Mariners general manager Justin Hollander met with reporters this afternoon to discuss the possibility of some late-offseason acquisitions. While Hollander — who is second in the Seattle front office hierarchy behind baseball operations president Jerry Dipoto — left the door ajar for anything, he indicated the likelier course of action was to supplement towards the back of the roster.
“You never know. 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,” Hollander said (link via Daniel Kramer of MLB.com).
The comments come a couple days after Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reported that the M’s have had internal discussions about Matt Chapman, one of the top four unsigned free agents. Hollander didn’t comment on Chapman — the CBA limits what team personnel are allowed to say regarding specific players — but Kramer writes that the M’s conversations about the third baseman occurred earlier in the month.
There was never any indication that Seattle is deeply involved in Chapman’s market. Kramer reports that the M’s interest has been contingent on the four-time Gold Glover lowering his asking price significantly. According to Kramer, a nine-figure deal for Chapman would be a “non-starter” for Seattle. The MLB.com report indicates the Mariners would be amenable to a shorter-term/incentive-laden contract, although that unsurprisingly hasn’t been of interest to Chapman’s camp at the Boras Corporation.
Third base looks like a relative weak point for Seattle. The Mariners dealt Eugenio Suárez to the Diamondbacks at the beginning of the offseason. They brought in Luis Urías in a small trade with the Red Sox and indirectly addressed the hot corner with last month’s Jorge Polanco deal. Installing Polanco at second base pushes lefty-hitting Josh Rojas over to third, likely in a platoon with the right-handed Urías.
Urías enters camp at a little less than full strength. The Mariners reveled today that he is battling some soreness in his throwing shoulder coming out of winter ball (via Divish). It’s not a serious issue but will keep him from throwing across the diamond in infield drills early in Spring Training.
Hollander downplayed any concern about the third base platoon. Asked if the M’s felt they’re vulnerable at the position, he replied: “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.”
That’s the expected tone for a GM to strike publicly. That said, Chapman is the only unsigned third baseman who’d be a clear upgrade on the Rojas/Urías pairing. If Seattle is simply keeping tabs on his market in case the opportunity presents itself to jump in at a lower price, they’re presumably otherwise content with their in-house options.
Seattle has also been loosely tied to the top two remaining free agents, Blake Snell and Cody Bellinger. The link to Snell has primarily been about geography rather than team need. The defending NL Cy Young winner is a Seattle native and there has been some speculation he could prefer to stay on the West Coast after three seasons in San Diego.
Despite that chatter, Kramer writes that the Mariners haven’t shown much interest in Snell at any point during the winter. The M’s traded rehabbing starter Robbie Ray and depth arm Marco Gonzales but have held onto their top five starters: George Kirby, Luis Castillo, Logan Gilbert, Bryce Miller and Bryan Woo. Former top 10 pick Emerson Hancock remains on hand as a high-upside depth piece.
Bellinger was arguably a better roster fit, but Kramer reports that Seattle hasn’t considered the former MVP in either of the past two offseasons. The M’s reacquired Mitch Haniger and brought in Luke Raley from Tampa Bay as part of a reshaped corner outfield. Seattle shipped out one-time top prospect Jarred Kelenic, leaving Haniger and Raley as the presumptive starters alongside Julio Rodríguez on the outfield grass.
Seattle has generally preferred the trade route over free agency under Dipoto, particularly with regards to position players. This offseason’s two-year, $24MM deal for Mitch Garver was the first multi-year free agent contract for a hitter that Seattle has given out in Dipoto’s tenure. Roster Resource projects the organization’s 2024 player spending in the $135MM range. That’s a middle-of-the-pack figure that’s right in line with last year’s approximate $137MM Opening Day sum.