Editorials Offseason Plan

Let Jerry Cook: The 2021-2022 Seattle Mariners Off-Season Plan

The 2021-2022 MLB Off-Season is underway and as is tradition, it is time to unveil the True to the Trident Off-Season Plan!

Before we lay out our plan, we should establish some of our process, ground rules, and what you can expect from the plan. First and foremost, both Ty and I spent weeks coming up with our own personal off-season plans. They changed over time and we even shared some of our early drafts on the Control the Zone Podcast. The rules were simple: you have a $130 million maximum payroll and try to be realistic in contract cost and trade cost. But how we spent the money was up to us.

After each of us presented our plans, we hashed things out for 3 full episodes on the podcast (if you want a deeper dive into our thought process, subscribe to the Control the Zone podcast on Patreon) and started to lock in a plan that we could both be happy with while staying within our budget.

Many ideas were shared and debated both in public and in private, and some of those ideas will be listed below. Finally, don’t get too hung up on contracts and trade package. Those are, at best, educated guesses in what appears to be the most unpredictable market in a decade. With a labor stoppage on the way and a new CBA coming, we don’t have a good idea of where the markets will go, but we took an honest shot at it.

With all of that out of the way, sit back and enjoy our 2021-2022 Seattle Mariners Off-Season Plan!

FREE AGENT SIGNINGS

 

LHP Eduardo Rodriguez

Contract: Three years, $63 million
2022: $19 million, 2023: $21 million, 2024: $23 million

Unfortunately, finding somebody who carries the track record of an ace is extremely difficult and extremely expensive. Seattle has money and prospect capital, but finding an ace or #1 who wants to come to Seattle in free agency or is being shopped on the trade market is perhaps the smallest group of players in this off-season. At his best, Rodriguez misses plenty of bats, avoids hard contact at an elite level, and fills the strike zone. A quick glance at his ERA may scare a casual fan off, but Rodriguez has the stuff and control that profile more as a low-end #2 starter and his expected ERA (xERA) of 3.55 tells a much more accurate story of the quality of pitcher Rodriguez is.

*Others discussed: Luis Castillo, Kevin Gausman, Kyle Hendricks, Sonny Gray

 

RHP Alex Cobb

Contract: One year, $8 million

The sinker/splitter arm is one of the toughest to gauge in this free-agent class as his 2021 stands as such an deviation from his wretched 2019 and 2020 campaigns. It’ll be up to the Mariners to decide which Cobb is the real one. But at $8 million, we felt the #3 upside was well worth the risk. If you get the 2021 version of him, you have a rotation without any major weaknesses. If he’s not, you’ll only need him to cover 10-12 starts before a change can be made.

*Others discussed: Michael Pineda, Rich Hill, Steven Matz

 

RHP Chris Archer

Contract: One year, $1.5 million
Can make $3.5 million via incentives for innings pitched

Archer would be allowed to compete for the fifth spot in the rotation but also could see his stuff tick up in a relief role, something the Mariners are always looking to try (hello Kendall Graveman). If Archer cannot return to form, the risk is relatively low. But if he does, Seattle’s commitment maxes out at $5 million and they once again find a tremendous bargain where nobody else saw the value. It’s a shot in the dark, but allowing the Mariners current pitching development team to take that shot is a gamble that might be worth it.

* Others discussed: James Paxton, Matt Boyd, Andrew Heaney

 

C Yan Gomes

Contract: One year, $5 million

Gomes isn’t exciting, he posted a modest 92 wRC+ and a 1.6 fWAR. But such is the state of catcher that his 1.6 fWAR was 16th best at the position in 2021 and he is a solid defender who can help the Mariners fix one of their biggest weaknesses: controlling the run game. Honestly, we may be lowballing Gomes here. He’s the best option in free agency and a thin trade market is going to make Gomes extremely attractive to many teams.

* Others considered: Carson Kelly, Willson Contreras

 

INF Eduardo Escobar

Contract: Two years, $20 million
2022: $10 million, 2023: $10 million

But just because he’s an obvious, and admittedly boring, choice, doesn’t mean he’s a bad one. The 33-year-old Escobar can still hit, posting a 107 wRC+ in 2021, and is still a compotent defender at third and first base. He helps replace some of the power lost by Seager’s departure, and his ability to switch hit and play multiple positions gives Jerry Dipoto more of the versatility he craves.

* Others Considered: Brian Anderson, Evan Longoria, Josh Donaldson, Jose Ramirez, Jonathan Villar, Kris Bryant

 

OF Michael Conforto

Contract: One year, $13.5 million
Includes 2023 mutual option for $20 million with $5 million buyout

Conforto can flat out rake too. Even his down year of 2021 saw him post a 106 wRC+ in 125 games, but his career averages of .255/.356/.468 and 124 wRC+ show exactly what he can bring to the table. He’s not a great defender, but he is better than Mitch Haniger. With an open DH spot, the Mariners can rotate their outfielders through the spot, keeping everybody as fresh as possible down the home stretch.

The structure of this deal is important. With the buyout, Conforto is guaranteed $18.5 million, slightly more than he would have gotten on the qualifying offer. The $21 million option in 2023 can be appealing to both sides if Conforto hits, but ultimately allows each side to pick the scenario that fits them the best. Conforto is a middle of the order thumper who probably becomes the best all-around bat in the franchise the minute he puts on the uniform.

* Others Considered: Mark Canha

TRADES

 

Mariners acquire: LHP Taylor Hearn, UTL Nick Solak
Rangers acquire: RHP Justin Dunn, OF Jake Fraley

The Mariners land a hard-throwing lefty in Hearn, who could compete with Cobb and Archer for the 5th rotation spot, but likely falls into the bullpen battle. He’s got some interesting weapons, including a mid-90s fastball and a slider that has proven to be difficult to hit. Hearn could be a classic Mariners project, where an emphasis on pitch selection is all that is required, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Dipoto and his crew think they can send Hearn to AAA as a starter and take a look.

As successful as Dipoto has been at identifying relievers who just need small tweaks to explode, he’s also been fairly successful at finding young, mid-20’s bats with major success in the high minors and small sample sizes of success in MLB and turning them into useful players. Nick Solak could fit that role. He’s a great athlete, capable of playing multiple positions, but his best spot is at second base. Solak is a Dylan Moore replacement and one that carries a high upside and floor at the plate.

 

Mariners acquire: LHP Amir Garrett
Reds acquire: RHP Natanael Garabitos

 

Mariners acquire: LHP Jacob Lopez (from TB)
Braves acquire:
 C Tom Murphy (from SEA)
Rays acquire: RHP Adrian Quintana (from SEA), C Antonio Barranca (from ATL)

For their troubles, the Mariners land potential Rule 5 sacrifice Jacob Lopez from the Rays, adding an interesting arm to their farm system. Lopez got to work during COVID and saw his fastball velocity jump from the high-80s to the low-90s and he’ll even touch 93 MPH. He’s a bit of a high side-armer, but has shown to be quite good at two things: throwing strikes and missing bats. In 59.2 innings in 2021, Lopez punched out 96 batters while only walking 18. He’s mostly been a starter with the Rays, but his arm angle and stuff could see him thrive in a bullpen role as soon as Opening Day 2022. He is, at least, another interesting starting option to stash in AAA Tacoma, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he made an impact out of Seattle’s bullpen.

 

Mariners acquire: INF Jeff McNeil, RHP Willy Taveras
Mets acquire: RHP Drew Steckenrider, Levi Stoudt, LHP Anthony Misiewicz

McNeil is still an awesome hitter and is a solid defender at second base. I’d be pretty aggressive here, but the Mets are still looking to win in 2022, so there may not be a fit. Still, we talked about an awful lot of second baseman in our plans but this was the one player we both thought was a fun addition to our plan.

 

Mariners acquire: OF Byron Buxton
Twins acquire: RHP Emerson Hancock, OF Taylor Trammell

But rather than focus on what you give up, think about what Buxton could be. He’s an elite glove with elite speed, good contact skills, and now plus power. He’s a poor man’s, Mike Trout. And while we didn’t factor this into our trade talks, we would be hyper aggressive on extension talks with Buxton. It is a gamble, but when you’re trying to break a 20-year playoff drought, you’ll need to take some chances and believe in something. I believe Buxton is going to be an MVP candidate in 2022 and I sure would love for it to be in a Mariners uniform.

There you have it. Our 2021-2022 Off-Season Plan. In addition to the major additions, we did sign Jake Bauers, Shed Long, Ian McKinney, Jose Urena, Chance Sisco, Albert Almora, Renato Nunez, and Jason Martin. We also didn’t tender Dylan Moore a contract, making him a free agent. Our final payroll landed around $121 million and a full breakdown of the payroll and 40-man roster is available here

Our plan adds significant talent to the 26-man roster, without commiting long-term to any player maintaining as much fiscal and positional flexibility as any plan that I’ve seen. Hopefully, these hypothetical plans aren’t needed for much longer and Jerry Dipoto can make some moves before the inevitable lockout. But until then, this is our plan for this off-season.

26-MAN ROSTER PROJECTION

ROTATION

LHP Marco Gonzales
RHP Chris Flexen
LHP Eduardo Rodríguez
RHP Logan Gilbert
RHP Alex Cobb

BULLPEN

LHP Taylor Hearn
RHP Yohan Ramirez
RHP Andrés Muñoz
LHP Amir Garrett
RHP Casey Sadler
RHP Diego Castillo
RHP Ken Giles
RHP Paul Sewald

CATCHERS

C Yan Gomes
C Luis Torrens

INFIELDERS

1B Ty France
2B Jeff McNeil
3B Eduardo Escobar
SS J.P. Crawford
UTL Abraham Toro
UTL Nick Solak

OUTFIELDERS

OF Mitch Haniger
OF Michael Conforto
OF Byron Buxton
OF Jarred Kelenic
OF Kyle Lewis

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