The Mariners Should not Ignore The Shortstop Free Agent Market This 12 months

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This previous offseason featured a brilliant class of free agent shortstops: Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, Javier Baez, Trevor Story and Marcus Semien. Nevertheless, very early within the offseason, only one week after the World Collection ended, Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto made it publicly known they had been unlikely be huge gamers on this enviornment. Incumbent shortstop J.P. Crawford had been advised he was going to remain at that place for the membership, no matter what the rumors stated.  Whereas that theoretically left the door open for a type of shortstops to be signed to play one other place equivalent to second base, that didn’t come to move.

With a view to handle their center infield, they made a way more modest transfer. In late November, simply previous to the lockout, the Mariners acquired Adam Frazier from the Padres. Frazier wasn’t as thrilling of a pickup as a type of free brokers would have been, however he was a wise addition nonetheless. His left-handed bat meant that he and switch-hitting Abraham Toro may have fashioned a second base platoon. Frazier can also play the outfield, which he may have finished within the occasion Toro established himself as an on a regular basis choice on the keystone. The M’s saved their huge free agent splash for the rotation, signing Robbie Ray to a five-year, $115MM deal.

Now two-thirds of the best way by way of the season, it’s truthful to marvel if this strategy has paid off. Frazier has largely had a disappointing season, failing to construct on his sturdy 2021. He hit .305/.368/.411 final yr for a wRC+ of 114, indicating his total offensive manufacturing was 14% above league common. This yr, nonetheless, he’s slumped to a line of .246/.309/.315, wRC+ of 85. Toro’s been even worse, with a batting line of .180/.239/.322 on the yr for a wRC+ of 61. On the yr total, Seattle second basemen have produced 0.7 fWAR, a mark that ranks twenty second amongst main league groups.

As for the shortstop place, Crawford has gotten the overwhelming majority of the time there, with Dylan Moore getting a handful of begins all through the season. Crawford bought out to a blistering begin, hitting .360/.449/.573 by way of the tip of April with three dwelling runs. He hasn’t been in a position to preserve that, nonetheless, hitting .231/.301/.304, including simply two extra homers in that span. That leaves his total batting line at .257/.333/.358, ok for a 105 wRC+ that’s nonetheless above common, although it’s been sliding for over three months straight at this level.

There are additionally questions on his protection right here in 2022, with the superior metrics in disagreement on his 2022 work. Defensive Runs Saved has him at plus-three to this point this yr, a dip from final yr’s eight, although he may doubtlessly shut among the hole within the season’s ultimate few months. Final Zone Score has him at 1.3, an enchancment over final yr’s 0.8 however behind the tempo of the two.5 he earned within the shortened 2020 season. Outs Above Common is essentially the most bearish, giving Crawford -7 to this point this yr, after giving him zero final yr and 6 in 2020. Mixed, Mariner shortstops have produced 1.6 fWAR on the season, a mark that’s seventeenth within the majors.

Subpar manufacturing from each center infield positions absolutely isn’t ultimate, but it surely hasn’t decimated the staff’s possibilities. The Mariners are 59-51, presently holding the ultimate American League Wild Card spot, however with the Orioles and Guardians only a couple video games again and each Sox golf equipment simply behind them. The M’s need to make the playoffs for the primary time since 2001 and break the longest energetic postseason drought within the league, although we could not know whether or not they succeed or not till the ultimate days of the season.

Whether or not they break that drought or not, Seattle may wish to take into consideration being extra concerned within the shortstop market this winter. The Mariners dedicated to Crawford on a $46.15MM extension simply earlier than opening day, so he’s actually going to maintain an everyday position. There’s a case to be made for exploring the shortstop market and contemplating transferring Crawford throughout the bag, nonetheless. There’s one other sturdy shortstop class this winter, with Correa more likely to opt-out of his contract with the Twins and re-enter the open market. Xander Bogaerts is broadly anticipated to opt-out as nicely. Then there’s additionally Trea Turner and Dansby Swanson, who’re every of their ultimate season of membership management. Frazier can be heading into free company, which is able to subtract from a center infield combine that’s already weak.

None of these gamers can be low-cost, however Seattle ought to give some thought to paying out. For one factor, in the event that they miss out on these 4, the fifth-best choice might be Jose Iglesias, who’s having a high quality season however is undoubtedly on a decrease tier than these different guys. For an additional factor, the Mariners have the payroll house to tug this off. The membership ran an Opening Day payroll of $104MM this yr, based on Cot’s Baseball Contracts. That’s a far cry from the membership’s highest spending, as they had been within the $140-160MM vary from 2016-2019. Subsequent yr’s payroll is barely at about $67MM, within the estimation of Roster Resource. That doesn’t embody salaries for arbitration-eligible gamers, however that gained’t add an amazing quantity. Luis Castillo is probably going the one participant of the bunch to get a major wage subsequent yr, most likely stepping into eight figures after making $7.35MM this yr.

In addition they shouldn’t have too many different holes to deal with. All six of their rotation candidates may be managed once more in 2023, with Ray and Marco Gonzales underneath contract, Castillo having yet one more arb yr, and George Kirby and Logan Gilbert nonetheless pre-arb. The Mariners have a $4MM membership choice for Chris Flexen’s 2023 providers, although that may vest to $8MM and turn into assured if he throws 300 innings mixed between final yr and this yr. He’s presently at 296 2/3, making him a digital lock to stay with Seattle subsequent yr, barring damage.

Elsewhere on the roster, Ty France and Eugenio Suarez ought to nonetheless have the corners lined. Catchers Cal Raleigh and Luis Torrens are each nonetheless round subsequent yr, with Tom Murphy doubtlessly returning to well being and coming again as nicely. Regardless of presumably dropping Mitch Haniger to free company, the outfield will nonetheless have a deep combine that features Julio Rodriguez, Jesse Winker, Jarred Kelenic, Kyle Lewis, Sam Haggerty, Derek Hill and Taylor Trammell. Dylan Moore may be retained by way of arbitration for extra utility obligation. The aid corps can all be retained by way of arbitration aside from Ken Giles, who’s barely pitched this yr however may be introduced again by way of a $9.5MM membership choice if the staff desires.

Taking all that into consideration, the center infield looks as if the clearest approach to improve the staff for 2023. Two of this yr’s tremendous class of shortstops (Story and Semien) ended up signing to be second baseman, which is a technique the M’s may go, although that requires buy-in from the participant. It’s unclear if any of Bogaerts, Turner, Swanson or Correa can be concerned about such an association. It may be smart for them to melt their stance on Crawford’s permanence on the shortstop place, since they’ve the cash and the roster to go after a marquee shortstop this winter.


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