STACY ROST

A.J. Pierzynski dives into what’s frustrating him about the Mariners

Dec 15, 2023, 4:18 PM | Updated: 4:21 pm

Seattle Mariners...

Seattle Mariners infielders J.P. Crawford, Eugenio Suárez, Ty France and Josh Rojas on Aug. 23, 2023. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

(Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

Call it East Coast bias or call it being a team that has one playoff appearance in 20 years, but the Seattle Mariners aren’t often a topic of national conversation.

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That spotlight has typically been reserved for major market teams like the Yankees, Red Sox, and Dodgers, or powerhouses like the Braves. After all, who doesn’t want to talk about the game’s stars?

That’s changed more recently. Sometimes for good reason. Julio Rodríguez took the baseball world by storm in 2022, particularly following his show-stopping performance in the Home Run Derby, dominating the conversation even over derby winner Juan Soto.

But this month, the attention has been from national reporters or former players who are feeling fan frustration.

That’s what’s been happening for A.J. Pierzynski, a longtime MLB catcher and current analyst for FOX and co-host of Foul Territory, who joined Stacy Rost and Curtis Rogers Friday to talk about his confusion about the Mariners’ lack of moves.

“What’s frustrating is the lack of anything, to me,” Pierzynski said when asked what about the Mariners has been so fascinating as a national host. “The lack of moves, other than trading guys away. We questioned when they traded Paul Sewald during the season to Arizona, who went on to go to the World Series. We were like, what are they doing? Why would they trade that guy? Then they trade (Eugenio Suárez) this offseason, not bringing back Teoscar Hernández. And you look at Shohei. (It may have been) a foregone conclusion he was going to L.A., but I’ve been to Seattle and he’d be a great fit … It’s been crazy to me that the Mariners, who have money – and you guys, listen, they come out to Mariners games and they pack (the park) – it’s just amazing that ownership hasn’t done enough to raise the payroll (to do more and make them consistent).”

No disrespect intended for the A’s, a soon-to-be relocated team, but not many national experts will be digging into why they’re not spending this offseason. Nor will they question why young teams are focused on rebuilding. Neither scenario is playing out for the Mariners, who are a team with a talented core and excellent pitching that should be ascending. And it’s where the confusion is borne.

“Their pitching is ridiculous,” Pierzynski said. “The back-end of their bullpen has been great. Julio got off to a rough start last year but finished very strong. But what do we keep saying the Mariners need? They need to score runs. And they keep trading guys away who have driven in runs for them…  At what point are you going to add offensive pieces?

“Where’s the guy who’s gonna help Julio take it to the next level? Where’s the offensive help for Cal Raleigh? Who are those guys gonna be? And J.P. Crawford had a nice year. But I wanna see the Mariners go out and get a thumper in the middle of their lineup. A guy who can go out there and hit 40 homers for him and take some pressure off Cal, take some pressure off Julio. If you watch our interview with Cal Raleigh, he pretty much was like, ‘Listen, I hit fourth for us last year. I’m not really a four-hole hitter. Which, great, not everyone’s meant to hit fourth. He’d be great fifth or sixth with a little bit more protection, but the Mariners haven’t made that move.”

The Mariners were expected to enter the 2024 season exceeding their $140 million 2023 payroll, but it’s unclear by how much, particularly following recent comments from M’s brass. They’ve since cleared $20 million in payroll, leaving only the question of whether it’ll be enough to find impactful bats.

Pierzynski, who was asked more generally about how hard it is to sign free agents when you’re not a big-market team, isn’t buying that free agents will always follow money.

“I disagree, because I took less money many times to stay in Chicago and do some other things. You guys live in Seattle. Seattle’s friggin’ beautiful, man. I know it gets a bad rap for being rainy and cloudy but man there are a lot of nice days. The All-Star Game was beautiful, the Home Run Derby was unbelievable. And they have a roof out there. I think Seattle has a great opportunity with the fanbase to really lure some people in. I just don’t know why they haven’t done it.”

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