The Seattle Mariners were on the verge of their first postseason berth since 2001 this past season but fell just short. With their core four of Felix Hernandez, Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano, and Kyle Seager under contract for 2017 and beyond, don’t expect the M’s to make a huge free agent splash, although the front office has hinted at a possible payroll increase. Their core is very solid, but they have several holes to fill. Here is what I’d like to see the M’s do this offseason.
1. Find a corner outfielder.
Since this is a wish list, I’d love to see them go after Dexter Fowler to bat leadoff and help Leonys Martin patrol spacious Safeco Field. The Mariners haven’t had a steady leadoff hitter since Ichiro Suzuki. My backup plan to Fowler would be Marcell Ozuna. The Miami Marlins are rumored to have him on the trading block. General manager Jerry Dipoto is trying to build up their rather thin farm system, so they may not enough to match the asking price from the Marlins.
The Mariners are in need of a corner outfielder to go along with Martin, Seth Smith, and the good-hands tandem of Ben Gamel (who I really like) and Guillermo Heredia. Nelson Cruz moved mainly to DH in 2016, so don’t look for him to be penciled in right field too often.
The M’s have said they don’t plan on any big spending this offseason, but they are flexible and the outfield is a spot where any money available needs to be spent. Fowler isn’t going to break the bank as some other outfielders will, and he fits the mold of exactly who Dipoto wants roaming the outfield.
2. Revisit a past trade opportunity.
Zack Cozart is on the top of my wish list for the M’s at shortstop. This is a fairly easy one, as the trade was reported to have almost happened at the trade deadline last season. It would’ve sent Cozart to the M’s for minor leaguers. Cozart has one year left of club control. This would allow them to send Ketel Marte, who struggled last season, to Triple-A Tacoma to figure some things out. Cozart slashed .252/.308/.425 in 121 games in 2016 with 16 home runs.
Shawn O’Malley proved his defense was worthy of a backup roster spot last season, so that’s another plus for letting Marte hopefully figure things out down on the farm.
3. Add another starter to the rotation.
Remember our old friend, Doug Fister? How about a reunion with him as a possible number-five starter. The Mariners are hoping a different offseason routine can help Felix Hernandez regain some of his past dominance. The ‘King’ struggled with leg injuries and command in 2016. He stated after the season that his offseason training schedule needs to be better to get him in better shape. Hisashi Iwakuma will be back after a season that saw him stay healthy with good results. James Paxton and Taijuan Walker will need to take another step forward if the Mariners will be able to build on their success from 2016. Walker had offseason foot surgery but should be ready to go by spring training. Ariel Miranda was a nice addition to the rotation after being acquired from the Baltimore Orioles for Wade Miley. Miranda started 10 games for the M’s, going 5-2 with a 3.54 ERA in 56 innings of work. Nate Karns, whom the M’s acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays last offseason, struggled with injuries in 2016 but should be ready to go in 2017.
Bringing in another starter, like Fister, would allow the team to have an open competition for the fifth spot in the rotation. Injuries have been an issue among most of the Mariners starters throughout their careers, so an extra experienced starter or two on the roster wouldn’t be a bad thing.
4. Just Win.
The Chicago Cubs’ streak ended in 2016; it’s time for the Mariners’ postseason absence to end in 2017. My biggest wish list item is a postseason berth in 2017. I don’t care how they get it done, but this is the time. The core of the team is in their prime (some of the backside of it), so if a deep October run is going to happen it needs to be now. The fans got a taste of success in 2016 and packed out the stadium in game 161, only to see the M’s falter once again.
It’s time Seattle. My, oh my, is it time.