What free agent Kris Bryant could bring that young Mariners need

Feb 3, 2022, 12:16 PM | Updated: 12:22 pm

Mariners Kris Bryant...

Kris Bryant of the San Francisco Giants bats against the Colorado Rockies. (Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

(Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

As collective bargaining agreement talks between MLB and the MLBPA continue, Mariners fans are anxiously awaiting the end of the lockout as hopes are high that Seattle will add another big-name player to the mix for the 2022 season.

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The Mariners, who won 90 games last year for the first time since 2003, have made two big moves already this offseason, trading for All-Star infielder Adam Frazier and signing free-agent starting pitcher Robbie Ray, who just so happens to be the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner.

But with third baseman Kyle Seager’s retirement as well as an overall lackluster showing at the plate for the hometown nine in 2021, it’s clear that the Mariners need some help for their lineup. So who should they target?

During the latest Mariners Hot Stove on 710 ESPN Seattle, M’s insider Shannon Drayer asked former Seattle southpaw and current M’s analyst Ryan Rowland-Smith who would have him “over the moon” as a Mariners signing.

“I’ve said a million times, Kris Bryant,” Rowland-Smith said. “And then everyone’s like, ‘No, what about Trevor Story?’ … One of those guys, I would love it, right? They’re big names. Why not?”

Bryant, 30, just finished his seventh MLB season and has a lengthy resume, having won the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 2015 and then the NL MVP the following season, which was the same year he and the Chicago Cubs won the World Series. A four-time All-Star, Bryant owns a career .278/.376/.504 slash line with 167 home runs and 487 RBIs in 884 games.

Bryant, who was a trade deadline acquisition of the San Francisco Giants last offseason, is a natural third baseman, but he’s also played outfield and first base throughout his career, so he has the kind of positional flexibility that the Mariners covet.

The 29-year-old Story, meanwhile, is a three-time All-Star shortstop who has three top-12 NL MVP finishes to his name. Story has played exclusively at shortstop during his career, but with the Mariners having a Gold Glover at the position in J.P. Crawford, Story would likely play second or third base if he signed with Seattle. Story owns a career .272/.340/.523 slash line with 158 home runs and 450 RBIs in 745 games, all of which came with the Colorado Rockies.

Related: Why Mariners and Trevor Story could be an intriguing pairing

While Rowland-Smith would be a fan of either right-handed slugger joining the Mariners and being placed in the middle of the lineup, he leans towards Bryant as his favorite between the two.

“Kris Bryant, I like the veteran leadership and the playoff experience,” he said. “That is massive. It’s one of those intangibles that I think this young team really needs.”

But whether it’s Bryant or Story, or even another All-Star talent, Rowland-Smith thinks the Mariners still need one more big name. And he believes they can get one based on their impressive 2021 season as well as general manager Jerry Dipoto’s notable start to the offseason before the lockout hit.

“They’re going to come here because all of a sudden the Mariners are in business. They’re going to be good,” he said. “They signed Robbie Ray, so from a recruiting standpoint, they’re here to win. Kris Bryant, man, I think he would be a great addition in the middle of that lineup (and bring) veteran leadership and everything that goes with it. So I’d love to see that name to lengthen that lineup, and (then) they’ll be good to go.”

You can hear Rowland-Smith’s full conversation from the Mariners Hot Stove with Shannon Drayer and James “Boy Howdy” Osborn at this link or in the player below. The Mariners Hot Stove airs at 7 p.m. each Tuesday night on 710 ESPN Seattle.

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