a strong 3.02 ERA in 2021, while the 29-year-old Syndergaard is coming off Tommy John surgery and made just two one-inning appearances late in the season.

You can hear the full conversation from Jake and Stacy in the podcast at this link or in the player below.

More Mariners coverage from 710Sports.com

Mariners Offseason Tracker: Keep up with moves, free agents and more
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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Jake and Stacy’s Mariners Wishlists: Pitchers who can lead the rotation