The Seattle Mariners have a number of decisions to make as they go into the offseason. Some choices will be easy, while others will be a little more difficult. Based on what the Mariners have done in past years, it would not be surprising if most of the roster returned in 2014.
To be perfectly honest, the problem with a number of players on the roster is that they are just plain average. Unless the Mariners go out and spend some money or certain members of the roster pick up their production, this team could again be “under construction” in 2014.
Here is a breakdown of the Seattle Mariners active roster and whether they will return in 2014.
Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma are under contract, so those are pretty easy. Unless another team overwhelms the Mariners with a trade offer for Iwakuma, he and King Felix are still your top two pitchers going into 2014.
Dustin Ackley is also under contract for 2013. He had an up-and-down year offensively, but given the lack of definitive outfielders for the future, assume Ackley may be back in the open spaces of Safeco Field.
Barring a trade, certain established position players will be back. These include Kyle Seager, Nick Franklin, Brad Miller and Mike Zunino. Seager in particular is worth a multi-year deal. Add in young starters like James Paxton and Taijuan Walker, who may compete for spots in the rotation.
Highly likely...but tough calls
It also seems likely that players such as Justin Smoak and Michael Saunders will return in 2014. What these two players have in common is that they are solid, but not necessarily that exciting.
In other words, the word “upside” is no longer used when they are being discussed. Smoak in particular has his fans and his detractors. He is yet another player who had his moments in 2013, but ultimately finished with very average statistics (.238, 20 HR, 50 RBI).
This is where it starts to get a bit hard to predict. For starters, assume veteran players like Henry Blanco and Humberto Quintero won’t return. The Mariners may bring in a veteran catcher to pair with Zunino, but that could be a number of players.
Then there is Franklin Gutierrez. Guti has a club option of $7.5 million for 2013, and a $500,000 buyout. Conventional wisdom suggests that the Mariners should let go of what could have been and pay the buyout. Gutierrez has talent, but he just can’t stay healthy. He played 41 games in 2013, one more than he played in 2012.
Just not sure
There are a whole lot of bullpen pitchers and a couple of young hitters that may or may not be back, at least at the big league level. This includes Carter Capps, Danny Farquhar, Charlie Furbush, Bobby LaFromboise, Lucas Luetge, Brandon Maurer, Yoervis Medina, Hector Noesi, Erasmo Ramirez and Chance Ruffin. Tom Wilhelmsen is not as young and his future is up in the air after an erratic year. A number of these pitchers will be on the roster, but some may be back in Tacoma. Stay tuned.
Then there is the fate of young hitters like Abraham Almonte and Carlos Triunfel. Almonte had a nice start in his brief time at Safeco Field, and he may be one of the starting outfielders in 2014. Triunfel would have to put together a hot spring to make the club.
Get ready for some interesting negotiations, which will start with Kendrys Morales. As noted by Greg Johns of MLB:
Jack Z says on @710ESPNSeattle that he'll definitely make qualifying offer to DH Kendrys Morales this offseason.— Greg Johns (@GregJohnsMLB) October 1, 2013
Will Morales take the one-year deal worth an estimated $13.5 million? Or, will he test the market and hope for a multi-year deal? If another team wants Morales, they would need to surrender a first-round pick in addition to a sizable contract. That might be too steep a price for Morales. Do not be surprised if Morales takes the one-year deal.
There are other veterans whose future with Seattle is uncertain. It is reasonable to assume that Endy Chavez and Joe Saunders will not be back. If they are, it will be for inexpensive deals.
What about Oliver Perez? Seattle would probably like to have him back, but it would not be surprising if another team stepped in and outbid the Mariners on a multi-year deal.
Finally, the future of Raul Ibanez is uncertain. Ibanez was one of the most productive hitters in the lineup, but he will be 42 next June. The magic can’t last forever.
There is much work to do. Hopefully Jack Zduriencik will make some wise decisions. His future employment may depend on it.