The Seattle Mariners are desperate. They have great pitching in the organization, but the hitting side of things has been a different story.
With bad luck developing offensive talent, the Mariners are looking outside of the organization to bring in free-agent offensive talent.
According to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal, the Mariners are casting a wide net this offseason:
The Mariners’ wish list includes, to varying degrees, Nelson Cruz, Carlos Beltran, Jacoby Ellsbury and Shin-Soo Choo. The team also wants to add a starting pitcher and a closer, but offense is the priority. The Mariners are casting the widest net possible, fearing they still might get shut out.
In recent offseasons, the M’s failed to land Josh Hamilton and Prince Fielder in free agency and Justin Upton when he rejected a trade. Hitters look at Seattle and see the following: Bad team. Pitcher-friendly ballpark. Undesirable geography, particularly for players from Latin America who want to be close to home.
Offensively, it's obvious why the Mariners have interest in multiple outfielders. Here's how they performed in 2013, compared to Cruz, Beltran, Ellsbury and Choo:
The Mariners were aided in the power categories by Raul Ibanez with 29 home runs and 65 RBI, but there's no guarantee he's going to be back at 41. Knowing that, it's obvious to see why the Mariners have interest in the top outfielders on the market.
While the Mariners have interest in multiple free agents, the question is, will they give the Mariners serious consideration?
Who the Mariners Are Interested In
ESPN's Buster Olney tweeted out a few of the Mariners' interests:
Mariners are said to be targeting Nelson Cruz and Carlos Beltran. A major question looms: Will elite free agents seriously consider Seattle?— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) November 26, 2013
Rosenthal also noted the Mariners' interest in Mike Napoli, as well as the players mentioned before:
Scott Boras, the agent for Choo and Ellsbury, generally directs his clients toward market-driven contracts. And who knows, maybe Napoli would grow frustrated with the Red Sox’s desire for short-term deals, and bolt for the money.
The Mariners had interest in Napoli last offseason, but wanted him partly as a backup catcher. Sources say the team backed off due to the condition of Napoli’s hips, which later became an issue in his negotiations with the Red Sox. Now that Napoli is a first baseman, coming off a season in which he played 139 games, the second-highest total of his career, the landscape is different.
The Mariners also seem interested in a few closers on the market, according to a tweet by Rosenthal:
Now, why would the Mariners need help at closer? Here's how last year's closer, Tom Wilhelmsen, did compared to Grant Balfour and Brian Wilson:
Regardless, the Mariners are trying to make improvements to their bullpen, which ranked 29th in baseball with a 4.58 ERA.
Seattle wants to improve, but as the old adage goes, money talks.
What Seattle Has Going for It
Pitching is the biggest thing the Mariners have going for them. With Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen and many more good pitchers in the system, Seattle should have a dominant mound presence for many years to come.
And when you have good pitching, you're going to have a chance to win the game.
All the Mariners have to do is get their hitting together. Mike Zunino has failed to reach his potential, while Dustin Ackley should be considered a bust.
But the Mariners have third baseman Kyle Seager they can build around after he batted .260 with 22 home runs and 69 RBI in 2013. However, they need more.
Which outfielder are the Mariners most likely to sign?
Rosenthal concludes the Mariners will have to overpay for big-name free agents:
Two sources used the same word to describe the Mariners’ current approach — “desperate.” Desperate teams shift course. Desperate teams spend money. Desperate teams are capable of just about anything.
It's hard to dispute Rosenthal's claims. We saw what the Washington Nationals did when they offered Jayson Werth a seven-year, $127 million contract. The Nationals were coming off five straight years in which they had a losing record. The Mariners are coming off four straight years with a losing record.
Seattle is going to have to overpay for free agents if it wants to see some of them in a Mariners uniform. Outside of Ellsbury, none have ties to the Northwest and most want to win. Right now, Seattle is one of the last teams that anyone expects to win a World Series.
And who knows? All it may take is one big-name free agent to sign with Seattle, like Werth did with a hapless Washington team. It only takes one player who came from a winning culture to change a losing culture.
All of the free agents mentioned could change that. But will they? Will they have faith that the Mariners can win a World Series? If they do, then Seattle can still do some major damage this offseason.