There were a few things going through my mind when I set off to look into this stuff. Partly I was curious to see what next year might look like, and then a whole bunch of other questions flitted through my brain, so let's see where this ends up. Generally speaking, I'm only looking at guys who are on the 40 man AND under control (or have an option) for next season. The contract statuses are based on information from Baseball Reference and Cots, and assuming the player remains at their current level for the rest of the season, and I'm not including any possible super-2's, because that will make things more complicated.
Catcher: 2014 salary 2015+
Jesus Sucre Pre-arb Arb-eligible 2016, FA 2019
Mike Zunino Pre-arb Arb-eligible 2016, FA 2019
It'll be interesting to see what the M's do at catcher next season. These two could be the opening day starter and backup which is fine but the current AAA guys are filler. The next catcher in the system who might actually end up with a major league career is John Hicks, who is in AA, and has only a .573 OPS. High minors catching depth will probably be on Jack Z's off-season to do list, and/or they might go and get a veteran backup and leave Sucre at AAA.
First base: 2014 salary 2015+
Jesus Montero Pre-arb Arb-1, FA 2018
Justin Smoak Arb-1 Arb-2, FA 2017
Smoak is looking promising right now, but I would expect some BABIP regression. Sure would be nice if he could keep going at his current rate though. The jury will be out on Montero's ability to provide depth at 1st until he figures out how to hit again along with getting enough reps at the position to not be a worse defensive first baseman than he was a catcher. If they do re-sign either Morse or Morales they would be your backup(s).
Second base: 2014 salary 2015+
Nick Franklin Pre-arb Arb-eligible 2016, FA 2019
Franklin gets this category all to himself for now, as I've listed Dustin Ackley as an outfielder based purely on what the team is doing right now. That could be a moving target depending on what happens over the rest of the season as well as possible trades/signings in the off-season. Still there's some of the highest coverage here of any position on the field, with Seager, Miller, Ackley and Triunfel all able to man 2nd if necessary.
Third base: 2014 salary 2015+
Kyle Seager Pre-arb Arb-1, FA 2018
I sure hope Z is exploring the possibility of locking Seager up to a long term team friendly deal. It's not too late to offer him Evan Longoria's first contract, right? With Alex Liddi now with the Os, the only backup here is the starting shortstop or Triunfel. Maybe Stefen Romero in an emergency, but he's primarily an outfielder although he apparently played four games at 3rd this year in A+, after last playing there in 2011.
Shortstop: 2014 salary 2015+
Brad Miller Pre-arb Arb-eligible 2016, FA 2019
Carlos Triunfel Pre-arb Arb-eligible 2016, FA 2019
While the starting job as shortstop of the future at this point is Brad Miller's, what's more interesting to me will be what the club does with Triunfel next year. He could be the M's utility infielder, but it's not like he offers much with either bat or glove. He was added to the 40 man in 2011, which means 2014 will be his last option year I think? He's hit well (for a SS) in AAA (.737 OPS) but has 13 errors in 60 games as well so okay whatever. I wonder if the club would consider using Franklin as the backup SS to potentially get some more flexibility on the bench. If Franklin doesn't play short at all over the rest of the season then I guess we'll have the answer for that one.
Outfield: 2014 salary 2015+
Dustin Ackley Pre-arb Arb-1, FA 2018
Franklin Gutierrez $7.5MM option/$0.5MM buyout
Julio Morban MiLB
Carlos Peguero MiLB
Michael Saunders Arb-1 Arb-2, FA 2017
Ackley's draft deal salaries are done in 2013, giving him one year at the minimum before he becomes arbitration eligible for the first time. That will be a rather unpleasant pay cut no doubt. Even if Guti comes back and hits like he did in 2009 and plays every day for the second half I can't see his option getting picked up. Maybe an incentive laden deal, but who knows at this point. But right now the only two guys there who'd start in the outfield in 2014 are Ackley and Saunders. Julio Morban is interesting but in AA and is also an injury risk, Carlos Peguero urgh, so there's got to be an emphasis on outfield help before next season. Stefen Romero might get a cup of coffee this year and could be a corner option next season.
Starting pitcher: 2014 salary 2015+
Blake Beavan Pre-arb Arb-1, FA 2018
Anthony Fernandez MiLB
Felix Hernandez $22MM Signed through 2019 ($128MM)
Danny Hultzen MiLB
Hisashi Iwakuma $6.5MM $7MM club option/$1MM buyout
Brandon Maurer Pre-arb/MiLB Arb-eligible 2016, FA 2019
Hector Noesi Pre-arb/MiLB Arb-1, FA 2018
Erasmo Ramirez Pre-arb Arb-eligible 2016, FA 2019
Chance Ruffin MiLB
Joe Saunders Mutual option $??
Felix/Iwakuma then a lot of possibilities. If things went to plan, I would imagine you'd end up with some combination of Ramirez/Hultzen/Saunders/Maurer/Beavan/Noesi in the last three spots. If Saunders's option gets picked up (dollar value not on BR or cots), Ramirez has a solid second half then there's only one spot to fill which could still come internally. There are some question marks there though... Hultzen (shoulder), Maurer (changeup) or Beavan/Noesi (please be no more than the long man or depth). And that's not even taking into account the possibilities like Paxton, Walker and Carraway who aren't yet on the 40. There's a lot of depth here, and hopefully in 2014 there's a lot more quality closer than it is right now. And outside of Felix, it's really, really cheap.
Relief pitcher: 2014 salary 2015+
Carter Capps Pre-arb Arb-eligible 2016, FA 2019
Danny Farquhar Pre-arb Arb-eligible 2016, FA 2019
Charlie Furbush Pre-arb Arb-1, FA 2018
Bobby LaFromboise Pre-arb Arb-eligible 2016, FA 2019
Lucas Luetge Pre-arb Arb-1, FA 2018
Yoervis Medina Pre-arb Arb-eligible 2016, FA 2019
Stephen Pryor Pre-arb Arb-eligible 2016, FA 2019
Tom Wilhelmsen Pre-arb Arb-1, FA 2018
There's a bullpen with one man to spare, or two if you end up with either Noesi or Beavan as the long guy, even before we build a pile. Also Brian Moran and Logan Bawcom in AAA plus Carson Smith in AA as three guys with solid BB:K ratios. The 2014 bullpen could easily cost less than $10MM in salary. If they stay in house it will be less than $5MM.
A hypothetical 2014 opening day roster:
C Mike Zunino C Jesus Sucre
1B Justin Smoak IF Carlos Triunfel
2B Nick Franklin IF Ty Kelly
3B Kyle Seager OF Abraham Almonte
SS Brad Miller
LF Stefen Romero
CF Dustin Ackley
RF Michael Saunders
DH Jesus Montero
These position players are cheap. Saunders and Smoak are both arb-1, everyone else is pre-arb. Pirates 1B Gaby Sanchez got $1.75MM for his arb-1 year after posting an OPS of .720 in 2012 (career inc 2013 .751). Rajai Davis got $2.5MM for his arb-1 after posting a .697 OPS in 2010 (.696 career), so let's pencil in $5MM for the two of them. The major league minimum for 2014 is $0.5MM, so that's another $5.5MM. Let's throw in another million for the minor increases the second and third year guys will get (like the $20k Mike Trout got[!]), so your position player salary could be as little as $11.5MM.
There are plenty of holes to upgrade. One, two or even three outfielders aren't out of the question. DH is ripe for an upgrade as well as any of the bench spots. And with such a small amount committed, there's a lot of freedom to go after guys, or bring back anyone they want. I don't think Guti will be back unless he signs an incentive laden deal, which I wouldn't be opposed to, but I have a soft spot for him.
Felix Hernandez Blake Beavan
Hisashi Iwakuma Carter Capps
Erasmo Ramirez Danny Farquhar
Joe Saunders Charlie Furbush
Brandon Maurer Yoervis Medina
If we give Saunders a $1MM pay rise in 2014, he's due $7.5MM. So your starting rotation would cost $37MM (22+6.5+0.5+7.5+0.5), $3.5MM for the bullpen. Throw in an additional $0.5MM in 2nd/3rd year raises and you're looking at a whopping $41MM for the pitching staff, which including the position players above is a total of $52.5MM.
That's a lot of room to move, even with some upgrades on the position side. Plenty of room for another veteran starter and some veteran bullpen pieces if there are some suitable options out there. Ideally Hultzen is healthy and is the number four or five in the rotation. Saunders might not want to come back, or they might not want him back. Maybe you want a second lefty in the bullpen. TomAYto tomAHto.
Either way, the current pitching depth will be much closer to the majors next season - there shouldn't be any need for a Bonderman type situation next season. And while I listed Noesi as a starter, I hope I never see him anywhere but in the pen in an M's uniform. More ideally he's depth or trade bait.
So that's the end of that. I'm not really sure where I've ended up or exactly where I wanted to go in the first place, but it seems like the Mariners are potentially quite well set for the future - outside of Felix and Kuma and possibly Joe Saunders, the rest of the hypothetical 25 man is all cost and team controlled through 2017. That's a pretty nice place to be. If one or two of those guys hit their ceilings and we get some solid regulars/useful role-players out of the rest, that's a pretty good starting point for a three year window starting in 2015.
Apologies if the formatting doesn't look great - I have no html skills and the visual view editor is... interesting.