Here’s where Mariners stand ahead of 2022

March 13th, 2022

PEORIA, Ariz. -- With a new Collective Bargaining Agreement in place, the Mariners can continue pressing on in an offseason that has long been viewed as one of their most critical in recent memory, one of great transition forward.

During the impasse, Seattle’s front office was not allowed to negotiate with free agents or make trades involving players on any 40-man roster, but with things up and running again, a frenzy of signings and trade could follow.

As the Mariners look ahead to the 2022 season, looks back on where Seattle’s roster stands.

What deals are already done?
LHP Robbie Ray signed via free agency: The biggest transaction -- so far -- was completed hours before the lockout began on Dec. 1, when Seattle signed the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner to a five-year, $115 million deal, the richest since general manager Jerry Dipoto arrived in 2015. The contract includes a no-trade clause for the first two years and an opt-out after the third. The 30-year-old led the AL last season in ERA (2.84), ERA+ (154), innings (193 1/3), starts (32) and WHIP (1.045), and he led the Majors with 248 strikeouts. A 2017 All-Star with Arizona, Ray will be an immediate top-of-the-rotation piece.

• 2B/OF Adam Frazier acquired from Padres: Seattle finally landed one of its Trade Deadline targets from last season, albeit four months later, when it traded for the All-Star infielder. The left-handed-hitting Frazier will take on the everyday second-base job for now, though his role will hinge on other acquisitions the Mariners make before Opening Day, particularly given that Frazier can also play left field. Seattle parted with prospects Ray Kerr, a left-handed pitcher with high velocity and upside, and Corey Rosier, a lower-tier outfielder, to complete the trade.

What are the biggest remaining needs and who might they target?
• A power-hitting infielder:
The Mariners have made it no secret they need to bolster their lineup after hitting .226/.303/.385 for a .688 OPS that ranked fourth worst in baseball. The most logical place to do so is at second or third base, now that Kyle Seager has retired.

The club was active in negotiations with blue-chip free agents Kris Bryant and Trevor Story before the lockout, both of whom indicated that the floor for any deal is six years, if not longer, according to sources. Seattle also checked in on Oakland’s Gold Glove tandem, Matt Olson and Matt Chapman, the latter being a strong fit for a specific need. Expect each of those negotiations to ramp back up now that Spring Training is on the horizon.

• Another starting pitcher: Signing Ray addressed a huge need, but the Mariners could benefit from another innings eater, preferably an established one. Seattle was bullish on Sonny Gray before the lockout, according to sources, and Cincinnati has publicly said it is willing to listen to offers on Gray, Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle. The same is true for Oakland with Frankie Montas.

Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn are back to compete for rotation spots, but those won’t be guaranteed given their injuries and inconsistencies. Dipoto didn’t rule out the possibility of top prospects Matt Brash (No. 10 in the Mariners’ system) and Brandon Williamson (No. 7) competing for a spot should Seattle not add from outside, but that’s not the preference.

Which of their free agents have signed elsewhere? Might there be a reunion among the unsigned?
Of the seven players in this category, the most realistic to return would be starting pitcher Tyler Anderson, whom the club acquired as a rental ahead of the Trade Deadline. Other than his final outing in Game 162, the lefty was solid down the stretch and consistently pitched deep into games. He’ll likely net a multiyear deal, but not in the nine-figure realm of Ray, making him a more affordable back-end option, but Anderson will also have other interested clubs that the Mariners would be bidding against.

Starting pitcher James Paxton is the only Mariners free agent who’s already signed, having agreed to a one-year, $10 million deal with Boston. Relievers Joe Smith and Sean Doolittle, veterans in their late 30s who were low-leverage bullpen plugs, won’t be back. And after Yusei Kikuchi surprisingly declined a one-year, $13 million player option in November, he’ll look to continue his big league career elsewhere.

Are there any players they are looking to trade?
The Mariners would certainly entertain offers for Luis Torrens, the slugger whose defensive struggles at catcher moved him almost exclusively into the DH role in late June. Torrens had a .764 OPS with 10 homers over his final 73 games, significantly better than Seattle’s other catchers, Tom Murphy (.655 OPS in 2021) and Cal Raleigh (.532). But the latter two are far superior defensively, and Dipoto has said the club doesn’t plan to add reinforcements this offseason.

Further complicating Torrens’ situation is that his DH reps could be in jeopardy. The Mariners will rotate that position to build in rest for everyday players, but moreover, if Kyle Lewis is fully healthy, they’ll want him in the lineup regularly -- and it likely won’t be in center field every day, at least to start, given the injury history of his right knee. The Mariners are bullish on Torrens’ bat, and he was working more aggressively at first and third base last year. But his long-term fit is unclear.

What outstanding arbitration cases are on the docket?
Below is a breakdown of the Mariners’ eligible players and their projected salaries, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts. Including these estimates, the Mariners have roughly a $100 million payroll allocated to their 40-man roster for 2022, with intent to add once the free-agent and trade markets pick up.

OF Mitch Haniger (third year, $8.01 million)
2B/OF Adam Frazier (third year, $6.5 million)
SS J.P. Crawford (second year, $4.5 million) Super Two in 2021
RHP Drew Steckenrider (second year, $1.75 million)
C Tom Murphy (second year, $1.75 million)
RHP Diego Castillo (first year, $1.75 million)
RHP Paul Sewald (first year, $1.7 million)
UTIL Dylan Moore (first year, $1.5 million)
C/DH Luis Torrens (first year, N/A) Super Two
RHP Casey Sadler (first year, agreed to $1.025 million deal on Nov. 30)

How many open spots are there on the 40-man roster?
Zero. The Mariners reached capacity one day before the lockout when they tendered 2022 contracts to the 33 players eligible for one. Given the desire for roster clarity before the lockout, Seattle didn’t need to non-tender anyone. But that doesn’t mean that the 40-man won’t look different by the time spring games begin, especially if the Mariners are successful in their pursuit of impact talent from outside the organization. Any players they add externally will require them subtracting internally.