After another 90-loss season—their third in four years—the Seattle Mariners clearly have some work to do this offseason. That's the bad news.
The good news is, payroll only has three major roster obligations, meaning the front office could choose to completely blow up the team if they wish, and they have vast financial options.
Below are Seattle's payroll obligations for 2014. Franklin Gutierrez has a club option, which would be for $7.5 million dollars or a $500,000 buyout.
For fun, let's say Gutierrez is brought back. That brings the 2014 payroll to $36.3 million. Jack Zduriencik has already said he will make a qualifying offer to Kendrys Morales, according to Greg Johns of MLB.com.
Jack Z says on @710ESPNSeattle that he'll definitely make qualifying offer to DH Kendrys Morales this offseason.— Greg Johns (@GregJohnsMLB) October 1, 2013
That offer would be for one year and around $14 million—the average salary of the 125 highest paid players in the league. That monetary total would be significantly larger than the $5.25 million Morales made this season, so conventional wisdom says he'll take it.
But Morales may want some long-term security at age 30. If that's the case, Seattle would receive a compensatory first round pick form whichever club picks up Morales, unless of course their pick is protected. We'll assume Kendrys likes Seattle and elects to stay, bringing the payroll total to $50.3 million.
Then there's Kyle Seager, the best all-around player, and quietly one of the best third basemen in the league. He'll surely demand more than the cool half a mil he made this season after putting together another productive year, though it ended in a slump. Seager could reasonably sign a three-year, $6 million dollar deal, paying him around $1.75 million next year.
Justin Smoak's contract is also up. His ups and downs have been well documented, but for the second year in a row he finished strong (at least in the power department). Next season is likely the final make it or break it year for Smoak in Seattle. Jack Z can't offer him more than a one-year deal worth $1.5 million, and even that would be a bit generous.
With Seager and Smoak re-signing, the payroll comes in at around $53.55 million for 2014. Still plenty of spending room, right?
Several other pieces need to be brought back. Tim Wilhelmsen, Charlie Furbush, Oliver Perez, Yoervis Medina, Michael Saunders, Stephen Pryor, Carter Capps, Nick Franklin, Brad Miller and the list goes on. If these guys and others get brought back for a total of $11 million, that brings our new total to $64.55 million.
Seattle's payrolls for the last two years have both been right around $84 million, so that's the figure we'll use. That's a decent amount of money to play with, enough to go after guys like Jacoby Ellsbury, Coco Crisp, Shin-Soo Choo, James Shields, but probably only one of them. If one of them would be gracious enough to sign, there would still be some cash available for mid-level free agents such as Jason Vargas, Paul Maholm, Norichika Aoki and Jason Kubel.
Plus, maybe a little left over to hire a new skipper.
All salary information was obtained via baseball-reference.com and baseballprospectus.com.