The Mariners are known to be in the market for infield upgrades, with both Kris Bryant and Marcus Semien among their early targets. Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times adds a few names to the pile, reporting that they’re also intrigued by the possibility of signing Trevor Story to play second base on a regular basis. Divish also indicates that the Mariners have high levels of interest in A’s third baseman Matt Chapman and several of Oakland’s available pitchers, including Sean Manaea, Frankie Montas and Chris Bassitt.
Beyond that group, president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto told Dick Fain of SportsRadio 950 KJR this week that the Mariners would be interested in star outfielder Seiya Suzuki if and when he’s posted by the Hiroshima Carp of Nippon Professional Baseball (Twitter link). The Carp do plan to post Suzuki, but that process has not yet officially begun.
Dipoto has already made clear in the young offseason that his team will be more aggressive in free agency than in years past and given at least some indications as to the types of players he’ll target. He spoke earlier this month of a desire to sign “adaptable” free agents, naming both Semien and Javier Baez as players who’ve shown a willingness to move around the diamond. He’s also made it clear to J.P. Crawford that he’ll play shortstop in Seattle both next year and in the long term, which could well take the Mariners out of the running for any of the market’s top free agents who are set on remaining at that position.
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While Story has been entrenched at shortstop in Colorado, he could certainly help his market if he shows a willingness to play another position. He’s typically been a plus defender at short, of course, but that only makes it likelier that he’d be a high-quality defender on the other side of the bag. Openness to playing elsewhere shouldn’t be a necessity, but given that Story had something of a down season by his standards, an open-minded outlook ought to broaden his appeal.
Unlike Story, there’d be no position change for Chapman in virtually any scenario. His elite defense at third base is perhaps the most appealing element of his overall game, and the Mariners have an obvious opening at the hot corner after declining Kyle Seager’s $20MM option. Chapman’s strikeout rate has soared and his batting average has dropped since a 2020 hip injury that required surgery, but he still draws plenty of walks and hits with power.
Chapman is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn $9.5MM in 2022 and is controlled another two seasons. He could draw interest from around a third of the league, if not more, so the Mariners will hardly be alone in any potential pursuit. Attempting to expand talks to include one of the Athletics’ starters would only ramp up the price, and such a package may not be realistic if Dipoto’s comments about refusing to trade from the very top end of his prospect capital hold true (link via Corey Brock of The Athletic). “There’s no scenario where we will move the top prospects in our system, the guys who are prominent in our system,” Dipoto said at the GM Meetings just nine days ago.
Turning to the 27-year-old Suzuki, he’d be something of an odd fit — at least from a defensive standpoint. While Suzuki briefly played some third base early in his career, he’s settled in as a quality right fielder, winning four Gold Gloves at that position in Japan. The general consensus MLBTR received when speaking to MLB scouts and evaluators familiar with Suzuki was that he can be a well-rounded, everyday right fielder in the Majors but isn’t really an option in the infield, for defensive reasons.
The Mariners already have numerous outfield options, including Mitch Haniger, Jarred Kelenic, Kyle Lewis, Jake Fraley, Taylor Trammell and yet-to-debut top prospect Julio Rodriguez. Not all are proven at the MLB level, of course, but winning the bidding on Suzuki would register as something of a surprise because of that depth — even with some DH at-bats available to help rotate four or five players through the outfield.
Perhaps the Mariners are more convinced Suzuki could move back to the infield on at least a part-time basis, or perhaps they simply believe his looming availability represents a unique opportunity to acquire an impact bat. (Suzuki, after all, has a .319/.435/.592 batting line with 121 home runs, 115 doubles and four triples dating back to 2018.) Regardless, Dipoto’s comment on the matter can’t be wholly ignored, even if the M’s seem an unlikely candidate to win the bidding when other interested parties have a more acute outfield need.
As for the reported interest in Oakland’s trio of available starting pitchers, it’s a good reminder that while there’s been a high level of focus on the Mariners’ quest to add at least one prominent bat to the lineup, they’ll also be in the market for one, if not two starting pitchers. The previously mentioned unwillingness to deal from the top of the system could make it tough to obtain a package of Chapman and a starting pitcher, but both Manaea and Bassitt would be one-year rentals, so acquiring either pitcher individually may not come with such a steep ask.
Whatever route they take, it’s increasingly evident that the Mariners are casting a very wide net as they look to end a two-decade playoff drought.