Mariners’ Servais talks: ‘We want to do the best with the cards we’ve been dealt’

Dec 4, 2023, 6:15 PM | Updated: 6:26 pm

Seattle Mariners Scott Servais...

Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais talks to Jarred Kelenic during a game in 2021. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais understands why fans are skeptical of the club’s offseason moves, which has already seen them part ways with big offensive contributors in Teoscar Hernández, Eugenio Suárez and Jarred Kelenic.

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Servais told a scrum of reporters on Monday at MLB’s winter meetings in Nashville, Tenn., that the club will look to add two middle-of-the order bats to the lineup in the coming weeks but hinted they were working under some financial constraints.

“There is a lot of skepticism,” Servais said. “I think looking at our club, expectations have risen dramatically over the last couple years on our team. That’s a good thing. We do have a young team that’s exciting. We do want to take the next step to win. We want to do the best with the cards we’ve been dealt, I guess is the best way to say it.”

On Sunday night, the Mariners sent Kelenic, starter Marco Gonzales and first baseman Evan White to the Atlanta Braves for Jackson Kowar and prospect Cole Phillips, a pair of right-handed pitchers. ESPN national baseball reporter Jeff Passan said the move was a “money dump” for Seattle.

That did little to quell fans who have grown increasingly vocal about the Mariners’ payroll, which ranked 18th in MLB last year. Last month, the Mariners let Hernández leave in free agency without a qualifying offer and traded Suárez to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

But Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto has indicated the team’s payroll will increase in 2024. As of Monday evening, the Mariners had a projected payroll of around $109 million in 2024, well below last year’s roughly $139 million total, according to Spotrac.

Servais said clearing salary now will allow the front office to improve the lineup in the coming weeks.

“I mentioned earlier we need to add more offense to our team, so hopefully the salary we have cleared will allow us to go out and sign a couple free agents to help out with that,” Servais said. “I don’t do the books. I coach the team. But we need to get better. Our lineup is not complete right now and one able to compete with the teams in our division today. I say all that and we have a really good team. But it’s early December. It’s not early April.”

Servais weighs in on dealing Kelenic

Kelenic, a former top prospect and first-round pick by the New York Mets, had a bumpy start to his career in Seattle. He was demoted to Triple-A on multiple occasions and often struggled to make contact.

He got off to a scorching start last year, but in July, he kicked a water cooler after striking out to end a game and broke his foot, causing him to miss nearly two months. He finished the season with a .253//327/.419 slash line, 11 home runs and 49 RBIs.

Servais sounded disappointed to be parting ways.

“With Jarred, seeing his evolution as a major-league player, the season he had last year I thought he really kind of turned the corner,” he said. “It’s unfortunate when you trade guys that you become close to.”

“I do think there is a lot of good baseball ahead of him,” Servais continued. “He can be very productive. The talent, the skills, they’re all still there. He’s very young in his career. Again, you make trades. The other sides are excited about getting players. We’re excited about what this trade did for us. Hopefully we can add players because of the trade.”

Seattle Mariners still exploring 3B options

After dealing Suárez to Arizona last month, it appeared the Mariners planned to fill their void at third base with infielder Luis Urías, who was acquired earlier in the offseason in a trade that sent reliever Isaiah Campbell to the Red Sox. Urías struggled with injuries in 52 games last season between Milwaukee and Boston, hitting just .194. But the 26 year old is just a few seasons removed from hitting .249 with 23 homers and 75 RBIs with the Brewers in 2021.

Still, Servais did not commit to saying Urias will be the starter at third base.

“Urías has played a bunch of third base, Josh Rojas has played some at third base. Again, we sit in early December. We’re a long way away from March 28, I think is opening day. We’ll wait and see how the rest of the offseason plays out.”

Bitter taste from end to 2023

Servais admitted it was particularly tough watching the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers, two of the Mariners’ AL West rivals, battle in the ALCS. And seeing the Rangers win the World Series has been a source of offseason motivation. The Mariners finished the year 88-74, just two games behind Texas.

“The Astros and Rangers, their payrolls are higher than us. But at the end of the day when you line up and play nobody checks the paycheck,” Servais said. “We,’ve just got to figure out a way to beat them. I love our young pitching. I love our players. We need to get better. There’s no question about that. I’m hoping over the next few weeks we continue to add.”

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