Analysis

Seattle Mariners 2024 Off-Season Overview

After falling short of the playoffs in 2023, the Seattle Mariners are feeling the pressure to make significant changes that will maximize their current window. Coming out of the offseason, fans are eager to see how the Mariners have positioned themselves for the upcoming season.

As we continue a common theme from the past few offseasons for this front office, specifically the people making financial decisions, they are unwilling to increase payroll even above the league average. As of the time of this article, the Mariners projected payroll is $124 million, over $20 million under the league average ($147 million) per Spotrac.

In an offseason that included MLB free agents like Shohei Ohtani, Blake Snell, Cody Bellinger, Josh Hader, and Aaron Nola, the Mariners chose to almost completely opt out of signing anyone to a major league deal. Other free agents they could have looked to sign include top foreign options like Yoshinobu Yamamoto, Jung Hoo Lee, Yariel Rodriguez, and Shota Imanaga.

Free Agent Losses and Signings

Let’s start by looking at the players Seattle lost after the 2023 season. This is a pretty short list. Although there is some roster turnover, a lot of that came via the trade market, which we will look at in the next section. The three free agent losses were Tom Murphy, Teoscar Hernandez, and Mike Ford. Murphy was signed to a 2-year deal with the Giants, Teoscar was one of the many signings by the Dodgers this offseason, and Ford just signed a minor-league deal with the Reds. The players who signed to major league deals are an even shorter list. That list includes Mitch Garver on a 2-year, $24 million deal (with a $12 million mutual option for a 3rd year) and Austin Voth on a 1-year, $1.25 million deal. Garver was an unexpected Christmas Eve signing for the Mariners and is expected to be the full-time DH, while also having the ability to fill in at catcher. Garver will look to get his first career hit at T-Mobile park, currently sitting at a career 0-31. Voth is in for a bit of a homecoming when he plays in Seattle this season. He is from Redmond, WA, and played his collegiate baseball at the University of Washington. Even though he has only started in 39 of his 139 career appearances, he is expected to get stretched out this spring to give rotation depth or provide bulk innings out of the bullpen.

A Flurry of Impact Trades

We are going to take a look at these trades in chronological order, starting with an MLB player swap. In a trade with the Red Sox, the Mariners sent reliever Isaiah Campbell in exchange for INF Luis Urías. Coming off an overall underperforming year, the Mariners are hoping that he can build off the last 32 games of the season with Boston where he had an OPS+ of 91, compared to his lowly 50 OPS+ in Milwaukee. Urías seems to be another in the long line of guys like Adam Frazier and Kolten Wong that the Mariners are hoping can return to past form potentially too late in their careers. Urías is already dealing with a throwing shoulder issue in camp and is currently limited during workouts.

Less than four months after the Mariners sent one fan favorite to the Diamondbacks, they sent another one in trading Eugenio Suárez. Suárez was traded in essentially a salary dump, with the Mariners acquiring catcher Seby Zavala and relief pitcher Carlos Vargas. Zavala looks like he could see time as the backup catcher and Vargas is a live arm with some control issues who is expected to start the season in AAA. Suárez saw a dip in offensive production last year with only 22 home runs after back-to-back 30+ HR seasons and striking out a career-high 214 times.

Less than two weeks later, the Mariners traded a few more household names in Jarred Kelenic, Marco Gonzales, and Evan White + cash in a trade with Atlanta for Jackson Kowar and Cole Phillips. Kowar is a former first-round pick by the Royals who was traded to the Braves earlier in the offseason before being flipped to the Mariners. Kowar certainly has not lived up to the high pick, pitching parts of the last 3 seasons in Kansas City with a 9.12 ERA in 74 innings. Phillips is a 2022 second-round pick by the Braves who has yet to throw a professional inning after it was announced he will need a 2nd Tommy John surgery. Kelenic had been in trade talks for much of the last season or so. A former Mets top pick, he was the big piece in the deal that sent Edwin Diaz to New York. After a hot start to the 2023 season, he missed almost 50 games after breaking his foot by kicking a water cooler. Marco Gonzales was a consistent staple in the rotation from 2018-2022, but he only threw 50 innings in the 2023 season while dealing with an elbow/forearm issue. That missed time in combination with over $12 million salary in 2024 was a big reason he was moved. White agreed to a six-year, $24 million contract in November 2019 before his big league debut and won a Gold Glove at first base during the 2020 season. After only playing 30 games in 2021, he has yet to make his way back to the big leagues. Multiple hip surgeries, as well as other injuries, have set him back. He is owed $15 million total over the next three seasons, with three more years of team options running through 2028.

Then, on the same day in January, the Mariners completed two separate trades. The first was a player-for-player swap with the Rays. Seattle acquired UTL Luke Raley for INF Jose Caballero. Raley posted a .249/.333/.490 line in 2023, all career highs. He is expected to play corner outfield, but can also fill in at 1B if needed. The second trade was with the San Francisco Giants. The Mariners sent Robbie Ray and cash to the Giants for Mitch Haniger and Anthony DeSclafani. After winning the 2021 Cy Young, Ray had a disappointing season in 2022 and is currently in the rehab process after having Tommy John early in the 2023 season. Bringing back Haniger was a nice bit of fan service after the front office had shipped out many fan favorites. After only playing in 61 games last season, Seattle is hoping Haniger can stay healthy in a potential OF platoon with one of Dominic Canzone, Taylor Trammell, or Cade Marlowe

Less than a month after he was acquired, Anthony DeSclafani was traded along with Justin Topa, cash, and minor leaguers Gabriel Gonzalez and Darren Bowen for Jorge Polanco. Polanco is a former All-Star who is looking to fill a hole at 2B that has been open since Robinson Cano left. Dowen saw time in A ball last season and Gonzalez is seen by some publications as a borderline top 100 prospect. DeSclafani was seen as a potential bulk guy or 6th starter, but after the signing of Austin Voth, he was no longer necessary. Topa was another one of these relievers that the Mariners picked up and turned into a quality reliever. After throwing only 18.1 innings and posting an 8.35 ERA in 3 seasons with the Brewers, he posted a 2.61 ERA in 69 innings last year.

In the final trade of the offseason, the Mariners acquired reliever Gregory Santos from the White Sox in exchange for Perlander Berroa and Zach DeLoach. Santos is currently dealing with a bit of an arm issue but he is expected to be an impact arm in the bullpen. He is over the 85th percentile on Baseball Savant in breaking ball run value, xERA, fastball velocity, chase %, BB %, barrel %, and ground ball %. Berroa saw limited time at the big league level in 2023, striking out and walking three in 1.2 innings. Berroa has a high ceiling but Santos gives them a bit more of a known commodity. DeLoach is an OF prospect who had yet to make his MLB debut in an often crowded Seattle outfield.

Small Moves to Look Out For

The final moves we are going to look at are things like fringe trades, waiver claims, and minor league deals. Two depth trades we saw included acquiring Blake Hunt from the Rays and Samad Taylor from the Royals. Hunt was acquired in a catcher swap for Tatem Levins and will probably start the season in AAA. Taylor was acquired in a 40-man clearing move for the Royals for either cash or a PTBNL. Some potential pitching depth pieces were found in the waiver claims, with Mauricio Llovera claimed from the Red Sox, Collin Snider from the Diamondbacks, and most recently Levi Stoudt from the Reds. Llovera and Snider give the Mariners some bullpen depth and Stoudt comes back to the organization to give them some starter depth in AAA. Minor league deals include notable names like Michael Chavis, Ty Buttrey, Joey Krehbiel, Cole Tucker, Nick Solak, Heath Hembree, and most recently Brian Anderson. I do not expect any of these guys to make the opening-day roster unless a significant injury were to happen. Anderson is probably the most likely, but that is only if the shoulder injury for Urías continues to be a problem

Debuts We Could See This Season

One of the last things we are going to discuss is any potential MLB debuts we might see for the Mariners this season. Of the 11 players that debuted last season, I correctly predicted 6 of them in my article about last offseason. A few guys I expect to see this year include INF Ryan Bliss, C Blake Hunt, and RHP Jimmy Joyce. Other guys that could also make their way up at some point include OF Jonatan Clase, 1B Tyler Locklear, RHP Travis Kuhn, and INF Morgan McCullough. If he can bounce back from labrum surgery, there is a slight chance RHP Taylor Dollard could debut as well. Of the 7 names I listed last year, he was the only one not to make his debut.

Question Marks for 2024

What can Bryan Woo and Bryce Miller expect in their sophomore season? Sophomore slumps or successful seasons that could drive up any potential trade value?

Can we expect another successful season from the bullpen even after the continued turnover?

Can the expected 3B platoon of Urias and Rojas hold up throughout the season?

Is Luis Castillo still the ace of this pitching staff? Or will George Kirby take another step forward and cement himself at the top?

What can we expect out of the fringe bench and depth pieces? How can guys like Taylor Trammell, Cade Marlowe, Ryan Bliss, and Dominic Canzone make an impact on this team?

Can Jorge Polanco stay healthy and finally fill the void at 2B?


Featured Photo: Mariners / Twitter

Michael Fitzpatrick

Michael Fitzpatrick is a former collegiate baseball player who played baseball for over 20 years. He has a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's in Sports Psychology. He is an avid baseball fan and a life long Seattle Mariners fan. Hope you enjoy! Twitter: Fitz_God16

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