Seattle Mariners: 2017 Season Review and Offseason Preview

Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images /
4 of 4
SEATTLE, WA – SEPTEMBER 23: Nelson Cruz /

Top Offseason Needs

According to CBS Sports, the Mariners had the 13th-highest payroll in baseball on Opening Day, at $154 million. Felix Hernandez and Robinson Cano will make a combined $50 million next season, or almost a third of the team’s payroll this year.

Kyle Seager, Nelson Cruz, and Mike Leake will also make a pretty penny (with the Cardinals paying a portion of Leake’s contract).

The team will have openings at first base and in the outfield. They have plenty of arms for the starting rotation, but it’s more quantity than quality. Paxton has ace stuff, but Hernandez is no longer the pitcher he once was. He’s more of a mid-rotation starter these days and that’s without knowing how healthy he’ll be. Leake is more reliably healthy, but also a mid-rotation guy. The bullpen will be anchored by young Edwin Diaz and whatever arms GM Jerry Dipoto brings to spring training.

This is how their lineup and rotation look for 2018 based on their current roster, with salaries from Cot’s Baseball Contracts at Baseball Prospectus:

C Mike Zunino, arbitration-eligible


2B Robinson Cano, $24 million

SS Jean Segura, $9 million

3B Kyle Seager, $18.5 million

LF Ben Gamel, pre-arbitration


RF Mitch Haniger, pre-arbitration

DH Nelson Cruz, $14 million

SP Felix Hernandez, $26 million

SP Mike Leake, $17 million ($6 million paid by Cardinals)

SP James Paxton, arbitration-eligible

SP Erasmo Ramirez, arbitration-eligible

SP Ariel Miranda, Andrew Albers, Marco Gonzales, Andrew Moore

RP Edwin Diaz, pre-abitration

RP Marc Rzepczynski, $5.5 million

RP Many others…

Free agents: 1B Yonder Alonso, CF Jarrod Dyson, 1B Danny Valencia, C Carlos Ruiz

With the contracts the Mariners have in place, they are still in “go for it” mode, much like the last couple years. They won’t rebuild. They will reload around the talent they have. If they were to think about rebuilding, they would be looking to move Nelson Cruz in the final year of his contract. That likely won’t happen unless the team is out of contention as the trade deadline approaches next season.

The Mariners are looking for offense at first base and the outfield. At some point, they need to make a decision on first baseman Dan Vogelbach. He’s played two seasons in Triple-A and hit .291/.403/.480, but has only been given 44 major league plate appearances (.175/.250/.200). He’ll be 25 years old next year so it’s time to give him a lengthy shot at big league playing time or trade him to an organization that will.

If the Mariners look to the free agent market there are some first baseman available, including Eric Hosmer, Carlos Santana, Logan Morrison, and Lucas Duda. Santana was mentioned at MLB Trade Rumors. Even re-signing Yonder Alonso is a possibility. It all depends on whether the team thinks Vogelbach can get the job done.

Along with first base, upgrading the outfield will be a focus for the team. Haniger should be set in right field, unless the team thinks they could get by with him in center. He played 181 innings in center with the Diamondbacks in 2016 and Dipoto has said he’s comfortable with Haniger there.

More from Call to the Pen

Guillermo Heredia is a light-hitting option for center field also, but he hasn’t proven himself to be an everyday player. He could be part of a platoon, perhaps with Haniger moving between center and right field. Heredia has hit lefties much better than righties in two partial seasons in the big leagues. In 215 plate appearances against lefties, he’s hit .289/.346/.401 (seven percent better than average). In 318 plate appearances against righties, he’s hit .221/.306/.285 (34 percent below average).

Ben Gamel is still cheap and useful. He may not be a full-time player next year but could mix-and-match with Heredia and Haniger. If Dipoto looks to the free agent market, there are a variety of options, including top shelf guys like J.D. Martinez or Justin Upton, who could opt out of the remaining four years and $88 million left on his contract.

The Mariners have plenty of arms to conjure up a solid bullpen and Dipoto won’t be shy in adding more live arms to the mix. As for the rotation, Dipoto was asked if there’s a need to add a big starting pitcher. He said, “Would we like one? Sure. Do we need one? No.” He went on to say that the team could use a different approach with their staff. Instead of expecting the starter to go six or seven innings, they might get 15-18 outs and turn the game over to a deep pen.

The big wild card in the Mariners’ offseason is the quest for Japanese star Shohei Otani, who would be desired by many MLB teams if he chooses to come to the U.S. Otani will be just 23-years-old next July and has already established himself as one of the best players in Japan as a hitter and pitcher. He’s said he would like to continue to do both, which would make the AL a better fit than the NL.

Next: Cardinals 2017 Season Review

Getting Otani would be an incredible move for the Mariners and could inspire the fanbase. Mariner fans packed over three million fans into Safeco Field in the first few seasons that Ichiro Suzuki played in Seattle but has dropped to just over two million fans in each of the last four years. Otani and a playoff spot would do wonders for fan excitement and the team’s attendance in the future.