The MLB offseason is now in full swing with free agency officially open after the GM meeting in Las Vegas. And after a 90-win season and a playoff series win, many eyes in the baseball world are focused on the Seattle Mariners.
Someone who was at this year’s GM meetings is Jon Morosian MLB insider for the MLB Network, who joined Seattle Sports 710 AM’s Wyman and Bob on Wednesday from Vegas to discuss all things Mariners.
Morosi spoke to Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto at the meetings, and that gave him a lot to share in his weekly visit.
First off, are the Mariners a team to watch when it comes to the biggest bats on the open market?
“Based on everything I’ve heard in the lobby here the last couple of days, I think there is a much higher chance of the Mariners signing a shortstop than signing (outfielder) Aaron Judge,” Morosi said.
Judge, the likely American League MVP, swatted 62 home runs and likely will get the largest contract of any free agent this offseason.
At shortstop, four All-Stars have hit the market in Carlos Correa (formerly of Minnesota), Trea Turner (LA Dodgers), Xander Bogaerts (Boston) and Dansby Swanson (Atlanta). Signing any of those four could mean incumbent shortstop JP Crawford moving off the position to second base.
“I don’t believe that they are telling JP Crawford that they’re on the verge of moving him to a different position, but I also think that they are more open-minded about that now than they were a year ago,” Morosi said. “And now that we know that they’re not going to give the qualifying offer to (right fielder) Mitch Haniger, I think it opens up a lot of options about how they’re going to allocate their money. And I really think they’re more likely to allocate their money toward a shortstop and/or the possibility of (free-agent outfielder Brandon Nimmo), who we spoke about last week. I think Nimmo or a shortstop is far more likely than Aaron Judge.”
Salk: Mariners’ route from good to great may not be big free agents
The Mariners are also a team to watch with a top international free agent.
“I would also mention that we heard Jerry Dipoto talk about his interest in Kodai Senga, who I would mention is probably a top 10 to 12 free agent in baseball this year coming over from the Softbank Hawks in Japan,” Morosi said.
Senga is a right-handed pitcher who turns 30 in January.
“I think that the Mariners will be in the middle of a lot of these conversations. I think Senga by definition won’t sign until probably the middle of December because of how long it takes the free agent process to play out internationally.”
With the big shortstops and Judge, Morosi said he thinks Swanson will sign this month, Bogaerts will follow in December and Correa and Judge won’t sign until after the new year.
On the trade front, Morosi thinks a bat the Mariners facing in the playoffs this season could be a player to watch.
“I do think one trade possibility to keep in mind is a pretty significant bat that’s out there and might provide more power than what (Mitch) Haniger did this past year, Teoscar Hernández of the Blue Jays,” Morosi said.
Hernández, 30, is a corner outfielder who has two Silver Sluggers to his name and was an All-Star in 2021. He hit two home runs against the Mariners in Game 2 of the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
The Blue Jays don’t need to move Hernández, Morosi said, but could in order to fill needs elsewhere.
“He is a significant piece for them to move if he can bring back the pitching they need, or maybe a lefty bat. So perhaps Teoscar for (Mariners outfielder Jarred Kelenic and more) could make some sense,” Morosi said. “I think Kelenic is a really interesting guy. I think the Mariners like him maybe more than anybody else does, but I also believe that there is a chance that he in a different environment would really find something. And Toronto has a history of finding guys who … didn’t quite put it all together (elsewhere), and honestly, Teoscar Hernández was one of those guys in Houston.”
— Toronto Blue Jays (@BlueJays) October 8, 2022
Morosi also thinks the Mariners could trade starting pitcher Chris Flexen, who was moved to the bullpen after the team acquired Luis Castillo at the trade deadline. Morosi thinks Flexen may be more valuable to other teams than the Mariners as a result.
“You look at a team like the White Sox (because) Johnny Cueto right now is a free agent. They have a spot (open) in their rotation,” Morosi said. “The Blue Jays (have) a lot of uncertainty considering their pitching staff. The Rangers, I know it’s hard to make a deal in the division, but they are looking for pitching anywhere … There are a lot of teams out there. The Rockies are another one. I think Flexen and the Rockies, I would bookmark that and and circle back to it.”
Morosi said Colorado Rockies general manager Bill Schmidt told him that pitching is far and away the team’s top priority.
“So I would say that based on what Bill told me, it would be a surprise if the Rockies had not already checked in with Jerry Dipoto on Chris Flexen,” Morosi said. “… I think Flexen is probably more valuable to everybody else than he is the Mariners because of what Seattle has in place with their rotation right now.”
If the Mariners deal Flexen, what could the return look like?
“I think that his price point is manageable enough and his potentiality of giving you innings is high enough that you could maybe not get a front-line, everyday player but someone who’s at least a platoon-type player who helps you address some things. Someone who’s maybe a similar type of player to what (Sam) Haggerty brought you or (Abraham) Toro,” Morosi said. “… Or maybe it’s an up-and-down-type starting pitcher or reliever who’s a little bit younger than Flexen and maybe has more variability is that type of guy I think is reasonable to get.”
You can listen to the full conversation with Morosi in the podcast player below.
Mariners add a pair of pitchers; Sadler, Borucki elect free agency