On Wednesday, Jeff Passan of ESPN reported a since widely confirmed bit of breaking new: the Seattle Mariners have agreed to a three-year contract extension with UTIL Dylan Moore worth $8.875 million guaranteed. The deal buys out Moore’s 2023 and 2024 seasons where he was in arbitration as well as locking up what will be his age-33 season in 2025, for an average annual rate of $2.958 million per year. Performance escalators could push Moore up to $9 million overall ($3 million AAV).
The deal fits the theme for Seattle, which has been aggressive and fairly successful in convincing its players to sign contract extensions in recent years. While a number of clubs have more total dollars committed through the 2025 season, only Atlanta has more total players (eight, plus two team options) on guaranteed deals than Seattle (seven - Ray, L. Castillo, Julio, J.P., White, Moore, & Muñoz - plus two team options - Suárez & Gonzales). On the one hand, as I noted at length earlier this winter, guaranteed money is deceptive, the Mariners will employ 26 baseball players each day of the season so they’ll be spending money somewhere, and players still on their league entry minimum deals for the first three full seasons, plus ANOTHER three full seasons in arbitration are not “guaranteed” in that it is functionally six (or more) straight team options, the club has near-total control of what they want to spend.
But what moves like this provide is cost-certainty for both player and team, in addition to a measure of confidence in the roster’s quality. Signed to a major league contract by the M’s despite no big league experience after half a decade in the minors, the former 7th round pick of the Texas Rangers in 2015 had been dealt to the Braves in a three-player deal involving Jeff Francouer. Moore had hit free agency already once before, as minor league free agent signing with the Milwaukee Brewers for the 2018 season, but Seattle lured him to the Pacific Northwest by giving him that major league contract, essentially no more than a guaranteed spot on the 40-man roster to bolster his paycheck and give him proximity to the bigs. From a near-catastrophic three-error game in the season’s early going to one of the most important catches in the spiritual history of the organization, Moore has now solidified himself as the skeleton key for Seattle’s roster, a genuinely starting-quality big leaguer whose ability to wear many hats (and gloves) gives his teammates chances for rest and recovery while he maintains quality in their stead.
Moore is the best major league free agent Seattle has signed during the Dipoto era by WAR, a title that carries a few wisps of damning with faint praise to the organization, but speaks volumes of how Moore has developed and adapted in his first four years as a big leaguer. His personality has played a part in that, as a good-natured teammate frequently in the thick of things with several groups, and a fan favorite for max effort play and, frankly, one of the more malleable facial structures I’ve seen on a baseball field.
DMo when that first check hits: pic.twitter.com/1OJT5PWeYe— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) February 2, 2023
There is an air of positivity I tend to feel around contract extensions, particularly as they seem to beget one another. This deal gives Moore a raise over his projected arbitration rate for 2023, which would’ve been around $2 million whether an arbitrator took Seattle’s side ($1.9 million) or Moore’s ($2.25 million), and gives a player who did not make his debut until age-26 a clear measure of security. As Kate broke down in Moore’s 40 in 40 recently, the utility-man began with a great glove, built up his skills as a base stealing menace and extra base taker, and has now made further strides as a hitter to get on base and deliver thump when he makes contact. Seattle can look forward to that versatility now for the next three years.