2021-22 SB Nation Offseason Sim, Mariners edition

Howdy M’s fans! So, a little bit of back story, the boys over at Royals Review run a simulation every offseason, gathering together 30 site writers and baseball fans to act as mock GMs for each respective team and play out the offseason over the course of 3-ish days. This year’s session was November 7-9 (IRL stuff kept me from posting this sooner), and I took up the role as M’s GM. All the rules and such can be found here - - but basically the gist of the sim is "try to be realistic if at all possible, knowing things will not quite end up that way". My plan going in was simple – turn the M’s into contenders, now. I had a lot of payroll to work with (I used the M’s 2018/19 budgets as the absolute limit I could work with, while trying to stay at least somewhat below that), and was willing to move from the farm system for the right upgrades, but preferred to deal in cash more often than not. Main shopping list, in no particular order: 2 starting INFs, a backup INF who could start, a proper CF, at least 2 SPs (one being a front end guy), and a starting C.

1. Mariners decline club option on 3B Kyle Seager, RHP Yusei Kikuchi declines his player option – No difficult decisions here; Seager, while very clutch in 2021, is not worth $20 million, and I was ready to move Kikuchi immediately if he did accept, but fortunately, he did not.

2. Mariners trade RHP Justin Dunn to the Rays for CF Kevin Kiermaier – I stand by this deal: while the bat is still iffy most days, Kiermaier has shown he can still pick them in the OF with the best of them, and given the M’s wide open payroll, his contract is not particularly onerous for one year. Dunn I simply see as a reliever long-term, so that’s a cost I’m willing to pay for an immediate upgrade up the middle.

3. Mariners sign RHP Ryan Tepera to a 2 year, $8 million contract – Tepera has quietly turned a corner these past two seasons, going for an alright reliever to a rather good one. As such, I feel like this is a fairly low cost investment in a guy who could prove himself quite valuable in the late innings over the next two seasons, cause let's face it, you can never have enough bullpen arms.

4. Mariners non-tender INF Dylan Moore – 2020 looks to have been an aberration unfortunately, and so Moore just wasn’t someone I wanted to commit money to, not when I could improve on him.

5. Mariners sign SS Trevor Story to a 7-year, $194 million contract – Story was my main FA target, and I wasted no time in getting him locked up, for honestly less than I expected. I definitely think Story’s power will play in Safeco quite a bit better than at Coors (ya’ll have already highlighted this in a past article), and while I’d have preferred to spend about 20 million less, him and Crawford make for a VERY stout middle infield duo. Whether I'd have him or Crawford move over to 2nd, I'm not sure; I feel like Crawford has earned his spot at SS, but Story is no slouch there either. That's a problem for Spring Training though, and a great problem to have.

6. Mariners sign RHP Alex Cobb to a 1-year, $9 million deal with an $11 million club option and $1 million buyout – Absolute steal here. Cobb looked much more like his old self last year than he ever did in his Orioles years, and I assumed I’d face some decent competition for him. Instead, the market ended up being rather quiet, and I was able to snag a mid-rotation (at least) starter for a very reasonable rate without much fuss.

7. Mariners sign RHP Craig Stammen to a 1 year, $4 million deal – Padres declined his option to my surprise, but I immediately jumped on it. While he doesn’t have wipeout stuff, Stammen was still one of the most consistent pen arms around for the past few seasons - solid K/9 rates, low walks, pitches multiple innings, plenty of groundballs, and an ERA/FIP around 3-3.5 for the most part - so on a one-year deal, I liked the potential risk vs. reward there.

8. Mariners sign OF Seiya Suzuki to a 6-year, $120 million deal – Yeahhhhhh, I really went out on a limb here…. Let’s just say my ideal total was in the 60-70 mil range, but bidding was incredibly fierce, and multiple times I nearly bowed out but found myself staying in. Basically, if he’s even half the player he was in Japan, this is still a very worthwhile deal (a player of his caliber in a regular FA market would be worth twice this easily), but definitely one I don’t know if I’d do again if I had the chance.

9. Mariners trade RHP Juan Then and C Luis Torrens to the Pirates for C Jacob Stallings – I had a couple of options available to me to upgrade here, but Stallings I’ve always been a fan of, and since the Twins were slow off the mark and the Pirates were decidedly not, I was able to get the jump on this deal pretty quick, just took longer cause I was making sure Then wasn’t needed in a separate trade. I'd wager Stallings is one of the best available catchers out there along with Willson Contreras, and the price on Contreras was far higher, so I think I got the best deal I could have wanted at catcher with this.

10. Mariners trade 1B/OF Evan White to the Astros for RHP Peter Solomon – Given the next deal, I wanted to shift White’s contract if at all possible (was originally part of that deal, but some miscommunications ended up leading to us just dropping that), and coincidently the Astros came calling at just that time. Solomon is interesting pitching depth, and considering I doubt White’s hitting ability and health, I’ll take something for nothing any day.

11. Mariners trade OF Jarred Kelenic and RHP Emerson Hancock to the Reds for 3B Jonathan India, RHP Tyler Mahle, 3B Mike Moustakas, and $22 million – Probably gonna catch some flak for this one, but basically, with Suzuki locked in and the Reds surprisingly looking to move one of their starters, I saw this as an opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. I’m a very big fan of India, and Mahle could be an elite starter outside of Great American Ballpark, so this is a huge upgrade for 2022/23 and beyond (I feel like the M’s could probably extend Mahle as well). As for the cost, I went back and forth about moving Kelenic for a while, but ultimately I decided that, with Suzuki in the fold, Fraley and Trammell around as stopgap measures (or more if they keep developing), J-Rod coming up soon, and Kelenic not being a CF long-term anyways, I could afford to part with him for the right immediate upgrade. With Hancock, the combination of his shoulder issues and his lack of strikeouts for a guy with his stuff was too many red flags for me to ignore. Moustakas was included here just to let the Reds offload more salary.

12. Mariners trade 3B Mike Moustakas and $18 million to the Royals for RHP Jon Heasley – Having just picked up Moose, the Royals immediately came calling to bring him home. Heasley is an interesting depth piece, so for a guy I wasn’t interested in to start with, this was a no brainer.

13. Mariners trade 2B Shed Long Jr. to the Braves for LHP Thomas Burrows – Braves wanted Long and wanted to shift excess relievers, so this one came together fairly easily. Long had no place on my roster, and Burrows could be useful pen depth, so definitely a net positive for me.

14. Mariners sign DH Nelson Cruz to a 1 year, $9 million with incentives – Nelly was still on the market in the final day, and after striking out on other options, I figured I could afford to bet Cruz would stave off Father Time for one more year, and if so, this deal is well worth the price.

15. Mariners trade RHP Drew Steckenrider and SS Edwin Arroyo to the Rays for INF Joey Wendle – Wendle fit my need for a 2nd utility INF who I could rely on to back up the left side of the infield (and that I was comfortable enough starting if injuries happened), and since I was looking at a rather full bullpen, I looked to shed some of the older options. The final price was a bit higher than I’d have liked, but Wendle has been a consistently above average starter on the infield 3 out of his 4 seasons, and I got him coming off the bench with India and Story in place, so I think I came out alright.

16. Mariners trade RHP Kristian Cardozo to the Orioles for LHP Paul Fry– Never pitch Fry against the Rays ever again, and he’s a sub 3 ERA reliever. Considering the Mariner’s LHP depth is a bit thin, I’m okay with giving up a pitching prospect who is exceptionally far off for a potential steal in Fry.

17. Mariners trade C Tom Murphy to Cubs for RHP Riley Thompson – Cubs needed a warm body behind the plate, so I figured I may as well let Cal Raleigh get some mentoring under Stallings already while I save a few bucks (or let Grayson Greiner take this spot for a bit if we really want Raleigh to get more AAA time). Thompson is hurt and still pretty raw, but once again, he’s an interesting enough flier to take on a guy I didn’t really see having a future with the M’s.

Minor league signees – C Grayson Greiner, RHP Dan Altavilla, INF Pat Valaika

FA’s I missed out on – Max Scherzer, Tyler Anderson, Drew Smyly, Michael Conforto, Eduardo Escobar, Kris Bryant, Oliver Drake, Adam Conley (minor), Jeff Mathis (minor), Chris Martin, Hunter Strickland, Carlos Rodon, Kendall Graveman, Jon Gray, Kirby Yates, Anthony Rizzo, Brandon Belt, and Cody Reed (minor)

Among the trade targets I went after but ultimately didn’t get – Zac Gallen, Ketel Marte, Luis Castillo, Bryan Reynolds, Scott Barlow, German Marquez, Matt Olson, Matt Chapman, Chris Bassitt, Frankie Montas, Tony Kemp, Willson Contreras, Ian Happ, Tyler Glasnow, Ryan McMahon, Brandon Woodruff/Josh Hader, Jose Ramirez/Shane Bieber, Mitch Garver, and Jorge Polanco

All in all, I think I did pretty well if I may toot my own horn a bit. I kept the vast majority of the M’s prospect depth (not for other teams' lack of trying), and I think I considerably improved the MLB squad with payroll left to spare (In IRL money, probably comes to about $110 mil, adjusting for sim inflation). With the Astros by and large treading water, the A’s taking a step back, and the Angels being, well, the Angels, I feel like this squad, in the alternate Sim universe, has a shot at the AL West crown in 2022 if things break right. Some of these deals I'd probably tweak some in hindsight, but I think overall the plan was sound.

If you want to hear more about either deals that happened or deals that could have happened, by all means please leave a comment; I very much want to hear ya'll's thoughts on this, seeing as how you're the real M's fans here and all. In any case, have a good one!