Are Mariners spending too little? ESPN’s Jeff Passan explains why not

Apr 21, 2022, 12:29 PM

Mariners Robbie Ray...

Robbie Ray of the Seattle Mariners pitches against the Texas Rangers at T-Mobile Park on Tuesday. (Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

(Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

The Mariners have a new-look roster for the 2022 season compared to what they rolled out a year ago, but based on reaction online, some fans and analysts didn’t think what they did in the offseason was enough.

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Per Spotrac, the Mariners rank 22nd among the 30 MLB teams in payroll for the 2022 season at just over $105 million, with the average payroll roughly $147 million.

Part of that is due to Seattle’s number of young players early in their MLB careers, but some Mariners fans expected the team to spend more this past offseason. ESPN MLB insider Jeff Passan doesn’t agree with that sentiment, however, and he explained why during a Wednesday visit with Seattle Sports 710 AM’s Mike Salk Show.

“I have a tough time thinking about spending over a one-year period,” Passan said. “I think this is the sort of thing you look back at at the end of three years of contention and say, ‘OK, did they spend enough money?’ And I say after three years because three years gives you time to look at the different free agent classes.”

Passan also disagreed with the notion that the Mariners weren’t spenders this past offseason, and that includes in free agency and their big trade last month with the Cincinnati Reds to acquire Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suárez for a package centered around pitching prospect Brandon Williamson.

“By the way, they did spend $115 million on Robbie Ray, so it wasn’t an insignificant amount,” he said. “They (also) spent $36 million on Eugenio Suárez’s dead contract to essentially go out – between him and Brandon Williamson – to buy Jesse Winker for a couple of years. And I know Winker has been terrible up to this point, but I think he gets things turned around eventually.”

Just because the Mariners’ payroll remains relatively low this year doesn’t mean the team won’t spend bigger in the following years.

“I’m not gonna say that they didn’t spend, they just didn’t spend as much as you want them to,” Passan added. “And I think future (free agent) classes and knowing where the holes (on the roster) are is going to give the Mariners the opportunity to paper over those sins, if you want to call it that, of not spending this offseason as much as fans would have liked.”

How about Kris Bryant and Trevor Story?

The Mariners were linked to a handful of big-name free agents this offseason. But while they did land one of the best players on the market in Ray, the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner, the upgrades to the lineup with All-Stars Suárez, Winker and Adam Frazier all came via trade.

Two big bats that the Mariners were reportedly heavily in on in free agency were Trevor Story and Kris Bryant. Bryant, the 2016 National League MVP and a four-time All-Star, signed a huge seven-year deal with the Colorado Rockies in a move that surprised many. Story, a shortstop his entire career and a two-time All-Star, signed a lucrative six-year deal with the Boston Red Sox. Story is currently playing second base but may take over at shortstop next year as current Boston shortstop Xander Boegarts will likely opt out of his current deal and become a free agent.

When looking at Bryant, Passan said it’s a good thing the Mariners didn’t offer him a deal similar to what the Rockies gave him.

“If they would have offered Kris Bryant more than seven years and $182 million that the Colorado Rockies gave him, I would have laughed at this organization into eternity because I laughed at the Rockies for giving Bryant that deal,” he said. “That is not going to be a deal that ages well. So no, they should not have gone out and paid Kris Bryant that much money.”

But what about Story, who the Red Sox are paying $140 million to over the next six years with a player opt-out after 2025 and a club option in 2028 for $25 million (and buyout of $5 million)?

“Trevor Story you can make an argument that (the Mariners) should have because they kind of did offer something in that neighborhood (of his current deal), or were willing to go up into that neighborhood. But that was also before the lockout and their calculus changed afterwards,” Passan said.

“I understand why fans want teams to do things now because we live now and because we don’t know, God forbid, if two pitchers are going to blow out elbows on back-to-back days or if a hitter is going to suffer a career-threatening injury or anything (like that),” he continued. “You want to be able to go out and root for this team that you think has the best chance to win the World Series this year. But the people running organizations can’t think that way. They have to think, ‘OK, how are we going to stack these moves on top of each other? And if we get Trevor Story right now, who does that prevent us from getting next year, for example?'”

Listen to the full interview with Passan at this link or in the player below.

More from Passan: “Bullish” on Mariners, ESPN insider says they’re seeing fruits of labor

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Are Mariners spending too little? ESPN’s Jeff Passan explains why not