Morosi: How Mariners can improve lineup without Ohtani

Nov 17, 2023, 12:44 PM | Updated: 6:04 pm

Seattle Mariners J.D. Martinez...

J.D. Martinez of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates a three-run home run on May 29, 2023. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

(Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners enter the offseason needing help in their lineup, and arguably the most talented player to ever suit up in Major League Baseball is available in free agency.

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That player, of course, is Shohei Ohtani, the two-way sensation who just won his second American League MVP award this week.

Ohtani is the prized jewel of this offseason, and will provide a major boost to whatever team he joins.

“He is the most unique,” MLB Network insider Jon Morosi said during his Thursday conversation with Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob. “He is the bat that everyone wants.”

As far as the Mariners are concerned, Morosi said, “I think it’s probably a low-percentage play right now (for Seattle to sign Ohtani), but certainly a high-enough percentage that you pursue it and give it your very best.”

On Friday, however, MLB.com Mariners reporter Daniel Kramer wrote that sources told the website that “landing Ohtani doesn’t appear to be within the Mariners’ realistic agenda this offseason.” You can read his full report here.

So if Ohtani isn’t in the cards for the Mariners, what else can they do to upgrade the lineup?

“After (Ohtani), it’s (Cody) Bellinger,” Morosi said of who the top free-agent hitters are. “And once you get past those two, we could debate if Matt Chapman is still an All-Star-level third baseman, (there’s) J.D. Martinez, who I do think, by the way, the Mariners have interest in (on a) shorter-term deal of course given his age. There’s not a ton of franchise-changing bats out there.”

“So you either are going to take the approach of making the right decision on someone like J.D. Martinez, who I do believe would be a great fit for the Mariners, or you look at your young pitching and you make a move for someone like (Reds infielder) Jonathan India, or you try to overwhelm the Rays for Yandy Diaz,” Morosi later said. “That’s your approach. And it may not be the most satisfying thing for fans to hear that you’re going to have to be patient and wait for maybe the third or fourth or fifth option, but as we sit today, I believe, Bob and Dave, that’s just the reality (for the Mariners).”

While it’s not the best free-agent hitting class we’ve seen, Morosi believes there’s a clear path to the Mariners improving their lineup without adding Ohtani to the mix.

“If I were the Mariners front office right now, I would feel as though I’ve got much more to say about a shorter-term deal for a Justin Turner, for a J.D. Martinez, maybe even a Jorge Soler, potentially a Rhys Hoskins. These are all really good players. (Also) Lourdes Gurriel Jr.,” Morosi said. “… There are some really good players out there. Shohei is in a category unto himself (and is) amazing. But if he’s going to cost you $40 million a year and if you feel as though you could add maybe even two bats, two meaningful bats, for a combined $25 or $30 million a year, and if Shohei is going to be a DH only for 2024, this is the kind of philosophy where if you look at throwing a number of possibilities … there’s a path to making this team, in my view, a lot better offensively without getting Shohei Ohtani. And I think a lot of it comes from bringing in reliable bats.”

Hoskins and Martinez in particular are names to watch for the Mariners, Morosi said.

“I would look at Hoskins, maybe J.D. Martinez. You think about guys that know how to take really good at-bats in big spots and have a lot of October baseball under under their belts, especially in the case of J.D., who has been a World Series champion,” he said. “If I were the Mariners front office, I would be going headlong into trying to bring in a Hoskins or a J.D. And if Ohtani happens down the line, great, we’d all love that. But what you can control is finding someone, especially (who is) from northern California in the case of Hoskins, who I think would be open-minded to looking at what the Mariners have to offer.”

Listen to the full conversation with Morosi at this link or in the player near the top of this story.

More on the Seattle Mariners

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• Salk: The pitch Seattle Mariners should make to Shohei Ohtani
• Notebook: Mariners DFA Ford, protect DeLoach from Rule 5 Draft
• Shannon Drayer’s Mariners Week That Was
• Julio Rodríguez wins second straight Silver Slugger
• Morosi: Potential Seattle Mariners trade targets, rumors from GM meetings

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