Where will Mariners' front office strike next?

November 25th, 2022

This story was excerpted from Daniel Kramer's Mariners Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

SEATTLE -- Where will Jerry Dipoto and Justin Hollander strike next?

The Mariners’ president of baseball operations and general manager, respectively, are among the quickest to ignite the Hot Stove each offseason, continuing that trend with the high-profile trade with the Blue Jays for Teoscar Hernández last week.

It was the first -- and perhaps most -- prominent need they filled on their offseason checklist, the other being a much-required middle infielder and maybe another corner outfielder to pair with Hernández. Bullpen reinforcements are always vital, too.

The Mariners are making it no secret that their most likely avenues for roster upgrades -- as has been the case throughout Dipoto’s seven seasons -- will be via trades rather than splurging for bluechip free agents.

“Some teams tend to move more methodically, we tend to move at a much faster pace,” Dipoto said. “Even the teams that move methodically, when we call, they know it's on and that they better move a little faster if they want to get in the game with us, so to speak.”

That said, urgency has tapered a bit after acquiring Hernández, who has the potential to be Seattle's top run producer while giving the roster lineup more clarity -- though the team understands there are still clear needs.

“We've had a number of trade conversations with other clubs,” Dipoto said. “I don't sense that anything is particularly close. We have gotten to the point with a number of teams where we've exchanged names that might be interesting to create a match, and we haven't had a direct hit in that regard yet. We're going to be patient, there's really no need to rush.”

As things stand, the Mariners haven’t decided which corner Hernández will play, but some combination of Jarred Kelenic, Jesse Winker, Sam Haggerty, Dylan Moore and Taylor Trammell will handle the other corner, as well as the DH position -- for now. There’s still an opportunity to reunite with Mitch Haniger, though the veteran has drawn interest from at least nine teams, per reports, including the Rangers and Angels within the division.

The Mariners have checked in with free agents Andrew Benintendi and Brandon Nimmo, according to sources, both of whom would align with the team's "Dominate The Zone" mantra via high on-base ability -- though they don’t pack nearly as much power as Hernández. For the latter reason, they might not be the strongest fits.

Seattle-area native Michael Conforto is an intriguing option, though he missed the 2022 season while recovering from right shoulder surgery. Cody Bellinger would be another unique option after the Dodgers non-tendered him on Friday, but he’s experienced a massive dip in production since his NL MVP season in 2019. He is seeking a one-year prove-it deal, however, and that could be appealing for Seattle.

Sources say that Aaron Judge, who met with the Giants on Tuesday, has never been a realistic target due to his massive price tag. Judge also has another offer on the table from the Yankees in excess of the $213.5 million deal he turned down on Opening Day.

On the trade front, the Cubs could make Ian Happ available again this offseason, though the asking price was so high at last year’s Trade Deadline that he wound up staying put. Additionally, Dipoto and Hollander have long admired the Pirates’ Bryan Reynolds, who would likely be available this offseason.

“There are a handful of players that fit us and that we feel good about,” Dipoto said. “And especially as it pertains to outfielders, we feel like there's still a market that is more robust, that if we're just patient, we're going to find the player that suits our roster the best.”

As for the middle-infield market, that could take more time to develop, specifically with the domino effect once the star shortstop class of Carlos Correa, Xander Bogaerts, Dansby Swanson and Trea Turner begins signing.

“I don't really see that playing out anytime soon for us,” Dipoto said. “I say that, and who the heck knows, it could be tomorrow. But right now, I ... get the sense that’s going to take some time for us.”

By non-tendering Luis Torrens and two others last week, the Mariners cleared three spots on their 40-man roster, leaving decent flexibility to keep adding.

“We can go out there and play tomorrow and feel pretty good about the team that we're going to put on the field. ... We have a fun group of players to start with and we liked our pitching depth from the very start,” Dipoto said. “So, anything we do from here is going to be finding ways to help that group improve and to add more impact. Three spots seem reasonable to me, and if we need more than that, then we'll have to make difficult decisions. But right now, we feel like this gives us enough room to at least start adding.”