SHANNON DRAYER

Drayer: What are Mariners’ options in post-Ohtani offseason market?

Dec 10, 2023, 1:56 PM | Updated: 2:03 pm

Seattle Mariners Shohei Ohtani...

Shohei Ohtani pitches for the Los Angeles Angels against the Seattle Mariners on May 6, 2018. (Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)

(Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)

Shohei Ohtani is a Los Angeles Dodger and still the sun came up, even for Mariners fans spending the offseason in waterlogged Seattle. How about that?

Shohei Ohtani agrees to $700 million, 10-year deal with Dodgers

The biggest question in baseball this offseason has been answered, although in truth it was probably answered months if not years ago. There’s a reason the Dodgers had been the overwhelming odds-on favorite to land the superstar, and for the rest of baseball it is time to carry on.

What does carry on look like for the Seattle Mariners in what – after an unexpected and horrific offseason turn – has become the most uncertain of times this winter? That remains to be seen, but with Ohtani signing and the countdown to spring training not slowing, the market will pick up, and the Mariners have roster holes to fill.

What Mariners president of baseball operarions Jerry Dipoto and general manager Justin Hollander have available to them in terms of budget has not been shared publicly, but Dipoto has said he does expect to have a payroll above what was spent last season. How much is the key question.

What we do know is Dipoto had to pivot and clear dollars (estimated to be around $20 million) with trades in recent weeks. Is that his spending money for 2024, or will funds be added? Is he looking at $140 million or $150 million, somewhere in between or perhaps even more? Is that number even set? The optimist, if you can find one, would point out offseason surprises can go both ways.

Stating that the needs are “1½ corner outfielders” and a middle-of-the-lineup presence, perhaps in the form of a primary DH, there are options both in free agency and the trade market. Free agents who could help fill the Mariners’ roster needs include Jorge Soler, Rhys Hoskins, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., J.D. Martinez or perhaps even Korean star Jung Hoo Lee.

On the trade front, things could get interesting. The Twins have made Max Kepler and Jorge Polanco available. The Rays could move Randy Arozarena, Isaac Paredes or perhaps others. Maybe Baltimore is a potential trade partner? And how about Cleveland – could Josh Naylor be pried away?

Dipoto still holds a valuable trade chip in young, controllable starting pitchers. It would be an uncomfortable move to make with their current rotation depth, but in the current situation it is worth exploring.

What remains of the offseason could be very tense times for the Seattle Mariners. Getting free-agent bats to come to Seattle has been a challenge under the best of circumstances, and what is truly available in trade is never a certainty. It is not the hand Dipoto expected to be dealt, but it is his team, a team he spent the past five years building. There is a job to be finished regardless of circumstances, and in his comments to the media at the close of MLB’s winter meetings last week, Dipoto was candid about the situation and resolute as ever in his belief in the team.

“I’d be surprised 12 months ago to stand here and have gone through some of the alterations we’ve made, just this year,” Dipoto told reporters. “I’m really disappointed that we didn’t make it to the postseason, disappointed that this step in our growth wasn’t as effective as maybe we all envisioned it would be. I still think we have a really good team with a chance to be a great team.”

That was the plan after all.

More on the Seattle Mariners’ offseason

Morosi: ‘Fair to ask’ if Mariners ‘maxed out’ how good they can be
Mariners officially add two new coaches to manager Scott Servais’ staff
ESPN’s Schoenfield: Mariners not capitalizing on their best window
Former Mariners LHP Marco Gonzales lands with Pirates
Seattle Mariners’ Servais: ‘We want to do the best with the cards we’ve been dealt’

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