For years it was said that free agents shied away from Seattle and SafeCo Field. But is that starting to change because of hitters having success or the Mariners fielding a better team?
It always helps to attract free agents when you aren’t projected to lose 100 games, but players like Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager and Robinson Cano are trying to turn the tide on how some view Seattle’s ballpark .
In 2015, Cruz slashed .304/.375/.517 at home compared to .299/.364/.612 on the road. He hit ten more home runs on the road, which is expected when your home park is spacious SafeCo. Hitting for a high average with 17 home runs at home is a testament to how well he’s been seeing the ball the last couple of years. Cruz has only finished the year hitting above .300 one other time in his career and that was in 2010 as a member of the Texas Rangers.
Kyle Seager who has played his home games at SafeCo his entire career (five years) had a down year in 2015 at home. He slashed .237/.310/.368 at SafeCo while he was great on the road at .295/.346/.530. Taking a look back at 2014, the story was a lot different. Seager went .300/.370/.523 while hitting 16 of his 25 home runs in Seattle. His road slash line was .240/.301/.393. That season has been the only time in his young career he has hit for a higher average at home than on the road.
After signing a 10-year, $240 million contract in 2014 Robinson Cano hit .304 in SafeCo while also hitting nine of his 14 home runs. In 2015, while battling a stomach ailment for much of the year, Cano hit .299 at home compared to .276 on the road. Of his 21 home runs, 11 came at home, once again more at home than on the road.
All three mentioned above have proved that it is possible to hit at SafeCo. If you are a highly sought after free agent or consider yourself a good baseball player you should be able to hit on the moon, if asked. While Cano and Cruz have a small sample size, showing that you can hit well above average in SafeCo is a big statement. Right or wrong, free agents who are pursued by Seattle take the ballpark into consideration. Now that the M’s are seen as contenders it makes it easier for Jerry Dipoto to try and bring in a big bat, if he so chooses.
Former Mariners GM, Jack Zduriencik, was able to get Cruz and Cano to sign but paid top dollar for them. He looked more in the trade market to bring in names like Mark Trumbo, Logan Morrison and Jesus Montero as a cheaper way to try and bring in some power. While some of those are either gone or haven’t panned out yet, Dipoto will be doing the same.
The Mariners have a lot of money tied up in Felix Hernandez, Cruz, Cano and Seager, so money, while available, is going to be limited. Dipoto has said he is looking to bring in players who fit the ballpark. Those players aren’t going to be power hitters, they will be gap-to-gap athletic players who can get on base and score from first on a ball in the gap.
Brett Gardner, who I mentioned in my offseason wish list for the M’s, was rumored in ongoing trade talks, earlier today, between the New York Yankees and Mariners according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post. Gardner is the type of player Dipoto wants, as I mentioned above, in Seattle. This will be a fun offseason to follow the Mariners and see if they can bring a championship to Seattle in 2016