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Just getting back? Here’s the Mariners’ offseason, recapped

Kyle Lewis, Trevor Gott/The only stove that wasn’t hot/We didn’t start the fire

Wild Card Series - Seattle Mariners v Toronto Blue Jays - Game Two
Helllllo and welcome
Photo by Mark Blinch/Getty Images

I try to encounter the world as it is, not as I’d like it to be. So even though I think it’s inexplicable that some of you don’t check Lookout Landing every day of the offseason, I know you’re out there. So in case you missed it, here’s a rundown of how the roster’s changed since Jeremy Peña’s 18th-inning home run put us all out of our misery last October. If you just want the upshot, here it is. For everything that happened to get us here, read on.

In classic Dipoto fashion, the biggest moves were trades

Mariners send RP Erik Swanson and future-RP Adam Macko to Toronto in exchange for OF Teoscar Hernández

The last time we saw Teoscar Hernández, he hit two home runs in Game 2 of the Wild Card Round. I guess Jerry’s thought was, if you can’t beat him, make him join you. He’s expected to mostly play right field for Seattle, but he’s not known as a good defender. Rather, the value here is that over the last three years, Teoscar’s 132 wRC+ ranks 20th in MLB and his 73 home runs are 15th. This is a serious addition to the lineup. In return, the Mariners dealt from a position of strength, sending Erik Swanson and his lefty-devastating 4-seamer/slider/splitter combo to fortify the Jays’ lackluster bullpen. To balance the deal, they packaged him with OK-ish prospect Adam Macko and his big stuff but inconsistent command.

Read more: Our initial coverage, and our 40 in 40 profile of Hernández. (Though unfortunately Baseball Prospectus beat us to the better headline for writing up the trade.)

Mariners trade DH Jesse Winker and IF Abraham Toro to Milwaukee for 2B Kolten Wong

After discovering that the Jesse Winker trade was actually the Eugenio Suárez trade, Seattle decided to sell low on Winker and throw in selling low on Toro to boot in order to pick up Kolten Wong. Wong is a two-time Gold Glover at second base, but had a sudden collapse last year defensively, so he’ll hope for Perry Hill’s help in gaining some positive regression. He’s historically hit substantially better against righties than lefties, so it’s expected that he’ll platoon at the keystone with Dylan Moore.

Read more: our initial coverage of the trade and Lou’s 40 in 40 on Kolten Wong, focused on his defense.

Mariners send DH Kyle Lewis to Arizona for C/OF Cooper Hummel

As much as fans and the org love Kyle Lewis, there just wasn’t a place on the roster for someone who couldn’t play consistently. It was best for everyone involved to give him a reset in the desert. In exchange, Seattle picked up Portland-ish native Cooper Hummel, who’s never had much prospect shine despite running a roughly 135 wRC+ across his time in the minors. He’s athletic enough to play the outfield, and impressed during Spring Training. Depending on how he does in April, he might be an essential piece of the 26-man roster or spend most of his summer catching in Tacoma as the break-glass-in-case-of-Dumper-emergency option.

Read more: our initial coverage of the trade, Hummel’s 40 in 40, and a meditation on the end of the road for Lewis as a Mariner.

Mariners pick up RP Justin Topa and RP Easton McGee in smaller deals

The Mariners will test their reputation for developing underperforming pitchers again this year. Did they swindle the Brewers in getting Topa and his knee-buckling two-seamer? The cost was only 22-year-old Joseph Hernandez. On the one hand, FanGraphs pegged Hernandez as only Milwaukee’s 22nd best prospect after the trade, but on the other hand, he’s a Kate Preusser favorite. Topa was one of the last cuts from camp, being reassigned to Triple-A on the last day of Spring Training, while McGee was optioned way back on the 12th.

Read more: Topa’s 40 in 40.

At least all Boston wanted for Easton McGee was a little cash. He’s more about generating weak contact than strikeouts, but he also has all his options, so he can go ahead and spring for the membership pass to Tacoma’s Museum of Glass.

Read more: McGee’s 40 in 40 (good luck getting Janis Joplin out of your head).

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Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

More losses than gains in free agency

Mariners lose OF Mitch Haniger, 1B Carlos Santana, and 2B Adam Frazier to free agency

I forget who said it, but I once heard some national broadcaster say that Mitch Haniger just looks like he should be wearing a Mariners uniform (someone says this was Yonder Alonso, which sounds right to me). Obviously, we’re happy for Mitch that he gets to play for his hometown Giants and that he’s getting his duckets (3 years/$43.5 million). But we’ll all miss the beating heart of the last era of Mariners baseball.

Read more: John calling his shot on Haniger’s greatness, John praising Haniger’s biggest moment, John pleading with Dipoto to extend Haniger, and John selling San Francisco on their glorious future.

I don’t think anyone viewed Carlos Santana as a long-term piece. Instead, he’ll join Denard Span and Cliff Lee in the ranks of most-beloved part-season Mariners. He’s now with Pittsburgh and looking, quite frankly, fly as hell. Thanks for kickstarting the comeback, Carlos.

Read more: Zach listing all the best hugs Carlos Santana brought to the organization (along with some of the worst puns) (Kate added that in editing, but I’m sneaking back in before publishing to say that #actually those puns are great).

Adam Frazier has always lived and died on his luck with batted balls, and his luck this year was bad, so I haven’t seen too many people upset about his departure for Baltimore on a one-year deal. We’ll always have Game 2. Thanks for being the Keymaster, Adam.

Matthew Boyd and Curt Casali also became free agents, and they both went back to their former teams, Detroit and Cincinnati, respectively. Ryan Borucki did too, and he landed on Chicago’s North Side.

Mariners sign OF AJ Pollock, RP Trevor Gott, and 1B Tommy La Stella to major-league deals

The biggest contract Jerry Dipoto’s ever given out to a free-agent hitter with Seattle went to 35-year-old outfielder AJ Pollock, who got a $7-million, one-year deal. Since he turned 30, the story on the former All-Star has been “good when healthy” until last year, when he was healthy but underperformed his expected statistics. The general plan for Pollock is to be a part-time DH, spell Kelenic against lefties, and provide some intangible veteran leadership (he’s a onetime mentor of Mitch Haniger).

Read more: our initial coverage, some skepticism on his splits, and his 40 in 40.

Trevor Gott, who got a cool million bucks, has secured himself a spot in the bullpen to open the season. His fastball/cutter combo hasn’t been particularly great so far. But his incredibly flat Vertical Approach Angle fits right in with the Mariners’ bullpen success stories, so there may be more for Trent Blank and his team to unlock.

Read more: Our initial coverage and his 40 in 40.

Tommy La Stella’s contact-first approach has been just-good-enough and better in the years when he slugged a little too. But that was when he was a passable defender. Now he’s 34 and coming off surgery on both his achilles tendons. He’ll be fighting to justify every plate appearance as a back-up first baseman/DH. The Mariners Front Office insists he might play third base, but if that happens, something’s gone seriously awry.

Read more: Kate explores his new batting stance in TLS’s 40 in 40.

Mariners do not sign a marquee free agent

The biggest free-agency story of the Mariners offseason was who they didn’t sign. With a great free-agent class and holes in the middle infield and outfield, the Mariners hardly spent more in free agency than they’ll receive in luxury-tax payments from the biggest spending teams. We don’t mean to be too sour about this, but it is absolutely a part of the story of why the Mariners enter the season with coin-flip odds to make the playoffs instead of being considered serious competition for the Astros. Roster Resource says their 2023 payroll stands at $140 million, 18th in MLB.

Read more: Some necessary pushback on the team’s narrative about their payroll.

Mariners sign RP Casey Sadler and others to minor-league deals

As all teams do, the Mariners signed a slew of free agents to minor-league deals. After missing all of 2022 to a shoulder injury, Seattle resident and good guy Casey Sadler was released from the 40-man roster at the end of the year. But after failing to get any bites on an MLB-deal, he’s back with the Mariners on a minor-league contract. He had trouble getting into games in Spring Training, but he’s pretty close to game action. If his early going in Tacoma looks anything like the guy who recorded a 29-appearance scoreless streak in 2021 (which is still active!), he should make the big-league bullpen before long.

Fan favorite Leonys Martin got a chance in Spring Training, but was released toward the end of camp. And local kid Taylor Williams, who the Mariners once flipped for Matt Brash, is back on a minors deal. Mike Ford takes his fourth turn on the Mariners merry-go-round. And even in these uncertain times, there are some things you can count on, like Tommy Milone signing a minor-league deal with the Mariners and being Tacoma’s likely Opening Day starter.

Read more: A breakdown of every non-roster invitee at Spring Training.

Mariners non-tender RP Luis Torrens

Everyone wanted Luis Torrens to succeed, and while his catching took a step forward, it still wasn’t good enough to justify a spot on the 26-man roster with a 72 wRC+. With Tom Murphy healthy again and Torrens out of options, that meant granting LT his release. He made the Cubs’ Opening Day roster, and we all hope it sticks.

Kansas City Royals v Los Angeles Angels Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

A little 40-man churn

To protect them from the Rule 5 Draft, Seattle added relievers Isaiah Campbell and Prelander Berroa and outfielders Cade Marlowe and Jonathan Clase to the 40-man roster. Campbell and Marlowe are closer, but are perceived to have lower upside. Clase stole 55 bases in Modesto last year and he put on a little muscle that might be enough to punch his ticket to the show in a couple years. Berroa set undergarments alight early on in camp with his triple-digit fastball and sharp slider.

On the flip side, the Mariners took a player from the Cubs in the Rule 5 Draft: reliever Chris Clarke, a command specialist with a high ground-ball rate. With so many decent arms on the pile, I never liked Clarke’s odds of breaking camp with Seattle, and on the last Monday of March, they sent him back to Chicago.

To make room on the roster for various signings, Justus Sheffield and Alberto Rodríguez were both DFA’d but survived waivers and remain with the org. Alberto had a big comeback spring and was one of the great stories in a camp that was somewhat thin on storylines.

The Mariners also picked up three relievers off waivers. The biggest name is J.B. Bukauskas, a former first-round pick with a high-effort delivery and correspondingly unsurprising health problems. He was DFA’d shortly after Seattle claimed him, but he cleared waivers. Gabe Speier got picked up out of Kansas City, and he could see Major League time at some point this year; he was one of the last cuts in camp. Local kid Tayler Saucedo rounds out the trio of relievers with too many letters in their names. Several of these players will likely appear with the big-league club over the course of this season, and some of them might stick if they show they can get out big-league hitters. Recall that Penn Murfee spent significant time in Tacoma last season.

Read more: 40 in 40s for Campbell, Berroa, Marlowe, Clase, Clarke, Speier, Saucedo, and a loving tribute to Berto.

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