SEATTLE -- With nearly 72 hours to let the sting of falling short of the postseason simmer, Mariners leadership on Tuesday reflected on what went right and wrong, and more so, where to go from here.
“We've elevated the floor of this team,” president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto said, sitting alongside GM Justin Hollander and manager Scott Servais. “And whether it be due to underperformance, lack of roster quality, or whatever it was that caused us to fall short in September, we now have obvious things to look at to try to get better.”
Seattle’s 88 wins were two shy of the barometer it achieved in each of the previous two years, and as the 2023 standings played out, reaching 90 again would’ve been enough to win the American League West.
Claiming the division crown was management’s intended goal in February. Dipoto, Servais and Hollander carried the same conviction on Tuesday that they did back then -- that Seattle is firmly within a championship window -- but with the platform for reflection on 2023, Dipoto acknowledged what many outside the organization had speculated or suggested as the club emerged from last offseason:
That more could’ve been done to augment the roster heading into Spring Training.
"It was a fail,” Dipoto said. “And sure, I regret it. I wish I could go back and do it over again. All you can do is just fix things as you move forward.”
Those misses lead to the grander question of how Seattle’s front office approaches this offseason. One where its greatest needs are limited on the free-agent market, where there’s an urging from the clubhouse to add “big-time hitters” and where the Mariners will be looking up, at least metaphorically, at the Rangers and Astros, who both entered September trailing Seattle in the standings but are now playing into October.
“We'll do the best that we can in trying to achieve the best outcomes, and if that means it's big-name players in either way, via free agency or trade, we'll do that,” Dipoto said. “If it means we get better in other incremental ways, we'll try to do that too.”
Over the weekend, clubhouse leader Cal Raleigh spoke bluntly, saying, “we've got to commit to winning” by “getting big-time pitchers, getting big-time hitters.” Those comments were supported the following day by J.P. Crawford and Logan Gilbert, after Raleigh apologized if he’d criticized his teammates.
Dipoto said he’s spoken with Raleigh and that they both want a sustainable winner.
“His opinions are his own and I don't begrudge anybody the ability to share their opinions; he should," Dipoto said. "I don't know that the solution to our problems is [adding] big-name players, and I'm not sure we have big problems."
Dipoto and Hollander are precluded from discussing free agents until those players reach that status, five days after the World Series. But they did acknowledge that this year’s class -- at least among hitters -- isn’t nearly as robust as recent years. The clearest fit, one shared by the other 29 clubs, is Shohei Ohtani, though his potentially lucrative deal and elbow injury impacting his pitching in 2024 have created a murkier outlook to his market.
Teoscar Hernández is on a shortlist among this year’s contingent, which could incentivize him not to accept a qualifying offer, should the Mariners make one. Dipoto said Tuesday that the organization is weighing that decision, which would represent a one-year deal of roughly $20.5 million.
Hernández accepting a potential QO would represent a salary raise, which would be in line with Dipoto’s forecast of an overall payroll increase from the $137.5 million Opening Day figure that ranked 18th, per Cots Baseball Contracts. Other increases would come from Logan Gilbert reaching arbitration via Super 2 status, while Julio Rodríguez, Marco Gonzales, Luis Castillo, Robbie Ray, Andrés Muñoz and Dylan Moore will also see a combined $25.8 million raise.
Asked directly about payroll, Hollander said: “We have plenty of resources, both player resources [as] avenues to trade for players. And I think we have plenty of financial resources to build a championship-level club."
The Mariners have philosophically operated on a more draft-develop-trade model. They don’t have an impact position-player prospect expected to fill an Opening-Day role, meaning they may need to again swim into the trade waters to add impact. Either way, it all points to a critical offseason.
“We're actually doing the fanbase a favor by asking for their patience to win the World Series while we continue to build a sustainably good roster,” Dipoto said.