Mariners done adding to roster? 'You never know'

February 21st, 2024

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Mariners position players joined their pitching teammates on the field on Tuesday for the first full-squad workout of Spring Training, finally gathering the many new faces to a revamped roster in one place.

Yet even with an overhauled group that they’re comfortable with rolling out on Opening Day, for a front office that made as many significant trades as any team this offseason, it’s been hard not to ponder if they’re done adding -- particularly given that there are unsigned free agents who would be clear fits within the roster’s current construction.

“You never know,” general manager Justin Hollander said Tuesday at Cactus League media day. “I think this group of players that we have -- our 40-man roster as is -- we may add on the margins, we may add in a more significant way, but I would expect it's probably more on the margins than a real significant way based on where we’re at.”

Specifically, according to sources, the Mariners had conversations earlier this month about former All-Star Matt Chapman -- but those were tempered and hinged only on the unlikely possibility that the third baseman’s price tag drops massively. Even then, they’d likely need a green light from ownership for not just the acquisition but also to increase the budget to do so.

Chapman is believed to be seeking a long-term deal in excess of $100 million, which is a non-starter for the Mariners. A a shorter deal stacked with incentives would be more palatable but has been a non-starter with Chapman's agent, Scott Boras.

Seattle's front office has admired Chapman for years from his five seasons in Oakland, and the club made an aggressive offer to acquire him two years ago during the A’s major sell-off, centered around former top prospect Noelvi Marte, who later headlined the package to acquire Luis Castillo. However, aside from the A's sky-high ask for George Kirby, they were believed to be wary of trading Chapman within the division and instead dealt him to Toronto. It was only after the Mariners were turned down that they pivoted to acquire Eugenio Suárez.

Moreover, Chapman has won four Gold Glove Awards and is widely known for exhibiting the work ethic and preparation the Mariners' core players pride themselves in. He'd seemingly fit right in with Julio Rodríguez, Cal Raleigh, J.P. Crawford and the rest of Seattle's core.

The Mariners have uncertainty at third base for the first time since Kyle Seager’s first full season in 2012. They will look to replace an elite defender, Suárez, with a platoon of Josh Rojas and Luis Urías, who both grade below average defensively and aren’t primary run producers like either of their predecessors. Additionally, manager Scott Servais revealed on Tuesday that Urías is dealing with right shoulder inflammation and will be limited to start camp.

Asked if the Mariners feel vulnerable at that position, Hollander said: “I don't really feel that way, no. ... We feel really good about what the combination of Josh and Luis can do for us this year.”

The Mariners never had much discussion about Seattle native Blake Snell, and it ended quickly -- especially after the club navigated its offseason without having to trade any of its five starting pitchers.

Snell is coming off his second Cy Young Award-winning season, but one in which he threw only 180 innings in 32 starts (less than six innings per start) and walked 13.3% of the batters he faced -- far from the “Dominate The Zone'' mantra that the Mariners live by. Seattle could use starting pitching depth, but not for the price tag or profile that Snell comes with.

“I think, like 29 other teams, we wish we had more,” Hollander said. “I feel really good about our first five plus Emerson [Hancock]. Plus we have Austin Voth in the fold, who started a lot of big league games in the past. And then we have another group behind them, both in Triple-A and Double-A who are more unproven. I'm guessing that there will be people that emerge from that.”

As for Cody Bellinger, the Mariners were never in on the former NL MVP -- either last winter when he was seeking a one-year contract to restore his value, or this offseason, coming off a huge bounceback.

So, as Hollander indicated, the Mariners will most likely roll with what they’ve got -- which includes the return of Mitch Haniger and the acquisitions of Mitch Garver and Jorge Polanco to the lineup, supplemented by the core of Julio Rodríguez, J.P. Crawford and Cal Raleigh, who are each entering their prime.