Morosi: Mariners ‘more focused’ on adding bats in free agency rather than trade

Dec 22, 2023, 9:51 AM | Updated: 11:06 am

Seattle Mariners Jorge Soler free agency...

Jorge Soler of the Miami Marlins poses prior to the All-Star Game in Seattle on July 11, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

We’re more than a month into the MLB offseason and so far, the Seattle Mariners have done far more subtracting than adding when it comes to the MLB roster.

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The Mariners made two notable moves to shed payroll, sending Eugenio Suárez to Arizona and Jarred Kelenic, Evan White and Marco Gonzales to Atlanta. White and Gonzales were flipped soon after.

Between Suárez, Kelenic, Teoscar Hernández and Mike Ford, four of Seattle’s regular lineup members from the 2023 team that missed the playoffs by a game are no longer with the club.

So what’s the latest buzz on what the Mariners may do to add to the lineup? MLB Network’s Jon Morosi shared his insight with Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob on Thursday.

“I mentioned on MLB Network today, first reported by the great Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, that there’s been some conversation between the Mariners and Guardians about Josh Naylor,” Morosi said. “That’s the kind of player the Mariners are looking at if they were to go in the trade area.”

Naylor, 26, had a nice year with Cleveland and is a left-handed bat that can play corner outfield and first base.

The potential issue for the Seattle Mariners, Morosi said, is what it would likely cost to acquire Naylor from the Guardians.

“As we know, if the Mariners venture into that domain of having to acquire a bat via trade, they’re going to get asked about this young pitching. That’s just the reality of where the Mariners are and where their depth is,” Morosi said. “And so if you’re a Mariner fan who wants a Josh Naylor or a Max Kepler (from the Twins), the question will be, ‘Well, how do you feel about Bryan Woo and others that are in that similar service time class?’ And it’s going to be hard to give them up.”

Morosi said the Mariners’ preference to keep its young pitching has them in a bit of a different position than other offseasons.

“For the moment, the Mariners have remained more focused on the free-agent front,” he said.

The Mariners under Jerry Dipoto, who took over baseball operations in 2015, have never given a multi-year contract to a free-agent hitter, and the most money they’ve given out on a free-agent hitting deal is $7 million to A.J. Pollock last offseason.

Morosi said there are “enough bats” out there that could help the Mariners in a major way in 2024. But money, as has been reported, may be an issue for the Mariners.

“Whether it’s Justin Turner, Jorge Soler, they might be a little too expensive for the Mariners’ taste at the moment at least,” he said. “Mitch Garver is one name that I would mention. I know I’ve alluded to him before, but I do believe just based on more of the information I’m gathering about where the Mariners are in their pursuits that Garver is around the price tag they’re comfortable going to. And if it ends up being a J.D. Martinez, a Justin Turner, a Jorge Soler, those bats are likely to have to wait until a little bit later if their prices come down.”

Morosi called the Mariners’ need for a bat “pronounced,” but stressed that they may need to be patient in order to get an impact free-agent bat at a cost that works for them.

“The number of available bats out there is sufficient that I do think the free-agent market will help them pair up with one of those bats,” Morosi said. “It may not be soon. This does appear to be a slower-developing market to where Mariner fans and fans in a lot of different markets are gonna have to be a little bit patient … In general, if you’re waiting and willing to be patient, I believe that you should be able to get a reasonably-priced impact bat in the new year.”

The issue, Morosi said, is that because of the players the Mariners have traded or let hit free agency, they’re clearly not one bat away.

“They’re at least two bats and maybe three (short) when you think about what they’ve lost since the season ended … That’s almost half of their lineup in some of the biggest games of the season,” he said. “So they have a lot of work to do to just get back to level, let alone to make a better impact on what that lineup could look like in 2024.”

Is Soler a good fit?

Soler is someone the Mariners have been tied to this offseason. The fit is an interesting one as the big right-handed slugger played in Miami last year under new M’s offensive coordinator and bench coach Brant Brown, who was Soler’s hitting coach with the Marlins.

Soler slugged 36 homers last year in 137 games, but he has played over 100 games just three times since 2019. He also is not the best defender in the outfield and would likely be best served as a designated hitter.

“It would be a bit of a roll of the dice with Soler just because his defensive value is rather limited. And to your point, he has not outside of the one year you’re talking about in 2019 where he played all 162, he has not been of one of the more consistently available players, let’s say, over the course of his career,” Morosi told Bob Stelton. “That even goes back to his time with the Cubs. But he played in 72 games in 2022, he put together a phenomenal postseason run with the Atlanta Braves in 2021 down the stretch. He made a huge impact on that club.”

In a “short burst,” Soler can provide a team with plenty of power.

“But he’s not necessarily the most steady and reliable presence,” Morosi said. “By that score, you might look at it and say how much differently would he profile than what you already saw with Teoscar Hernandez when you had him a year ago? And for that reason, there is maybe a little bit of caution.”

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