Could the Seattle Mariners Be the Surprise Big Spenders of the Offseason?

Josh SchochAnalyst IIINovember 6, 2013

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 27:  Starting pitcher Felix Hernandez #34 (L) of the Seattle Mariners sits on the bench with teammate Henry Blanco #33 at the start of the seventh inning against the Oakland Athletics at Safeco Field on September 27, 2013 in Seattle, Washington. Hernandez was removed after throwing six innings.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Every year, MLB has one team that shocks the world by spending an insane amount of money during the offseason, and this year, it looks like that team will be the Seattle Mariners.

After a surprising report from Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, it looks like the Mariners will be spending a lot of money this offseason.

Here is the tweet that indicated the M's will be busy this offseason:

Clarification on something I reported earlier. #Mariners want Ellsbury or Choo plus starting pitcher. Not on Napoli, but will seek RH bat.

— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 6, 2013

After spending just $72,031,143 in 2013 (ranking 24th in MLB), the M's will likely see a huge rise in their payroll this offseason.

Let's take a look at how the team's payroll will be looking if it's able to lock down all four of the items on its offseason wish list.

 

Signing Jacoby Ellsbury

2013 Team: Boston Red Sox

2013 Salary: $9 million

2013 Stats: 134 GP, .298/.355/.426, 9 HR, 53 RBI, 52 SB

Ellsbury is coming off a very solid 2013 campaign. While injuries led to him missing 28 games, he was much healthier than he was in 2010 (18 games played) or 2012 (74 games played).

The Boston Red Sox extended a one-year, $14.1 million qualifying offer to Ellsbury:

As expected. Red Sox say they will make qualifying offers today to Napoli, Drew and Ellsbury but not to Saltalamacchia. #RedSoxTalk

— Sean McAdam (@Sean_McAdam) November 4, 2013

However, it's unlikely that Ellsbury will accept his qualifying offer, as he's likely looking for a multi-year deal and should be able to fetch at least $14.1 million in another contract.

Ellsbury is coming off a good season and an even better postseason, during which he batted .344. He looked like the 2011 version of Jacoby Ellsbury once again, the version that was named to the AL All-Star team, won a Gold Glove, won a Silver Slugger and finished second in MVP voting.

After such an exciting season, Ellsbury is in line for a big contract. He might not reach $100 million, but the Mariners will likely have to shell out $85 million over five years to convince him to leave a World Series-winning team in favor of one that went 71-91 last season.

Projected Contract: Five years, $85 million

 

Signing Shin-Soo Choo

2013 Team: Cincinnati Reds

2013 Salary: $7.375 million

2013 Stats: 154 GP, .285/.415/.466, 19 HR, 46 RBI, 93 R

Shin-Soo Choo put together a nice season in Cincinnati, but now he's on the move.

Choo was made a qualifying offer by the Reds, but it's highly unlikely that he accepts it. He should also be looking for a contract of four or five years.

CBS Sports' Jon Heyman projected that Choo will sign a contract of $110-120 million over six years. However, that seems a bit lofty, as Choo has struggled against lefties:

Free agent OF Shin-Soo Choo is a good hitter and has value, but ranks No. 65 among qualified OF's in WOBA v. LHP past TWO seasons combined.

— Jason A. Churchill (@ProspectInsider) November 6, 2013

Having such a glaring weakness could hurt his future salary during negotiations this offseason.

While Choo is a very talented player who will certainly draw some serious interest, it's more realistic that it will take a $75 million deal to bring him to Seattle.

Projected Contract: Five years, $75 million

 

Signing the Others

NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 15:  Phil Hughes #65 of the New York Yankees stands on the mound in the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at Yankee Stadium on August 15, 2013  in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Even with Mike Napoli's name out of the picture, as Rosenthal reported, the Mariners are still looking for a starting pitcher and a right-handed hitter.

The M's will likely be looking for as good a deal as they can get on a pitcher, and one of the cheapest options on the market is Phil Hughes.

Hughes has struggled over the past two seasons, but a big reason why he has struggled is because he has surrendered 59 home runs over the past two years combined.

It might not be Hughes' fault that he has been getting shelled, however, as Yankee Stadium has become a launching pad for hitters. In fact, it had the most home runs of any MLB stadium in 2012.

Phil Hughes 2013 (Home vs. Away)
SituationGSW-LERABAA
Home161-106.32.317
Away133-43.88.262
Baseball-Reference

As you can see, Hughes is a solid pitcher away from home, but the hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium has not been kind to him.

Hughes also gave up 39 of his home runs over the past two seasons at home, and a quick glance at his stats away from home will tell you he desperately needs a change of scenery.

SAN DIEGO, CA - AUGUST 4: Phil Hughes #65 of the New York Yankees pitches during the first inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres at Petco Park on August 4, 2013 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
Denis Poroy/Getty Images

Safeco Field could be the perfect spot for Hughes, as it had the fewest home runs of any AL ballpark in 2012.

Pitching in Seattle has been easy for Hughes. In fact, his ERA is lower at Safeco Field than any other MLB stadium in which he's pitched at least three innings.

Phil Hughes by Stadium
StadiumGSW-LERAWHIP
Career Averages18256-504.541.322
Yankee Stadium8528-214.821.344
Safeco Field54-00.820.955
Baseball-Reference

Hughes should put up good numbers in Seattle, and he is a very cheap option right now. In fact, the team could sign him for as little as $14 million over two years, and it would likely be his best offer.

The other matter that the M's must take care of is finding a right-handed hitter to insert into the lineup. The best option for the team would be to go after Marlon Byrd.

PITTSBURGH, PA - OCTOBER 06: Marlon Byrd #2 of the Pittsburgh Pirates hits a two run RBI single in the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals during Game Three of the National League Division Series at PNC Park on October 6, 2013 in Pittsburgh, Penn
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The 36-year-old Byrd had a fantastic 2013 season, batting .286/.331/.520 with 22 homers and 76 RBI. He put up great numbers, which was shocking after he hit .210/243/.245 in 2012 and was designated for assignment by the Boston Red Sox in June.

What set Byrd apart was the fact that his production against lefties was astonishing.

As you can see from the above table, Byrd hit lefties hard, which is exactly what the Mariners are looking for from this free-agent signing.

If Byrd can replicate his 2013 success, he'll be a huge signing for whichever team lands him, but the Mariners should be able to snag him for $12 million over two years.

If the Mariners are to land Hughes and Byrd, the team will likely be spending roughly $26 million over the course of the next two seasons.

 

The Final Word

Lloyd McClendon: Seattle's new manager
Lloyd McClendon: Seattle's new managerLeon Halip/Getty Images

If the Mariners are able to sign all four players for the anticipated prices, they will spend roughly an extra $35 million next year.

The asking price for these guys isn't cheap, and if the team brings back its key pieces and adds these new ones, it could be looking at a $107 million payroll.

According to Baseball Prospectus, the Mariners haven't spent over $100 million since 2008, when they dished out $119,080,500 to guys like Ichiro Suzuki, Richie Sexson, Adrian Beltre and Jarrod Washburn.

The Mariners are in for a big pay increase this offseason, and they will likely be the year's surprise big spenders.