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Mariners Offseason: Ideal Moves for Growth in 2021

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The Seattle Mariners’ offseason has started and they overachieved expectations in the shortened 60-game season. Before the 2020 season started, the media predicted they were going to be one of the worst teams in baseball. 

In 2020, the Seattle Mariners were one of the youngest teams in the league. Outfielder Kyle Lewis was impressive the entire season and was honored as Rookie of the Year.  First baseman, Evan White, was impressive on defense and won the Gold Glove at first base. It will likely be one of many Gold Gloves to come for White.  Shortstop, JP Crawford, was inconsistent at the plate, but very solid defensively, earning himself a Gold Glove at short in the American League.  

The Seattle Mariners had one of the worst bullpen ERAs in the league this season.  Jerry Dipoto, the General Manager of the Mariners, said that in the offseason he would target three to four relievers and overhaul the bullpen and other positions, as needed, to help get to the playoffs, but he wouldn’t sacrifice the big-money contract right now. His 2021 goal is to reach the playoffs and balance the continued development of young players on the team, coming from the minor leagues.

Mariners: Ideal Moves

The Seattle Mariners would benefit from these moves and they could help move the team closer to the contending stages in their rebuilding process.

Mariners should trade for Brad Keller: Brad Keller has been impressive but inconsistent at times for the Kansas City Royals since he was selected in the Rule-5 draft in December 2017. He was impressive in the 2018 season, winning nine games as a rookie starter for Royals with a 3.08 ERA in 141 innings (20 starts). 

As expected, in 2019, the league got to him as he plummeted to seven wins with an ERA of 4.19. Some losses were just hard luck, as the Royals played a bunch of low scoring games with their bullpen blowing leads; this made his record and ERA in 2019 deceiving. 

In the 2020 season, Keller was solid, with five wins and an era of 2.47, despite starting late after testing positive for COVID-19.  He would be the ideal number two starter, behind Marco Gonzales for the Mariners, and he would have three years of team control and arbitration. 

Trade: Mariners trade OF Jake Fraley, RHP Isaiah Campbell, RHP Ljay Newsome to the Royals for Brad Keller.  Fraley would be the premier name going to Royals in the trade. He would replace Alex Gordon in the Outfield for the Royals and he would have five years of team control which helps the Royals have flexibility in the outfield. Currently, Fraley doesn’t have a place on the Mariners’ roster because Jarred Kelenic is close to being Major League ready for Mariners.  

The Mariners need to sign a couple of relievers: Trevor May of the Minnesota Twins would be a perfect set up guy for the Mariners out of the bullpen. He’s a local kid out of Kelso, Washington, he throws hard and had a solid last couple of years for the Twins.

He would pitch in front of his family and friends if the Mariners decide to go after him in free agency. The Mariners really need help in the pivotal roles of the bullpen.  Mariners’ manager, Scott Servais, would like to shorten the games after he takes out the starters after six or seven innings of work.

The Seattle Mariners need to target Roberto Osuna. Osuna was released because of money issues with the Houston Astros. He is just 25 years old and having elbow issues, but his agent recently said he’s rehabbing hard and should be ready to go for spring training.  He has experience being a closer for the Toronto Blue Jays and Houston Astros and has been through a couple of sets of playoffs. It would benefit the Mariners’ bullpen to have an experienced closer for the ninth inning, as they move toward contending stages of the rebuild.

The Mariners need to sign Liam Hendriks as one of their relievers.  Assuming Osuna ends up signing a two-year deal with Mariners and has Tommy John surgery, Hendriks would slide into the closer role. While Osuna rehabs from surgery, Hendriks would take the closer role in 2021. He has been one of the best relievers in baseball for the last three years.  Hendriks is at the stage of his career where he would want to go to a contending team but his age is an issue. Teams would be concerned about giving him a big deal. If he has to take a one-year deal, look for the Mariners to go after him aggressively.

The Mariners need to build depth off the bench: Dipoto said that he wants to improve the depth off the bench for Mariners. Look for Mariners to sign a backup catcher, a fourth outfielder, and an infielder to balance their roster. 

The Mariners are considering going after Adam Eaton, which would be perfect to start the season until Jarred Kelenic is called up from the Minor Leagues.  Eaton has been through big games in his career with the Chicago White Sox and Washington Nationals and would be a good leader in the clubhouse for the young team in Seattle.

Tom Murphy, the Mariners’ starting catcher, was out all season in 2020 with a foot injury and it’s now been confirmed that he needs surgery to fix a torn Achilles. If he isn’t ready to go for the 2021 season,  Dipoto may look for a starting catcher to start the season.

The ideal starting catcher would be Mike Zunino, but he struggled with the Tampa Bay Rays. He was a solid defensive catcher for the American League Champions and could be a solid catcher to guide young future starters like Justin Dunn, Justus Sheffield, and Logan Gilbert. When Gilbert is deemed ready for the big leagues, the Mariners will call him up.  The backup would be Luis Torrens who the Mariners acquired in the Austin Nola trade in July 2020.  When Murphy is ready to go in June or early July, Torrens can be sent down to Tacoma to continue his development in Triple-A.

The Seattle Mariners have a young second baseman in Shed Long. He has been struggling since he was called up in September 2019 and had a rough 2020 season. He was dealing with a shin fracture and was rushed to the big leagues in 2019 when the team was suffering a lot of injuries.  

The Seattle Mariners should consider Kolten Wong for second base, he can hit and defend and do it all on the baseball field. He won a Gold Glove the past two years for the St Louis Cardinals, and he can take second base temporarily for the Mariners. Long would benefit from a year full of Triple-A, barring injuries to the big league club, or can be used in a trade in the July trading deadline 2021 to help the Mariners for the final run up to the playoffs.

Conclusion

The Seattle Mariners have a boatload of money coming off the books over the next few offseasons. The Mariners could use some of that money in this offseason, then go after big names in the 2021-22 offseason to help them in a big push toward a bright future. Fans should expect Dipoto and the company to spend the money wisely this offseason and continue the development of the young players on the roster and others coming up from the Minor Leagues, then start the big push in 2022.

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