BRENT STECKER

Mariners Offseason: 6 under the radar free agents to fill need for 2 bats

Dec 11, 2022, 11:04 AM | Updated: 11:35 am

The Mariners came out of MLB’s winter meetings last week with the same roster they went in with, but they still intend to add a piece or two more for 2023.

Drayer: The Mariners Week That Was on Seattle Sports 710 AM

While Seattle has watched many of the big free agents this offseason find their homes for next season, there remains the possibility that the M’s could make a splash by trading for Pirates All-Star Bryan Reynolds. At the same time, Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto stated last week that the team would like to add one or two more hitters to the mix, as reported by Seattle Times M’s beat writer Ryan Divish.

What if the demand from Pittsburgh for Reynolds proves to be too high for the M’s? Well, there are a number of interesting free agents remaining who have been under the radar to this point but could fit the Mariners’ roster well.

As things stand, Seattle’s most pressing need is one more outfielder, but it could also stand to add a player who can help out at the corner infield spots. Then there’s the fact that the M’s relied mainly on Jesse Winker and Carlos Santana for their plate appearances at designated hitter last season, and because both have since departed without obvious replacements, this additional bat (or two) would likely also need to help there.

While trades have proven to be the preferred method of talent acquisition for Dipoto and general manager Justin Hollander, the Mariners have maintained that they are always open to the right deal in free agency, as was the case with pitcher Robbie Ray last offseason. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at Seattle’s needs and the free agents who could round out the lineup.

Need No. 1: Right-handed bat for OF

In the outfield, Seattle has center fielder Julio Rodríguez flanked by Teoscar Hernández and Jarred Kelenic in the corners. While Hernández, a 2021 All-Star, will be an everyday player, the 23-year-old Kelenic has yet to find his footing in the big leagues and would be best suited to have a platoon partner so the left-hander can focus on facing righties at the plate. That means the Mariners would probably want to find a righty-hitting corner outfielder to take that role.

The options?

Ideal fit: Wil Myers

The 32-year-old Myers is a one-time All-Star and former Rookie of the Year who would check off a lot of boxes for the Mariners. He’s historically slugged strongly against southpaws (.815 OPS vs. lefties in 2022, .804 OPS career vs. lefties), and he’s still quite athletic with positional flexibility. In fact, he regularly played both corner outfield spots and first base when healthy last season, and he can play third base in a pinch.

Myers might be a more expensive option, but it would also be understandable if teams are reticent to sign him to anything more than a one-year deal due to his age and injury history.

Read more on Myers from Padres broadcasters Jesse Agler here

Another name to watch: Brian Anderson

The 29-year-old Anderson has fallen pretty far from his 20-homer, .811 OPS season in 2019, finishing with an OPS of just .657 in 98 games with Miami in 2022 and finding himself a free agent after being non-tendered by the Marlins. That does make him a bounceback candidate, though, and the fact that he’s played third base, left field and right field pretty evenly though his career could be the kind of thing Seattle is looking for. The big question will be whether there’s enough left in his bat to justify regular playing time.

Need No. 2: Left-handed bat for DH/corner infield depth

While the best fit for the outfield would be another hitter from the right side, it’s the opposite when it comes to someone who could provide depth at first base and third base. That’s because the Mariners’ lineup still looks pretty right-hand heavy, so it would be best if the player that fills this role is a lefty bat that can be relied upon at DH.

As for why the M’s need depth for the corner infield, they do have third baseman Eugenio Suárez and All-Star first baseman Ty France both back, but those two played a lot in 2022 and could stand more days off. They also were banged up last season, especially France, and he in particular could use more backup considering his body is a magnet for fastballs when he’s in the batter’s box, so it’s probably better to be safe than sorry when it comes to having insurance at first.

Ideal fit: Matt Carpenter

Like Myers, Carpenter is the kind of player who can check off a lot of boxes for Seattle. Not only is he a unique type of utility player having played all corner positions plus second base in his career, but the three-time All-Star showed last season he can still hit. Now, was that because he’s a lefty power bat who was perfectly suited for Yankee Stadium? Perhaps. But his .305/.412/.727 slash line for a 1.138 OPS in 47 games with New York jumps off the page even if he just turned 37.

Carpenter might also create a strong veteran clubhouse pairing with new M’s second baseman Kolten Wong, his longtime teammate on a perennially competitive St. Louis Cardinals team.

With T-Mobile Park’s short porch in right field, a one-year deal for Carpenter seems like it would carry a low risk with a potentially high reward.

If it can only be one

While a lefty-hitting infielder and righty-hitting outfielder would be the best fits for Seattle’s roster, that may not be the way it ends up working out. So let’s say the Mariners could only add one more bat – who should that be?

The home run: Brandon Drury

While two bats would be better than one, I’m sure nobody would mind if Seattle only picked up one if it was Drury, a right-handed hitter who enjoyed a breakout 2022 season with the Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres. The 30-year-old Oregon native slashed .263/.320/.492 for an .813 OPS with 28 homers and 87 RBIs in 138 games, winning the National League’s Silver Slugger as a utility player for his efforts.

While Drury has spent the majority of his time in the field at third base and second base, he can play first and the corner outfield spots. In fact, the Mariners could essentially use him as an everyday player, taking over in the outfield for Kelenic against lefties and either being the DH or spelling players around the infield against righties. He would at the very least be a huge boost for Seattle’s cause against lefty pitching as he slashed .299/.329/.626 for a .955 OPS in 155 plate appearances off southpaws in 2022, with 12 of his 28 homers coming against those pitchers despite representing only a little over a quarter of his opportunities at the plate.

All that being said, Drury may be able to get the kind of contract length the M’s are looking to avoid this offseason. If not, though, his bat could put Seattle’s lineup over the top.

Keep in mind

There are two more players that don’t exactly fit the right-handed outfielder/lefty-swinging infielder profiles but could be interesting additions for Seattle.

First is local boy Michael Conforto, a lefty-hitting outfielder who we’ve written about quite a bit this offseason. While he wouldn’t be a platoon candidate with Kelenic, he could take a lot of plate appearances at DH and would be an instant fan favorite in Seattle.

Another player we‘ve written about is utility man Jurickson Profar, who is about as versatile as they come. Not only can he play all over the field, but he’s a switch-hitter. He may not have as high of a ceiling offensively as most of the names mentioned already, but he would cover a lot of bases.

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