Per Robert Murray of Fansided, the Mariners have expressed interest in free agent shortstop Trevor Story. This comes in addition to earlier reports that Kris Bryant had also drawn their attention. Evidently, their recent acquisitions of second baseman Adam Frazier (from the Padres) and 2021 AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray (who they gave a five-year, $115MM deal) hasn’t slaked Seattle’s interest in acquiring a big-ticket bat to anchor a lineup set to lose longtime third baseman Kyle Seager.
The M’s had previously been linked to Story, though Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times suggested a few weeks ago they’d have preferred to utilize him as a second baseman (where he’d have paired with incumbent shortstop J.P. Crawford, one of a small handful of shortstop with defensive chops that compare to Story’s) in an effort to keep his throwing arm healthy. With the arrival of Frazier, this option is presumably off the table, though it’s possible that the Mariners could also ask him to play third. Buster Olney of ESPN reported last night that he’d also heard buzz regarding Seattle hoping to sign a third baseman, listing Story, Bryant, and Carlos Correa (another stellar defender who’d have to move off short) as possibilities.
With a lockout almost certainly only a few hours away, it’s looking increasingly likely that Story will have to wait until the labor dispute is resolved before signing, though that would hardly rule the Mariners out. They headed into the offseason with only $14.65MM in guaranteed 2022 contracts on the books (a number expected to reach only about $40MM after accounting for arbitration salaries) and a young squad that had playoff aspirations headed into the season’s final week. Though the signing of Ray obviously sends their payroll number northward, they should have room for at least one more major signing — and quite possibly more.
Indeed, with money to spend and a talented squad, the future is likely bright in Seattle. Beyond Seager and starter Yusei Kikuchi, the Mariners will return all of their major contributors from 2021. They should also be able to count on a greater contribution from 2020 Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis — who was limited to 36 games after a deep bone bruise suffered in Spring Training held him out for the season’s first month and a meniscus tear ended his season a bit over a month later — and will look forward to the graduation of several members of their stacked farm system (No. 2 in the bigs, per MLB Pipeline), including outfielder Julio Rodriguez (behind only Adley Rutschman in MLB Pipeline’s Top 100).
Though he’ll fall well short of the $325MM commitment the Rangers gave to Corey Seager, Story would still cost the Mariners a pretty penny. MLBTR predicts he’ll get a six-year deal with a $126MM guarantee, which would make him and Ray the Mariners’ highest-paid players on an annual basis by more than $15MM each.
As with any player who’s spent his career at Coors Field, Story’s home/road splits are an essential evaluative caveat. His career OPS at Coors Field (.972) dwarfs his OPS on the road (.752). Story’s park-adjusted OPS+ numbers — 103 in 2021, 112 for his career — suggest a strong hitter, but they don’t quite match a player with a career line of .272/.340/.523. He’s also entering his age-29 season and coming off an elbow injury that cut into his power numbers in 2021, so decline is likely to be a serious concern to any team considering handing Story a long-term deal.