There are going to be no shortage of ideas tossed around by Mariners fans this winter. But some should cause more pause than others. Which free agents should the Mariners front office be wary of?
The Mariners are going to be active this winter, both in the trade market and in free agency. And while any acquisition could make sense at the right cost, there are some that could backfire at the wrong cost. Here are three names that Seattle’s front office need to be extremely careful with.
No, I’m not saying the Mariners shouldn’t sign Kris Bryant. There are many well rationed arguments to be made about adding Bryant. He’s a great hitter, posting a 123 wRC+ with a career .278/.376/.504 triple slash. He’d easily sit right in the heart of the Mariners order and can move around the corners of the diamond, giving the Mariners ultimate flexibility. But there are a few red flags.
First, he isn’t nearly the player he was in his first three seasons in the big leagues. In those 450+ games, Bryant posted an incredible 20.7 fWAR and never had a wRC+ lower than 136. But since 2018, Bryant has had just one season topping 4 fWAR (4.7 in 2019). He was legitimately bad in 2020. Now, set to turn 30-years-old, Bryant is going to hit the market looking to cash in on a big deal, and he may not get another shot. Giving a 30-year-old more than four years isn’t necessarily wise, especially one that is declining defensively. Anything more than 4-years at $22-$27 million AAV is going to be a stretch for Seattle, and may not ultimately be enough to land Bryant anyways.
Again, there is nothing wrong with the Mariners signing Schwarber at the right number. He’s going to represent a sizable upgrade to this lineup. But paying for somebody coming off a career year is always a risk. Schwarber likely isn’t going to get paid for his 145 wRC+ season, which is good because it is a total outlier for the 29-year-old. In addition to not wanting to pay for the 2021 version of Schwarber, there are other issues surrounding this addition. Where the heck would Schwarber play the field? He’s terrible in the outfield and even if he wasn’t a disaster at first base, Ty France is a safer bet to perform in 2022 anyways.
Of course, the team does have the DH, but GM Jerry Dipoto has spoken against the idea of having a full time DH, instead wanting to keep the position open as a means to rotate players to maximize matchups or juggle ABs between multiple players. Schwarber is a career 118 wRC+ hitter and he has to be paid accordingly. A multi-year deal for Schwarber is tough to see, especially if the Mariners are against a full-time DH. And if Seattle were open to a full-time DH, wouldn’t Nelson Cruz make more sense?
Remember when Marte was reportedly asking for just $45 million over three years to sign an extension with the Marlins? Well, if that’s the deal he is still willing to take, the Mariners should be all over that. But I think we can safely say that Marte is going to command a lot more than $15 million AAV over three years. The Mariners could use a centerfielder and leadoff hitter, so Marte would make a lot of sense, right?
Well, remember what we said about not wanting to pay a player coming off their best season? Well, that certainly applies to Marte, who turned 33-years old earlier this month. He’s a player on the back-end of his prime who just put up the best year of his career. Those are major red flags by themselves. In addition, the value of centerfield defense is a bit overrated for Marte, since most agree that Marte is an average center fielder who spent most of his career in left field. Marte isn’t magically going to get better in center as he ages.
There are plenty of scenarios where signing Marte makes sense. But almost none of them include giving Marte more than three years or expecting him to be an asset in centerfield. If Dipoto and crew really want him, they should strongly consider giving him a higher AAV in order to shave length of the contract. But it’s probably better if the Mariners just look else where this winter.