It will be an interesting offseason for the Seattle Mariners.
Although the power numbers were way up (188 HR compared to 149 in 2012), as a whole the team struggled to hit for any kind of average (.237), especially with runners in scoring position (.228). Despite all the power Seattle added, they scored just five more runs than in 2012 and still have some major holes to fill in the order. The lack of speed (49 SB) contributed to 122 groundouts into double plays, removing baserunners before they made much progress.
On the other side of the token, the pitching took a major step back after being one of the most successful units in the league a season ago. Hisashi Iwakuma has emerged as a top-tier starter along with Felix Hernandez, but the rest of the rotation was wildly inconsistent, both in performance and membership.
The bullpen took a dive too and can best be described as an enigma. Relievers had the second worst ERA in baseball (4.58) and lost 33 games, while recording the most strikeouts among bullpens (535) and giving up the third most walks (224).
We saw the major league debuts of several highly anticipated prospects, but with a fair amount of money available this offseason, Jack Zduriencik may decide to stockpile veterans and add them to the incumbent crop of young players.
Here are some free-agent bats the Mariners should consider adding this offseason.
Ellsbury is the best-case scenario signing for the Mariners. Sure, he has injury history. But he's a five tool player and the best outfielder available this offseason. He would take care of several problems including a leadoff hitter, center fielder (assuming Franklin Gutierrez does not return), huge stolen base threat and experienced winner. He'll probably never replicate his 32 home runs and 105 RBI from 2011, but the runs he's capable of creating make the power numbers moot.
Hart would fit perfectly into the middle of Seattle's order upon the likely departure of Kendrys Morales. He's a career .276 hitter, has loads of power and would fill a void in the cleanup spot. He runs fairly well, and while he isn't a great fielder, he could be slotted as a DH, where he may be more suitable.
The former Mariner is another five tool guy who consistently hit around a .290 clip with 20 dingers and 20 steals. Seattle lacks talent and depth in the outfield, and Choo is diverse. He can play any of the three outfield positions and hit anywhere from leadoff to sixth in the batting order.
When he's healthy, he's one of the best all-around outfielders in the business. Unfortunately, that hasn't been very often. Gutierrez hit 10 home runs and drove in 24 RBI in just 41 games this season, proving how valuable he can be. He's also played just 173 games over the last three seasons. He has a $7.5 million team option for next season, and I'm reluctant to say he'll be brought back. The buyout is $500K, much more affordable and less risky.
Mike Zunino is undoubtedly the Mariners' catcher of the future, but with Jesus Montero's future in doubt, Zunino is all the team has behind the dish for now. Kurt Suzuki is a veteran who can mentor Zunino and is worthy of starting but can just as easily be a solid reserve player. Suzuki has a club option with Oakland for next season, but with their low payroll I doubt they'll pick it up for $8.5 million.
Who should be Seattle's top offseason priority on offense?
Seattle's pretty well spoken for in the infield, but first base and DH are still up in the air with Justin Smoak's inconsistency. Young is an ageless veteran who can flat out hit. He would be the perfect vet to throw into the mix and is very familiar with the A.L. West. He's 36, but even a few years with the Mariners could help the overall chemistry and environment of the clubhouse.
Possible lineups given aforementioned additions:
1. Ellsbury, CF/Choo, CF/RF/LF/Miller, SS
2. Nick Franklin, 2B/Seager, 3B
3. Kyle Seager, 3B/Young, DH/1B/Hart, LF
4. Raul Ibanez, DH (assuming he comes back)/Hart, LF
5. Smoak, 1B/Young, DH/1B/Hart, LF
6. Zunino, C/Gutierrez, CF/RF/Franklin, 2B
7. Gutierrez, CF/RF/Suzuki, C
8. Michael Saunders, LF/RF/Franklin, 2B
9. Brad Miller, SS/Franklin, 2B
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