Passan: Expectations for Mariners’ offseason ‘may be a little bit outlandish’

Dec 14, 2022, 3:37 PM

Mariners Twins Carlos Correa...

Carlos Correa throws to first base during a Twins game against the Mariners on June 14, 2022. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

There’s been an ongoing debate in the Seattle Mariners fan base this offseason, and particularly the last few weeks, about whether or not the team is doing enough to improve its roster.

Related: Salk – Mariners’ offseason has been exciting if looked at in right light

The Mariners have largely sat out of free agency this go-round, with their most notable signing being reliever Trevor Gott to a one-year deal worth a reported $1.2 million. That means M’s fans have watched the free agents with the biggest names sign huge contracts to play elsewhere, whether it’s Aaron Judge (nine years, $360 million to stay with the Yankees), Trea Turner (11 years, $300 million with the Phillies), or most recently Carlos Correa (13 years, $350 million with the Giants).

Are the Mariners doing themselves and their fans a disservice by not winning bidding wars for stars by handing out deals that would guarantee money for players into their 40s? ESPN MLB reporter Jeff Passan weighed in Wednesday morning when he joined Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk, and he provided some valuable perspective of where the Mariners sit in the league’s landscape coming off a second-straight 90-win season and a series win in the playoffs.

“There’s this sort of disease that happens to sports fans that’s accompanied by winning, and it’s delusions of grandeur,” Passan said. “It’s this idea that once you’ve started winning, every single thing you do needs to be focused on perpetuating that winning. I think we can call it, like, San Diego Padre-itis.”

Passan pointed to the Padres as an outlier as a mid-market team in MLB that has spent a lot of money in recent years in attempts to create a sustained winner. The Padres, who made a splash this month with the addition of shortstop Xander Bogaerts on a 11-year, $280 million deal, did reach the NLCS in 2022 but have had just two winning seasons out of the last 12, one of which was the shortened 2020 campaign.

“It’s interesting that there are all these examples in baseball right now that don’t dovetail with history very much,” Passan continued. “I’m sorry, but we don’t see three teams spending $400-plus million guaranteed in an offseason, and right now we’ve got the Giants, the Mets and the Yankees, with the Phillies not far behind, and the Padres, frankly, also not very far behind. We don’t see smaller market teams go out and spend exorbitant amounts in free agency, and yet the Padres are doing just that.”

The fact that the Mariners haven’t been one of those teams has amounted to frustration for some, as seen pretty easily on social, but it’s not like they haven’t added this offseason. Nor have they shied away from signing star players to lucrative long-term contracts, which they did with extensions late in the 2022 season for both 2022 American League Rookie of the Year Julio Rodríguez and ace pitcher Luis Castillo, the latter of whom was a recent trade acquisition.

“In the case of the Mariners, I think it’s been so long since they’ve been in the playoffs – I’m not saying that the little taste that the Mariners got this year should suffice necessarily, but I am suggesting that expectations may be a little bit outlandish right now,” Passan said. “It’s easy to forget about the Julio contract or about the Teoscar (Hernández) trade or about the Kolten Wong trade, and to focus on stuff like we haven’t seen any free agents aside from Trevor Gott at this point. … I think in the context of everything else, frankly, if you’re complaining about the Mariners at this point, you’re spoiled. That’s the reality. You’re just spoiled and greedy right now.”

You can listen to the full conversation with Passan in the podcast at this link or in the player below. After that, read a couple more of his answers to questions about this topic from Brock Huard and Mike Salk.

Do the Mariners have to operate like a mid-market team?

They don’t have to. That’s that’s what the Padres illustrate. They don’t have to live like that, but I also think that living like that isn’t the norm and that the Padres are the outlier… Market size is just an objective fact – compared to other teams, how big is a particular media market? You don’t have to act like your market size.

Let’s look at the Mets. For a long time, the Mets, who always have been in the biggest market, certainly did not act like a team from New York; they acted like a team from the midwest. If you want to talk about embarrassing, where the Mets were before (owner) Steve Cohen bought them, payroll-wise it was awful. But the Mariners right now are looking at their most expensive payroll in team history – I think it’s probably going to be, when it’s all said and done, over $175 million. I don’t know if they’re going to be pushing $200 million, but I think it’s very reasonable to think this is something that ends up $180-185 million, and depending on trades maybe even higher, and that’s still not top 15 in the game.

So if fans want to look at it like ownership isn’t doing enough, I understand the instinct there, I just have trouble judging a team and its worthiness, its effectiveness on single-season payroll. You know, if payroll stays flat after attendance jumps this year, which it is undoubtedly going to… (or) multiple years – like if it stays flat in ’23, ’24, ’25, yeah. If that’s the window and the Mariners are not stretching for their window, that’s problematic. But I just have a hard time getting worked up over one year, especially one year coming off a postseason appearance.

Should Seattle have made any of these superstar signings?

My first instinct always goes toward starting pitching, and yet I look at the Mariners’ rotation right now and I think they’re pretty well set there. My next big thing goes toward power. And yeah, I do think they would have been better had they gone after Turner, Correa or Bogaerts. And yet, Bogaerts cost $280 million over 11 years, Turner cost $300 million over 11 years, and Correa cost $350 million over 13 years. Are any of those deals good for the Mariners?

Yeah, I think you can argue that when you get a player of that caliber, it doesn’t make a (darn) bit of difference how much you’re paying the guy – you’re adding a star. So I think especially Turner – which at the time, $300 million for 11 years, oh my goodness, that was an incredible deal for the player. Now you look at it compared to what Bogaerts and Correa got and all of a sudden you think, well, that one doesn’t look that bad after all. (Or) $160 million for eight years of Brandon Nimmo? No, probably not. You’re not bringing in (catcher) Willson Contreras when you’ve got Cal Raleigh back there.

There are deals that would have made the Mariners better, but are there any out there that you look at and say they should regret not doing that? No, I don’t know that there is.

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