ESPN’s Jeff Passan: What are Mariners’ realistic offseason options?

Dec 12, 2023, 1:57 PM | Updated: 4:23 pm

Seattle Mariners jeff passan Texas Rangers Mitch Garver...

The Rangers' Mitch Garver swings against the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Park on Sept. 29, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners have cleared an estimated $20 million in salary with trades in recent weeks, and additions are expected to improve the roster before the 2024 season.

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What moves could the M’s realistically make considering what has been reported about the team’s budget for next season? Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk caught up with ESPN senior MLB insider Jeff Passan on Tuesday morning to get his insight.

With Seattle having parted ways with three well-known offensive contributors this offseason in Eugenio Suárez, Teoscar Hernández and Jarred Kelenic, Passan thinks the M’s are fighting an uphill battle trying to get even back to the same level of talent on offense they had in 2023.

“You cannot put out as good of a lineup as you had last year if that’s the money you have to spend,” he said. “I’m sorry to be doomy and gloomy right now but that’s just sort of the reality of it.”

Co-host Mike Salk made a counterpoint.

“Out of curiosity, I mean, it’s not like Geno (Suárez) had a good year, Teo didn’t have a very good year. You don’t think you could get two $10 million-a-year players to have more productivity than them?” Salk asked.

When it comes to that pay range, Passan landed on one name that makes a lot of sense for the Mariners: catcher Mitch Garver, who is a free agent after posting an .870 OPS with 19 home runs in 87 games for Texas last season, the majority of which he served as a designated hitter.

“Garver makes the most sense. Garver makes the most sense in many regards,” Passan said. “He hits the ball really, really hard. He plays catcher, and I know Cal (Raleigh) is like a workhorse back there, but if you can have Mitch Garver in the lineup for the 25 games Cal doesn’t catch, great.”

There’s a question mark with the 32-year-old Garver, though.

“Garver is also a guy who has been injured, and so there is risk there,” Passan said.

Garver has never played more than 102 games in a season since his MLB debut in 2017, and in 2023 alone he dealt with foot and knee issues, plus sore ribs due to being hit by a pitch in the American League Championship Series (on a fastball thrown by the Houston Astros’ Bryan Abreu – hey, Garver sounds like a Mariner already).

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What about a younger impact bat? On that front, Passan wasn’t optimistic on the Seattle Mariners landing Korean league MVP Jung Hoo Lee, who reportedly agreed to go to the San Francisco Giants a few hours after the reporter’s conversation with Brock and Salk. Instead, he presented a few veteran options.

“If you want to spend pretty much the entirety of your budget (on Lee), yes, he’d be great. The problem there is that he’s a center fielder,” Passan said. “So it’s almost like your the value of Jung Hoo Lee comes as much from his position as anything else, and well, center field is already well taken care of (with Julio Rodríguez). I mean, do you look at Lourdes Gurriel? Do you look at, like, a J.D. Martinez or a Justin Turner? There are options, but you’re not getting two of those guys. If it’s $20-25 million (that the Mariners have available), you are not getting two of those bats.”

What a trade would mean

An idea that has come up a lot even since before the 2023 MLB trade deadline is trading one of the Mariners’ young starting pitchers to bring in offensive help. Bryan Woo and Bryce Miller, who had strong rookie seasons, are the two most likely trade candidates in that scenario.

Asked about that, Passan said the kind of return the Mariners get in this hypothetical would say a lot about the team’s mentality.

“If they were to trade Bryan Woo or Bryce Miller for either a rental player or a guy who has two years left, as opposed to somebody else who’s pre-arbitration, that would tell me that the focus is on winning now,” Passan said. “I just don’t think that’s how they operate or think – and that is a choice, and it’s a choice that I think rational fans understand but don’t like, and frankly shouldn’t like. Because even if you are rational, your most rational voice says, ‘This window right now might be the best we have going forward. Why aren’t we taking advantage?'”

Listen to the full Brock and Salk conversation about the Seattle Mariners with ESPN senior MLB insider Jeff Passan in the podcast at this link or or player near the top of this post.

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