Justus Sheffield Mariners

I’m sensing four things buzzing around the ‘sphere that is Seattle Mariners fandom. One, that the Mariners’ rebuild is very close to complete. Two, that the club’s efforts will go off without a hitch. Three, that successful rebuilds means a World Series, and otherwise it’s a failure. And four, that if the rebuild isn’t successful that it was a mistake in the first place.

None of the above are true.

Let’s chat.

What Makes for a Successful Rebuild?

Most in the industry would agree a successful rebuild can mean different things. Of course, a World Series appearance, win or lose, will certainly bear the aesthetics of a successful rebuilding project. For Seattle, it’s about opening an extended window of opportunity, and that opportunity should result in several playoff-caliber teams and at least one legitimate chance at a World Series — hopefully two or more — over the course of 5-plus seasons. Anything short of that and it would be fair to suggest the rebuild didn’t work.

One can argue, however, a rebuild is successful if it simply improves the long-term health of the organization and paves the way for better times, or as one front-office exec said this winter, “are they better off, ultimately and for the long haul, for having gone through that process? If so, that’s healthy progress, and good process. That’s the floor, and a lot better than spending a $160 million, $170 million, for what amounts to a mediocrity … on the upside.”

But there’s some gray area between success and failure. It’s really not plausible to believe the Mariners’ “reimagining” can end in failure, considering the foundation has unequivocally been set up for long-term success. But a true success? While this neutral patch includes a lot of subjectivity, it’s difficult to see tossing the ‘success’ label on it if there aren’t playoff appearances … plural.

So, What if There Aren’t Multiple Postseason Berths?

Whether or not the club’s rebuild ends in the kind of success that includes several playoff appearances, it was the right move for the Mariners after the 2018 season. The roster and payroll situation was on the fast-track to nowhere, and GM Jerry Dipoto took full advantage of the assets he had before they lost value by way of service time and/or performance. And at the very least, Dipoto has put together strong scouting and player development department, and replenished the farm system into near-elite status. What that does is reduce the risk of the rebuild itself — the exact opposite of running out pricey, aging veterans year after year and hoping for the best, which is what the club did the five season prior to Dipoto’s arrival, and to a lesser extent the first three of his tenure.

But the Mariners didn’t just start a rebuild after the 2018 season, they changed their DNA, which may be the most underappreciated aspect of the entire process, and one that pretty much is never discussed by, well, anyone. Even once the club is no longer in what is often referred to as ‘rebuild mode,’ among other terms, they’re not going to conduct business in the same manner as before. We saw some of this in action prior to  the 2018-19 offseason, but it’s clear Dipoto is capable of — and prefers — eating clean, so to speak. A safer, more organic manner in which to acquire high-end talent, and now with some evidence rearing it’s gorgeous face in the majors that it’s working.

The way Dipoto has gone about things the past two years isn’t going to change. Sure, at some point soon — starting now, really, at least on some level — the club will start acquiring more proven talents rather than focusing on long-term impact and control years, but operational strategies will remain. The ‘what’ will be different, the ‘how’ will not, and that’s perhaps the most meaningful difference between Dipoto’s Mariners and the regimes that came before over the last 15-plus seasons.

The yet-to-be-asked-or-addressed question now is “how long without ‘success’ markers, i.e. a few postseason berths, before the rebuilding efforts can be deemed unsuccessful?” When asked, a handful of assistant GMs and other front office types varied in response.

“I think it depends on the expectations,” a Mariners rival exec said. “If you’re the Cubs right now, you’re not going to accept three or four losing seasons in a row, not in that market. So once all the revenues return, the clock starts ticking. With those resources, Jed (Hoyer) won’t get five years without winning some. It’s a different kind of rebuild — it’s more of a retool, and success means fighting in the heavyweight class. If you’re the Pirates, Ben Cherington is going to get time, he deserves time, and his job will be safe, and should be, if he gets them back to October at all.”

A former GM agrees about expectations, but more specific to Seattle’s situation said “we should stop talking about (mid-market teams and small-market teams) like they shouldn’t have the same expectations, at least internally, and they all should act like it, so it’s apparent to the rest of baseball and the fans. But if you told me in five years Seattle (has home-field advantage in) a few playoff series, or better? That’s a success. Look at where they were, and you can build on whatever the results of their current efforts are, too.”

Fans are always going to have their own standards, and the club’s own hopes certainly play a role, but I’ll stick with my ‘it’s already a non-failure’ tag until testing is complete and calls for more final grades.

Is the Rebuild Almost Complete? Will it go off Without a Hitch?

No, it’s not almost complete, and no it will not go smoothly.

When the club set out on their path to rebuild pretty much from scratch, it had the look of a 5-year process. They’ve moved along a little faster than did the Houston Astros, who lost 416 games the first four seasons of their tear-down last decade and didn’t win more than 86 games until Year 7 when they started a three-year run of 101 or more victories. They got back to respectability for two years prior to that run, winning 86 and 84 games respectively in Years 5 and 6., and the Mariners’ pace appears set to get to this point by Year 3 or 4. But the resulting high-point of the process may not hit a the same level, and it may take just as long as it took Houston to get there.

On the fast track, the Mariners’ ‘rebuild’ won’t be complete for at least two years, and there’s a decent chance it takes even longer. The hope, and it’s a reasonable one at that, is the club can win some during the latter years of the rebuilding stages, which may consist of 2022 and 2023, if not 2021 as well.

And here’s where the “will not go smoothly” comes into play.

A hurtful chunk of the young talent the club has acquired over the last two-plus years will either take longer than is ideal to develop into the impact players the club needs them to be, or they’ll fail to reach such levels altogether, which in turn can, and likely will, prolong the club’s efforts to turn into a contending club. In a perfect world, Kyle Lewis takes a full step forward and looks like a star, Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert hit the majors in 2021 and prove their worth, show flashes of impact performances and by the end of the 2022 season look like all-stars in their own right, while the next wave, Cal Raleigh, George Kirby, Emerson Hancock, Julio Rodriguez, start their own process toward similar outcomes.

But that’s not the way it works. Prospects fail, they struggle, sometimes even the best talents take years to develop, and sometimes they just don’t turn out to be the core pieces clubs hope they will be. This is yet another reason why a club in Seattle’s current position, has no business moving potential high-impact talent — the Mariners need to throw as many darts at the board as they possibly can to land on a core they can build upon through such impact trades and/or free agent signings in order to get to where they want to be.

Thus far, Dipoto has gathered quite the assortment of arrows in his quiver, and if one breaks there’s another behind it ready to be fired at the target. But there will be misses. Take the Astros, who reached the ultimate pinnacle, winning a World Series and getting to two as a result of the rebuilding process they began after the 2010 season. In 2015 they were hoping Jonathan Singleton would break through. They even gave him the Evan White contract two years prior. Singleton struggled so mightily he was DFA’d in November, 2016.

Houston was also high on catcher Hank Conger, who didn’t pan out, 1B A.J. Reed, and catcher Jason Castro, who was good enough to stick for awhile but never became what they hoped he would. The same can be said for OF Preston Tucker, and 1B Tyler White. Add right-handers Jordan Lyles and Jared Cosart, 3B Matt Dominguez, and CF Jake Marisnick to the mix. At some level, and at some point between 2012 and 2016 when the club broke through, all of those players failed to reach the kind of impact status the Astros hoped.

So rather than busting through in 2013, 2014 or 2015, it took until 2016 — Year 7 of the rebuild — for the Astros to do some damage. We can go through every legitimate rebuild of the last 20 years and come to the same results, and find even more glaring examples, but the Astros’ rebuild was highly successful, and was more recent than others, so it serves as perhaps the best precedent available for this conversation.

So, since there will be misses along the way as Seattle moves toward competitive rosters and mostly organically, the path from bad to mediocre, mediocre to to good, and good to great, will be anything but a smooth ride.

Now, if you asked me, right now, if I think Seattle wins 90 or more games before what would be Year 7 since the rebuild began — 2025 — I’d say yes, and I’d put my money where my mouth is. But keep your seatbelts fastened, because it’s unlikely to be right around corner, and it’s absolutely not going to come without potholes.…

Yes, the title reads like a bit of an oxymoron, but that’s done purposefully in order to make sure we’re talking about talents with a high-percentage chance to show up in future MLB stories.

The pool of players I’m working off is MLB.com’s Top 100 as of December 15, 2020.

Here are the eight most underrated top prospects, and why.

Ryan Mountcastle, 1B/DH — Baltimore Orioles
Mountcastle raked in 140 plate appearances in the majors in 2020 (.333/.386/.492) and has a long track record off hitting for average and power in the minors. He’s limited to first base or DH thanks to a poor throwing arm that gets a lot of 30s and 35s from scouts, but he’s a decent athlete who projects to hit .280 with 25-30 homer power, and he’s clearly ready to face big-league arms (again).

Reid Detmers, LHP — Los Angeles Angels
He’s yet to lace ’em up in pro ball, but Detmers should be a quick study thanks to plus command and control and a 65 curveball. He’s a good athlete, repeats a deceptive delivery, and the value in his ETA suggests 75 is a 10-20 spots low.

Francisco Alvarez, C — New York Mets
Alvarez has a traditional catcher’s build and is tooled up from a plus throwing arm to defensive instincts and an above-average hit tool that may end up plus. There’s some funk to his non-stride, but it’s conservative if anything. He’s 2-3 years away, but the profile itself is too unique and as risk averse as it gets for young backstops that 58 just too too low.

Brennen Davis, OF — Chicago Cubs
Davis is a five-tool prospect with at least above-average grades across the board, including plus speed and projectable power that could end up his best tool. He’s still maturing physically, but showed an advanced skillset considering he was 20 years old posting a .305/.381/.525 slash in the Midwest League. He has a real chance to stick in center and the trends are all pointing sky high.  Davis has big-time bat speed, generates easy leverage and loft, and covers the zone well for his age and experience. No. 72 is minimum 15-20 spots low.

Sam Huff, C — Texas Rangers
Huff’s raw power and improved hit tool suggest a chance he’s an average first-base bat if he has to move off catcher, but despite his size — 6-foot-5, 239 pounds — he has good feet, soft, strong hands, has shown adept at framing and may be able to handle catching early in his career, a la Matt Wieters. Either way, there’s 30-homer power in there, and he’s short to the ball despite long levers.

George Kirby, RHP — Seattle Mariners
Kirby cruises at 91-94 mph, touching 97, with plus command and three projectable secondaries, two of which already flash big-league average or better. He used the downtime in 2020 to remake himself physically and now looks the part of 200-inning No. 3 starter. There’s so little risk here and the right-hander figures to move quickly due to his ability to throw strikes and locate the fastball that 95 is at least 20-25 spots too low.

Luis Patino, RHP — San Diego Padres
Ranking at No. 23 suggests it’s very difficult to be underrated, but at 20 years of age the right-hander competed in the majors and struck out nearly 25% of the batters he faced in 11 appearances. The stuff is undeniable, including a 94-98 mph fastball, a slider that misses bats and flashes plus-plus, and a changeup that’s already a useful weapon. He’s not as udnerrated as some others here, but right now Patino is ranked below CJ Abrams, Matt Manning, Drew Waters, and Forrest Whitley, and for me that’s a mistake.

Edward Cabrera, RHP — Miami Marlins
Despite developing late, Cabrera is 22 and big-league ready after fewer than four years in pro ball. The fastball has plane at 93-97 mph, runs some to his arm side, and the slider is above-average with a chance to be plus-plus in time. He’s shown feel for an average changeup, too, and has at least average control at present. He’s built like an ace and those two potentially-elite pitches offer a high floor and ceiling, screaming ’80’ is far, far too low for the Marlins’ right-hander.…

Over the weekend, MLB.com’s Will Leitch penned a piece picking the most likely player in every MLB organization to make the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Now, I hate almost every hall of fame conversation, for reasons I won’t get into here and now, but I disagreed with six of Leitch’s picks so I thought I’d do one of my own.

Let’s go by league and division, starting in the American League and moving East to West.

American League East

Toronto Blue Jays
Leitch: Vladimir Guerrero Jr.
Churchill: Bo Bichette

I get the pick of Guerrero here but he’s likely to spend a lot of years as a DH and despite Edgar Martinez breaking down some walls in that regard a few years back such a tag puts a lot of pressure on the offensive numbers.

Bichette also has an early advantage over his teammate. At 22, he has posted two stints — 46 games in 2019 and 29 games in 2020 — where he’s batted .300 or better, slugged .500 or better and has showed well enough at shortstop.

Baltimore Orioles
Leitch: Adley Rutschman
Churchill: Rutschman

The Orioles are simply devoid of such talents right now, so their top prospect will have to do. Rutschman is a future star, though, so it’s a good pick and the best bet by far.

Tampa Bay Rays
Leitch: Wander Franco
Churchill: Franco

Same as with Rutschman and the Orioles, Franco is the lone star-level talent in the organization with a chance to be a superstar.

Boston Red Sox
Leitch: Rafael Devers
Churchill: Devers

Chris Sale is 31, coming off Tommy John and is probably 91 wins from garnering serious HOF consideration. Xander Bogaerts, at this pace, would probably need to play 10 more years to reach such status — and be very very good for most of them.

Devers is 24, has 74 career homers and 433 hits and the last full season produced 32 long balls and a 132 wRC+. If he sticks at third long-term, he has the best shot in the org. For now.

New York Yankees
Leitch: Giancarlo Stanton
Churchill: Aaron Judge

Stanton has 312 homers, 796 RBI, has four 30-homer seasons and a 59-homer campaign. But he’s 31 and already starting to run into the IL quite a bit the last two seasons, which threatens his career numbers and may push him to a lot of DH work the rest of the way.

Judge, too, has run into some injury issues despite being three years younger than Stanton, but he has every bit the power and is a better overall hitter than Stanton, suggesting a better shot to produce well into his 30s.

American League Central

Cleveland Indians
Leitch: Jose Ramirez
Churchill: Ramirez

He’s 28, has been a top-5 MVP candidate three times in four years and should be able to stay on the field for most of his career where he’s a very good third base glove.

Kansas City Royals
Leitch: Salvador Perez
Churchill: Perez

Perez is the defacto pick here since there’s no one else reasonably close to the conversation, but he’s been an above-average bat just twice since 2013, and one of those is a 37-game sample from 2020.

Detroit Tigers
Leitch: Miguel Cabrera
Churchill: Cabrera

A no-brainer. He’s 37 now and complete toast but he’s 13 homers shy of 500, has driven in 1729, owns a .391 career OBP and won back-to-back MVPs. He’s getting in.

Minnesota Twins
Leitch: Josh Donaldson
Churchill: Donaldson

Donaldson isn’t getting in, either, but unlike Perez is a consistent all-around performer with an MVP on his resume.

Chicago White Sox
Leitch: Jose Abreu
Churchill: Tim Anderson

Despite the MVP in 2020 (which he shouldn’t have won), Abreu is not quite a hall of famer. He’s 33, has hit 198 homers and owns a .294/.350/.520 slugging percentage.

Anderson, a fine shortstop, is just 27, has a batting title, 74 homers, 73 stolen bases and the last two seasons has posted a .357 OBP. He has a significantly better chance to post the kinds of numbers a shortstop needs to garner serious consideration than does Abreu versus first base standards.

American League West

Los Angeles Angels
Leitch: Mike Trout and Albert Pujols
Churchill: Trout and Pujols


Oakland Athletics
Leitch: Matt Chapman
Churchill: Chapman

Chapman is Oakland’s best player, will be 28 in April and is among the best third basemen in recent memory. I don’t think he has much of a shot, but he’s far more likely than anyone else on the roster.

Houston Astros
Leitch: Justin Verlander
Churchill: Verlander

Another no-brainer.

Seattle Mariners
Leitch: Kyle Lewis
Churchill: Jarred Kelenic

The case for Lewis has a leg up since he’s performed a bit in the majors, but he’s 25 and Kelenic is likely to make his MLB debut before he turns 22. He’ll also enter the bigs with a better hit tool, which lends tons more confidence he’ll hit for the long haul.

Texas Rangers
Leitch: Joey Gallo
Churchill: Gallo

Gallo may hit 500 homers and have a legit shot, but it’s probably going to take more than that if he continues to struggle to hit for average. In five of Gallo’s six seasons — three full, three part — he’s batted .209 or under.

National League East

Atlanta Braves
Freddie Freeman
Churchill: Ronald Acuna Jr.

Freeman just won an MVP and will enter 2021 with a career .295/.383/.509 triple-slash with 240 homers. But he’s 31 and not yet halfway to some of the counting stats it’s likely to take. The one caveat is his 2020 season. If he puts up .341/.462/.640 a few times in full seasons, everything changes.

Acuna, though, is just 23 this week, has a 40-homer season under his belt and was on another 40-homer pace in 2020 despite missing 14 games. The power alone may get Acuna in, and it helps that he’s been a passable center fielder and should remain a solid corner-outfield defender for the next 10-plus seasons. Oh, and he’s swiped 61 bags in 313 career games.

Miami Marlins
Leitch: Sixto Sanchez
Churchill: Sanchez

The Fish are filled with young talents and Sanchez is the best of them all.

New York Mets
Leitch: Jacob deGrom
Churchill: deGrom

Cano might have been in the convo here had it not been for a second PED suspension, but deGrom is an easy choice. He’s 32 but already has two Cy Young awards, finished third in 2020 and is showing no signs of slowing down.

deGrom, however, isn’t likely to have the traditional numbers voters have looked for historically, namely wins. He has 70 in seven seasons and has no shot to get to even 200.

Let’s see how voters treat modern day starting pitchers, starting with CC Sabathia in 2025.

Philadelphia Phillies
Leitch: Bryce Harper
Churchill: Harper

I think he’s going to get in on counting stats, but he does have an MVP and owns a 138 career wRC+. His 232 career homers have come before his 28th birthday and his lifetime .387 OBP makes up for seasons without a high average.

Washington Nationals
Leitch: Max Scherzer
Churchill: Scherzer

Mad Max is 36 and has 175 wins, three Cy Youngs and is among the elite starting pitchers of his generation. He’ll get to 200 wins sometime in 2022 and has a shot to surpass 3,000 strikeout if the 2021 is a full slate of games — he’s 216 shy, and hasn’t struck out fewer than 231 in a full season since 2011.

Teammate Juan Soto owns a career .295/.415/.557 slash with 69 homers. It won’t matter much that he’s not a very good defender. Best hitter in baseball and he just turned 22 in October.

National League Central

Milwaukee Brewers
Leitch: Christian Yelich
Churchill: Yelich

The Brewers are without another star at the moment, so Yelich is a runaway winner here. His candidacy is rather weak, however. He’s now 29 and has 151 homers, a 296/.381/.488 lifetime slash and despite his MVP just hasn’t had enough great seasons. At least not yet.

St. Louis Cardinals
Leitch: Yadier Molina
Churchill: Molina

Molina has compiled 54.5 fWAR in 17 seasons and has six season of four wins or more, including two near-8 win campaigns in 2012-13. But he’s been a league-average hitter overall and there’s no inherent value to staying in one organization. He’s likely getting in, but I’m not convinced he should with a career .257/.305/.402 line and 160 homers.

Chicago Cubs
Leitch: Anthony Rizzo
Churchill: Kris Bryant

Rizzo is 31, has 229 career homers and a career 131 lifetime wRC+. But he’s finished in the top 5 in MVP voting just twice and has just three top-10 finishes. He’s been very good but has a lot of work to do.

Bryant is three years younger, has 142 career homers, a 136 wRC+, and has spent his career playing third base and left field. He also has three 6-win seasons an an 8-win season. Rizzo hasn’t surpassed 5.3 wins.

Pittsburgh Pirates
Leitch: Ke’Bryan Hayes
Churchill: Hayes

He’s played fewer than 30 games in the majors, but he’s clearly the Bucs’ bets bet.

Cincinnati Reds
Leitch: Joey Votto
Churchill: Votto

Votto has a career .304/.419/.517 line with 295 homers and he’s 37 years old. I think he gets in with Edgar Martinez setting the precedent for bat value.

National League West

Arizona Diamondbacks
Leitch: Madison Bumgarner
Churchill: Bumgarner

Bumgarner is an interesting case. He’s a postseason legend, but has just 119 wins, no Cy Young wins, just two top-5 finishes and is fading fast. But he’s only 31 and has time to find a way to get back. He’s not getting in, but I think he should get more consideration than his win totals suggest.

Los Angeles Dodgers
Leitch: Clayton Kershaw
Churchill: Kershaw

Kershaw is the no-brainer, but Mookie Betts has accumulated 40.2 fWAR in five full seasons and two partials, including a 10.4 fWAR MVP year in 2018.

San Francisco Giants
Leitch: Buster Posey
Churchill: Posey

He’s a better candidate than Molina, even though he doesn’t catch quite as much an the voter sentiment likely favors the Cardinals backstop. Posey’ 2012 MVP helps, as do the World Series titles, but he’s also just 33 and has a chance to add to his 140 homers, 1380 hits and career .302/.370/.456 triple-slash.

Also, Posey had the easiest swing to project to the majors I’ve seen in 20 years.

San Diego Padres
Leitch: Manny Machado
Churchill: Machado

I think he’s overrated, but he dos have four 5-win seasons, three of them 6-win efforts and has 223 homers at age 28. This past season may be a sign he’s made an adjustment and his experience is finally starting to pay off at the plate by way of more contact, better batting averages and OBPs.

Colorado Rockies
Leitch: Nolan Arenado
Churchill: Arenado

I do think Arenado is the best bet right now, having posted 32.2 fWAR, but the edge on Trevor Story isn’t large, especially considering the threshold on shortstops versus third basemen.…

Every season we see dozens of prospects break through to the big leagues, including many who got a taste the prior season. The following is an introductory look at what may be the best rookies in 2021. A handful of these names were prominent rookies in 2020. Some haven’t even sniffed the majors yet, but have a great chance to next season.

This is not an attempt to predict the best ROY candidates. This is not a ranking of prospects or rookies. It’s just an early thought on the the 50 best rookies for 2021, in no particular order.

This also is not a projection of wins above replacement, where relievers or back-end starters who spend most or all of the season in the bigs outvalue a high-impact player that comes up in late August or September.

NOTE 1: You may notice not every top prospect is mentioned, because of their chances to see the majors or to see enough time to serve in a prominent role. You also may notice there aren’t a lot of pure relievers on the list, for what should be obvious-to-all-of-us reasons.

NOTE 2: Player maintain “rookie” status until they have surpassed 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the major leagues, whether it’s over one individual season or combined over multiple years.

Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B — Pittsburgh Pirates
Terrific in 24 games in 2020 (.376/.442/.682, 195 wRC+), the 23-year-old is primed to sustain that explosion next season. He’s a plus-plus glove, a good athlete, and carries the makeup of a true franchise player.

Randy Arozarena, RF — Tampa Bay Rays
Arozarena hit seven homers in 76 PAs in the regular season and then hit a thousand long balls in October. OK, it was ‘just’ 10, but he did so in just 77 PAs. He also batted .377 in 20 postseason games. He’s among the favorites for the American League ROY entering 2021, and potentially a major returning piece for the defending AL champions.

Dylan Carlson, OF — St. Louis Cardinals
Carlson spent all of 2020 as a 21-year-old and while the final numbers (.200/.252/.364) weren’t good, he flashed from both sides of the plate and showed solid defensive ability. The scouting report suggests a .280 hitter with above-average on-base skills and power, but he may just need a little more time to put together both swings.

Joey Bart, C — San Francisco Giants
Bart profiles as a plus  defensive backstop with plus pop and a chance to hit .260. He’ll need to be more selective, but has all the tools to make a number of All-Star games and help propel the Giants back to where they want to be.

Devin Williams, RHR — Milwaukee Brewers
Williams won the NL Rookie of the Year in 2020 but has yet to surpass the innings threshold to DQ him for another run as a ‘rookie.’ His devastating changeup not only helped him strike out 53% of the batters he faced, but it also induced a 64% ground ball rate on the rare occasion batters made contact. That’s repeatable to a large enough extent to keep Williams high on your list.

Ian Anderson, RHS — Atlanta Braves
Anderson was very good in 38 frames in 2020, filling the void left by Mike Soroka who spent almost the entire season on the IL with an Achilles injury. If the right-hander wants repeat his success from 2020, however, he’ll need to throw more strikes, but he avoids the barrel consistently and misses bats.

James Karinchak, RHR — Cleveland Indians
Karinchak, like Williams, was great in 2020 and maintains rookie status into 2021. The right-hander used a mid-90s fastball with a lot of life up in the zone to set up an overhand curveball. The stuff produced a 49% strikeout rate to offset a severe fly ball batted ball profile and a 147% walk rate in 2020. Despite the high rate of fly balls, Karinchak kept the ball in the yard last season.

Sixto Sanchez, RHS — Miami Marlins
Sanchez was good in seven starts last summer, generating 58% ground balls and going at least six innings on four occasions. He’s consistently 95-98 mph with the fastball to go with a hard slider and firm changeup, all of which are quality big-league offerings. He’s still learning how to use his stuff, but when he does expect the whiff rate to spike from the 20.6% rate he posted in 2020.

Triston McKenzie, RHS — Cleveland Indians
McKenzie is a tall, lean, and athletic right-hander who’s been dripping with projection since he was a comp round pick in 2015. Since Day 1, however, he’s thrown strikes and missed bats, and he did that for 33 innings last season in Cleveland. The velocity is easy from 92-96 mph and his two breaking balls are average or better — the slider might be special. His changeup teases thanks to good arm speed and he repeats a deceptive delivery very well.

Nate Pearson, RHS — Toronto Blue Jays
Pearson debuted in 2020 but struggled to command his fastball (16% BB), something he rarely experienced in his two-plus minor league seasons. The right-hander can be absolutely filthy, however, with a 95-99 mph fastball that shows arm side run and life up in the zone, and three secondaries that project as average or better, led by a slider that’s already a swing-and-miss pitch. The difference-maker may end up being a plus changeup. Pearson has a shot to be a legit ace.

Josh Jung, 3B — Texas Rangers
Jung, 23 in February, may have a path to the majors early in 2021 with the Rangers moving Isiah Kiner-Falefa from third base to shortstop and transitioning Elvis Andrus into a utility player. Jung isn’t yet on the 40-man, but his best tool is his ability to swing at strikes and find the barrel. He’s not likely to hit for a lot of power just yet, but he’s always drawn his share of walks and made a lot of contact. He projects as average defensively.

Wander Franco, SS — Tampa Bay Rays
The top prospect in baseball possesses the best hit tool on a teenage prospect I’ve ever seen, showing plus ability now and a chance to be an elite 80. But the 5-foot-10, 190-pound switch hitter isn’t all contact, as he also brings above-average power potential to the batter’s box. He’s a 60 runner, too, and should be at least average in the field with a plus arm. He could end up a .330/.400/.500 bat with a chance to swipe 30-40 bags and be a value with the glove, and he might do it before it’s legal for him to have an alcoholic beverage.

Shane McClanahan, LHS — Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays know how to extract value from young arms and McLanahan may be next in line. He finished 2019 in Double-A and has pounded the strike zone all the way up through the minors. He’ll sit 93-96 mph and has one of the better left-handed curveballs in professional baseball, a true 60-grade pitch. His changeup still needs work, but flashes average. While he throws strikes, his fastball command could use a bump if he’s to reach his ceiling as a No. 2 starter.

Jarred Kelenic, OF — Seattle Mariners
Kelenic, 21, has ascended quickly since being the No. 6 overall pick in the 2018 Draft. He ended 2019 in Double-A and likely figures into the Mariners plans early in 2021 — with left field being filled by placeholders until then. Ultimately, it’s at least a 55 hit tool with 60 power, but I’m bullish on the power and see a chance he’s a 35-40 homer stick in his prime. He throws well and is at least an average runner.

Logan Gilbert, RHS — Seattle Mariners
Gilbert is the closest among Seattle’s top arms in terms of reaching the majors and likely sees the show by the midway point next season. He’s up to 97 mph with his fastball and cruises 92-94 with a plus slider, above-average knuckle curveball and a changeup that at times has been his best secondary. He’s a beast at 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds and figures to be a No. 3 starter — with a chance at more.

MacKenzie Gore, LHP — San Diego Padres
Gore, 22 in February, is pure filth with a 92-96 mph fastball and three 60-grade offspeed pitches in a 73-77 mph curveball, a changeup at 82-85 and a slider that may end up his most effective of the trio. He has 60 control and 50 command, but he’s athletic from head to toe, his arm work well despite a long path — it actually creates deception — and there’s a solid chance he ends up with plus command, too.

Keibert Ruiz, C — Los Angeles Dodgers
Ruiz isn’t the athlete Will Smith is, nor as polished as Austin Barnes, but it’s an average present hit tool with a chance to be plus and then some, and he’s already a gap threat with strength and bat speed to project for more power. He’s not a great receiver but can handle the position and has a high-floor offensive game to offer while he’s working out the wrinkles in the rest of his game. How he gets time in 2021 remains to be seen, but he’s ready.

“He was ready in back in 2019,” said one AL scout. “He makes good solid contact with a line-drive swing, uses most of the field — uses the middle well — has a very good idea of the zone and doesn’t chase.”

Josiah Gray, RHS — Los Angeles Dodgers
Gray was under-drafted in 2018 when he fell to the No. 72 pick overall pick, likely for two reasons. One, he’s 6-foot-1 and at the time 180 pounds. Two, the competition he faced at Le Moyne College (NY) was the NFL’s equivalent to the NFC East. But Gray is a great athlete, is up to 95 mph and possesses three potential major-league quality offspeed pitches, including a slider that may be his best. He’s yet to build up the arm strength in the minors, so he’s unlikely to make 25 starts in 2021, but could be a combo or multi-inning relief arm for the Dodgers early next season.

Forrest Whitley, RHS — Houston Astros
Whitley’s scouting report far exceeds his production the last two years, but he’s also battled through some injuries and has managed just 197 professional innings in four seasons — not counting whatever unofficial work he received in 2020. The stuff is great — a 65 fastball at 93-96 mph, four, yes four above-average to plus secondaries, led by a plus curveball and changeup. Aside from the injuries, Whitleys bugaboo is control, where he’s issues 95 bases on balls in under 200 innings. A fine-tuning that gets him to 45-grade control and command makes Whitley at least a No. 3 starter — if he can stay off the IL, that is. He’s ready for the majors.

Bryan Abreu, RHP — Houston Astros
Abreu is an underrated arm, but his chances to start lean heavily on his ability to improve his control — he’s walked 174 batters in 287 innings in the minors. The raw stuff, however, is undeniable, including a plus fastball up to 96 mph, a plus slider, and a curveball that gets a lot of 65 and 70 grades from scouts. His changeup also shows some promise. Abreu, like Whitley, has had a few injuries along the way, too. At worst, Abreu has a shot to be a high-leverage reliever, but he’s ready to face major league hitters consistently.

Casey Mize, RHP — Detroit Tigers
Mize was the No. 1 overall pick in 2018 and reached the majors last summer. He didn’t have his best stuff in seven starts for Detroit, but he’s up to 96 mph with devastating cutter-splitter-curveball combo backed by above-average command. He’s had some issues staying healthy, which may be the biggest hurdle on his way to being the staff ace in Motown.

Tarik Skubal, LHP — Detroit Tigers
Skubal has great life on his mid-90s four-seamer and an above-average slider. His 75-78 mph curveball and low-80s changeup remain below-average, and his control and command are blocking him from consistent outings. He needs more seasoning in the minors, but can miss bats now so a relief role could be in the offing once the Tigers are ready to start winning. Lefties went 3-for-24 (.136) off him in the big leagues last season — all singles.

Nolan Jones, 3B — Cleveland Indians
Jones, 23 in May, is blocked at third base by Jose Ramirez, but may be best suited at first base, anyway — I get a lot of 40-grade reports from scouts on Jones defense, at least as of September, 2019. The power is very real, however, and could reach the 35-homer level or better if he can improve his bat-to-ball skills. He may be ready for a long look in the majors in 2021, and first base is wide open in Cleveland.

Nick Lodolo, LHS — Cincinnati Reds
Lodolo was the No. 7 pick in the 2019 Draft and may see the majors in 2021. I thought he was over-drafted a bit, but he has a starter’s repertoire and eventually should throw a lot of strikes. He can miss bats with his changeup and steal strikes with an above-average curveball he commands consistently.

Tyler Stephenson, C — Cincinnati Reds
Stephenson debuted in 2020 and while it was just an eight-game, 20-PA sample, the bat looked very good (.294/.400/.647, 2 HR), despite a lot of strikeouts. The main question on Stephenson is the glove, where he may be able to get to fringe-average in time, but has a chance to hit .270 with high OBPs and the bat speed to hit 25-30 homers if he can work a power swing into his game plan. He has a great arm, but may not have the feet to play anywhere else on the diamond.

Andrew Vaughn, 1B — Chicago White Sox
Vaughn mashed in college and while he’s a bat-first, nearly bat-only prospect who batted .252 with a low-.400s slugging percentage in his two full-season stops in 2019 (a 52-game sample), he walks, he makes contact a high rate and carries 30-40 homer pop — the upper range of that in the band box that is Guaranteed Rate Field — which should be called Guaranteed Rake Field, if you know what I mean.

Garrett Crochet, LHS — Chicago White Sox
Crochet, who started at Tennessee, including one start before the shutdown last spring, then pitched out of the bullpen for the White Sox in September and October. It’s a 96-100 mph fastball in either role, and the slider flashes plus-plus. He has a hard changeup with a chance to get to average over time, but he may not throw it much if the White Sox keep him in the bullpen. If he dialed down the velo a bit in a starting role, he may throw more strikes, and I think early in 2021 Crochet will get that chance in the minors.

Brailyn Marquez, LHS — Chicago Cubs
Marquez is up to 99 mph and cruises at 93-97, but his third pitch and command need a lot of work. He has thrown strikes at times, but generally doesn’t locate consistently, and has bouts of control problems that knock him out of games early. He’s just 22 in January, and the Cubs are retooling, so there’s no need to rush him out of the rotation right now. Because the Cubs are likely taking a step or two back, Marquez may get most of is work in the majors in 2021.

Jeter Downs, 2B — Boston Red Sox
Downs is a below-average shortstop glove but should be average or better at second base. He doesn’t do anything really well — there’s no lead tool — but he should hit .280 with solid OBPs and average or slightly above-average power. He’ll also swipe a few bags, despite fringe-average speed.  The Red Sox have other options at second base in 2021, but none have the staying power of Downs. He’s not yet on the 40-man, but is due to touch down next season.

Adley Rutschman, C — Baltimore Orioles
My favorite prospect in baseball right now, and I think he’s closer to No. 1 than No. 3 is to the former Oregon State star. Rutschman is a very good defensive catcher with a plus arm and a chance to be the best in the game in short order. Oh, and he can hit for average and power from both sides of the plate, and brings championship makeup to the ballpark every single day. On the upside, we could see a .300/.400/.550 MVP-type prime from Rutschman. It’s unlikely he’s up early in 2021, but sometime over the summer isn’t out of the question. That’s how gifted he is.

Cristian Pache, CF — Atlanta Braves
Pache’s bat is going to need some time, especially in the power department, but he’s an elite glove in center — perhaps the best in baseball already — and has right-field arm strength. He’s also a plus to plus-plus runner capable of legging out triples, infield hits and swiping 30-40 bags if given the chance to run freely. In the long run, he should produce enough offensively to stick in the lineup, and there’s All-Star upside here. All that could start from the get-go next April.

William Contreras, C — Atlanta Braves
Contreras will be 23 this month and got a cup of java last season with the Braves. He’s been inconsistent offensively, but has 15-20 homer raw power and makes enough hard contact to suggest a playable hit tool. He has a plus arm and is about average in the receiving and blocking departments. Contreras has a great chance to be the No. 2 catcher to start 2021, and it may be more a time share if the kid hits.

Drew Waters, OF — Atlanta Braves
Unlike Pache, Waters isn’t yet in the 40-man, but he’s a five-tool prospect with a chance at four plus tools, including hit, power, speed and throw. Waters finished 2019 by batting .271/.336/.374 in Triple-A, and his power has yet to develop n games, but he does everything on the field, and should fit nicely in either corner once his bat is ready. Waters could very well be Ender Inciarte‘s eventual replacement, and that could be sometime next season.

Alex Kirilloff, OF/1B — Minnesota Twins
Back in July 2018, an NL assistant GM texted to ask if anyone was talking about Kiriloff in the same conversations as Eloy Jimenez, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Fernando Tatis Jr.  “They should be,” he said. “He’s the best hitter I’ve seen all year down here.” Once he got to Double-A a year later, however, he began chasing a bit more — he hits a lot of pitches hard 4-6 inches off the plate, at least relative to the typical prospect — and big-league arms will take advantage with breaking stuff and significantly better command. The power is legit plus and some scaling back of his selectivity could unlock what may be a plus hit tool, too. He’s fringey in right field, but the bat may play at first base, and he’s ready to be tested by the Twins.

Deivi Garcia, RHS — New York Yankees
Garcia is five-foot nothin’, a hundred and nothin’, but touched 95 mph and misses bats with aa plus changeup. He’s pitched in relief just eight times in pro ball, but five of those came at Triple-A in 2019, which seemingly was a precursor to a middle-relief role in the big leagues in 2020. But the Yankees needed starter’s innings last season, and Garcia came through, averaging nearly six innings per start, pounding the strike zone and perhaps offering the Yankees more role flexibility than some believed he could entering last season.

Spencer Howard, RHP — Philadelphia Phillies
Howard, 24, is near-ready to grab a rotation spot with the Phillies and auditioned with mixed results in 2020.  The fastball is up to 97 mph and dwells 92-95 with relative ease. He has three major-league quality secondary pitches, including a plus curveball and above-average changeup. He throws enough strikes at this point to warrant time in the bigs, but there’s room for more consistent fastball location, which pushes him from back-end arm to potential No. 3 starter.

Luis Patino, RHS — San Diego Padres
If he can keep his delivery together consistently, he may be a favorite for ROY in 2021. He flashed this past season in 17 innings, sitting 95-99 with an out-pitch slider and useful changeup.

Luis Campusano, C — San Diego Padres
Campusano may not get much of a chance in 2021 barring injury after the acquisition of Austin Nola last summer, unless he beats out Francisco Mejia in spring training, which is plausible, though not necessarily probable. Neither is more than a fringe defender, but Campusano brings more offensive upside and appears to be progressing with the glove while Mejia’s defensive development has been relatively stagnant.

Seth Romero, LHS — Washington Nationals
Romero is likely a big-league reliver but he might be a very good one in the mold of Sean Doolittle if he can settle into the role and avoid the off-field issues that have plagued him to date. He’s been up to 97 mph with the fastball but sat 92-94 last summer, albeit with an above-average slider that projects to plus. He also has a useful changeup and when he holds his mechanics together can throw a lot of strikes.

Bobby Dalbec, 1B — Boston Red Sox
Playable at third base, Dalbec fits best at first base, especially in Boston where Rafael Devers is settled at third for the time being. He has monster raw power thanks to bat speed and tremendous swing leverage. He’s adept at working counts and drawing walks, but hasn’t shown an ability to hit for average in the minors. He batted .263/.359 in 23 games for the Sox last summer, but his BABIP was .394. He ended the season with an xBA of .199. A minor adjustment or two could aid in his efforts to make more consistent contact, perhaps thrusting Dalbec into run-producing corner infielder for years.

Adonis Medina, RHS — Philadelphia Phillies
Medina’s name has been included in significant trade talks each of the last two winters, but he made his debut with the Phillies last summer, starting and lasting four innings. It’s an average fastball at 91-94 mph, plus a sinker in the same range. The three offspeed pitches all tease average to above-average, but the changeup is the best at present. Depending on what Philly does this winter with their roster, Medina could start spring training with a job to lose in the rotation. It’s a No. 4 profile, there may be a ground ball skill hidden in the profile, which could provide a bit more upside.

Royce Lewis, SS — Minnesota Twins
Lewis, 21, wouldn’t be buried in this section if it appeared he was the favorite to be the starting shortstop or second baseman for the Twins on Opening Day next season — but he’s not, at least not yet with Jorge Polanco and Luis Arraez projected to start up the middle. Lewis is a 60 runner with plus raw power that’s starting to show up in games. The arm is average, but the shortstop defense is fringey, despite the athleticism. Scouts don’t love the swing, but they still like the player quite a bit. Lewis probably belongs in left field on the current Twins roster, but he hasn’t played but eight innings in the outfield in games, so we may not see him do it in the bigs early in 2021.

Julio Rodriguez, OF — Seattle Mariners
Rodriguez was dinged up in 2019, rebounded quickly to mash at both Class-A levels. In 2020 he missed almost all of full workouts at the Alternate Training Site with another wrist injury, but returned to mash in the Winter League. He’s just 19, but it’s an average hit tool with upside, 65 or better raw power, and a right field defensive profile that includes a 65-grade arm. I wouldn’t put it past Rodriguez to force his way into the majors in 2021, and if Seattle is hanging around in the race for the No. 8 spot in the American League, that roster is going to be fun.

Michael Kopech, RHP — Chicago White Sox
After TJ surgery in 2018 and opting out of the 2020 season, Kopech should be all healed up and ready to go. The disadvantage here is the overall workload for 2021; the Sox may take it easy on him. When 100% healthy, Kopech has an 80-grade fastball that consistently hits triple digits and has tagged 105. The slider is plus with tilt and the curveball isn’t that far behind. His change has a chance to be average in time, as does his command.

Matt Manning, RHP — Detroit Tigers
Manning has been Detroit’s most consistent pitching prospect, but he lacks the raw stuff of either Mize or Skubal. He sits 92-95 mph and complements with an above-average changeup and curveball. He throws strikes and in 2019 showed improved ability to locate to both sides of the plate versus both lefties and righties alike. He’s athletic and the trends are all pointing up, suggesting his mid-rotation projection isn’t necessarily his ceiling.

Max Meyer, RHP — Miami Marlins
Meyer was the No. 3 overall pick last June and could be on the fast track to the show. The arsenal is very good — up to 100 mph and regularly 93-97, with a 70-grade slider — and Meyer’s changeup has a real chance to be average or better. He’s just 6-feet and 195 pounds, but is a brilliant athlete and comes with a high ceiling as a dominant high-leverage reliever available to the Fish whenever they want it. Meyer added strength each year at Minnesota to give him a chance to start long term, so the only chance we see him in relief in 2021 is in a pennant race or playoff run after Meyers logged too many innings in the rotation.

Taylor Trammell, LF — Seattle Mariners
If Trammell had a better throwing arm he might be the club’s centerfielder of the future (sliding Kyle Lewis to a corner or out the door as trade bait), but it’s a 40 noodle that fits OK in left. Trammell is a great athlete with contact skills that have been disrupted by a lot of tinkering with his swing aimed at unlocking legitimate power potential. He’s a 65 runner and 65 defender — think: Jacque Jones — but if the bat speed meets a better swing, there’s above-average power in there, too. He projects to get on base a lot and swipe some bags. On the upside he’s hitting at the top of the order but otherwise could be a 7-or-9-hole hitter in a very good lineup with no automatic outs.

DL Hall, LHP — Baltimore Orioles
Hall’s three above-average offerings start with a fastball up to 97 mph in a starting role. The curveball and changeup tease plus, too, and with more work his control and command should get close to big-league average. It’s the makings of a No. 3 starter with a high-leverage floor. He’s ready to face major league bats, but hasn’t thrown more than 94 innings in a season as a pro.

Oneil Cruz, SS — Pittsburgh, Pirates
Cruz is the tallest shortstop I’ve ever seen at 6-foot-7, and considering he’s 210 pounds at age 22, there’s a great chance he slides to third base sooner than later. He’s a left-handed hitter with plus raw power who offers average hitting skills sans some swing and miss, but since he’s still maturing physically we can’t close the door on the raw power grade, suggesting a 45 hit tool may play just fine, anyway.

Brandon Marsh, OF — Los Angeles Angels
If there were a minor league season, Marsh may have broken through to the majors last season. At the end of the 2019 season the power was all projection, but he showed average or better hitting tools and the bat speed backs up the raw power grades. Marsh has a good arm and runs well, especially for a 6-foot-4, 225-pounder, and hasn’t outgrown center field yet. Because he’s a better bet to hit he may end up a better player than org mate Adell, not unlike how Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar ended up solid major leaguers while Brandon Wood and Dallas McPherson did not.…

As the Seattle Mariners build their 2021 roster it’s important to keep in mind not every piece is going to fit neatly like a jigsaw puzzle, and that everything is fluid.

Along the way it can be helpful to take a snapshot of how things look, so let’s do that right here and now.

Earlier this week, GM Jerry Dipoto and the Mariners signed right-hander Chris Flexen to a two-year. $4.75 million deal with an option for a third season.

Thursday, the club selected two players in the Rule 5 Draft, including right-hander Will Vest in the big-league portion.

As a result, the depth chart looks a little different than it did last weekend.

Below is a depth chart of sorts, including all 40-man options in each position group, plus any relevant prospects that may see time next season.

Starting Rotation

Marco Gonzales
Yusei Kikuchi
Justus Sheffield
Justin Dunn
Chris Flexen
Nick Margevicius
Ljay Newsome
Robert Dugger
Logan Gilbert
Ian McKinney
Alejandro Requena

Margevicius, Newsome, Dugger and McKinney could see time in a relief role, as could Dunn if the club deems it time to pull the plug on him as a starter sometime between now and the end of the 2021 season. Requena, 24, was just signed and finished 2019 in Double-A.

If Seattle wants to win 80-85 games in 2021, they’ll need a proven veteran in the middle of the rotation or it’s going to get ugly no matter what they’re able to do in the bullpen.

Jake Odorizzi, Jose Quintana, Rick Porcello, Matt Shoemaker, Michael Wacha, Taijuan Walker, and Anthony DeSclafani are among the free agent options.


Kendall Graveman
Anthony Misiewicz
Casey Sadler
Brandon Brennan
Erik Swanson
Aaron Fletcher
Joey Gerber
Wyatt Mills
Sam Delaplane
Will Vest
Yohan Ramirez
Domingo Tapia
Penn Murfee
Andres Munoz
Raymond Kerr
Logan Rinehart
Jack Anderson
Darren McCaughan
Gerson Bautista
Drew Steckenrider
Brady Lail
Matt Magill
Moises Gomez
Cody Anderson
Nick Duron
Vinny Nittoli
Matt Festa

Murfee and McCaughan have been starters in the minors but project as relievers in the big leagues. Gomez was signed last month, is up to 98 mph and has a slider that flashes average but is very inconsistent. Steckenrider was league average with the Marlins in 2017 and 2018 before struggling in 2019. He lives in the mid-90s, touching 98 with a power curveball. He had a triceps injury in 2020 that kept him out all year, but if healthy he has a shot to win a role and help in 2021.

Pedro Baez, Alex Colome, Steve Cishek, Archie Bradley, Shane Greene, Greg Holland, Keone Kela, Mark Melancon, David Phelps, Joakim Soria, Justin Wilson, Jake McGee, Brandon Workman, and Kirby Yates are legitimate possibilities to fill middle relief and high-leverage roles.


Tom Murphy
Luis Torrens
Jose Godoy
Brian O’Keefe
Cal Raleigh
Josh Morgan

The Mariners inked Godoy in November to add to the depth at the position. The club also inked Morgan, an infielder with some catching experience, to a minor league deal.

While all clubs are always looking for additional catching, the Mariners are in pretty good shape, both in terms of likely production, but in terms of club control and long-term outlook.


Evan White
Dylan Moore
J.P. Crawford
Ty France
Shed Long Jr.
Sam Haggerty
Tim Lopes
Jose Marmolejos
Kyle Seager
Donovan Walton
Sam Travis
Amador Arias

Travis was signed in December, and Arias was a Rule 5 pick in the Triple-A phase. Lopes, Moore, Haggerty, and Marmolejos also played outfield in 2020. Long has limited outfield experience but projects passable there.

Seattle could use a multi-position infield veteran that can handle the outfield a bit, too. While Jurickson Profar is probably too rich an idea, Brock Holt and Jonathan Villar may not be.


Kyle Lewis
Mitch Haniger
Jake Fraley
Phillip Ervin
Taylor Trammell
Braden Bishop
Jarred Kelenic
Dom Thompson-Williams
Luis Liberato

It might be a stretch to think Liberato or even Thompson-Williams could see the majors in 2021, but worst-case scenario for injuries could push the envelope, and both can manage left field defensively and offer baserunning value.

Seattle should look for a veteran lefty stick that can play the outfield to pair with Ervin in left field until Kelenic is ready to take over, and to serve as a safety net in case the club contends and Kelenic struggles once he does arrive.

Free agent candidates include Robbie Grossman, Nick Markakis, Joc Pederson, Brian Goodwin, and Tyler Naquin.…

With the full free agent class now known after non-tender day arrived and departed Wednesday, let’s put together a list of free agents that make sense for the Seattle Mariners.

But first, here’s what you won’t see below.

You won’t see the names of DJ LeMahieu or Trevor Bauer, for example. Nor will George Springer‘s name show up, or the likes of Marcus Semien or Liam Hendriks. It’s not that the Mariners shouldn’t have some level of interest in those players, but fit, cost, and other resources are critical this offseason to avoid roster conflicts, redundant skill sets, and misdirected roster spots and payroll allotment.

Reminder: Not every acquisition GM Jerry Dipoto and the Mariners make this winter need to be via free agency. Trades can, and likely will, remain part of the process. This list is about free agents only, and are listed in no particular order.

Starting Pitchers

Jake Odorizzi, RHP
He missed time with a blister issue this past season but was very good in 2019 and has posted five average or better seasons over the last six full years. He’s as good a fit for a club looking for a mid-rotation level arm as there is.

Jose Quintana, LHP
The lefty didn’t pitch much in 2020 — 11 innings, one start — but he was solid in 31 starts in 2019 and hasn’t lost much off the heater. Last season was the first year since his rookie campaign Quintana didn’t get to 170 innings.

Rick Porcello, RHP
After a bad start, Porcello was solid in 2020 making all 12 starts and getting through 59 innings. He’s reliable and while the upside isn’t exciting, stabilizing the rotation is Dipoto’s goal this winter.

Jon Lester, LHP
The Tacoma native will be 37 in January and is coming off a sub par, 12-start 2020 campaign, but a rested, re-charged version of Lester has a chance to bounce back to 2019 form when he made 31 starts and was a little better than league average. A six-man rotation may be ideal for Lester, who saw his velocity fall under 90 mph and his strikeout rate dip under 16%.

Taijuan Walker, RHP
Walker was solid for Seattle and Toronto last season, and most of the pre-surgery velocity was back (93.5 mph average fastball). His newish slider, overhand curveball, and splitter all were inconsistent, but flashed as legitimate weapons. It’s a decent bet for Walker to go 150-innngs or more over a full season. He fits a lot of club’s needs.

Anthony DeSclafani, RHP
The 30-year-old right-hander was above-average four straight seasons until a dip to average in 2019. He was downright bad in 33 2/3 innings this past season and he’s managed 125 innings or more just twice in five full years — he missed all of 2017 with a sprained UCL — but he did toss up 166 2/3 innings over 31 starts in 2019 and his stuff suggests mid-rotation production remains in the arm.

Matt Shoemaker, RHP
The 34-year-old returned from ACL surgery in 2019 to cover 28 2/3 innings over six starts in 2020. He’s never been a big stuff guy, but he gets the most out of a 91-93 mph fastball and three offspeed pitches, including an above-average splitter, all of which play up thanks to solid-average command. Shoemaker is more a No. 4 or 5 with some durability concerns over a full season, but he’s interesting on a one-year deal nonetheless.

Carlos Rodon, LHP
Rodon can’t be counted on to pour out 175 innings in 2021, but the former No. 3 overall pick (2014) showed signs in 2020 of regained arm strength, and the changeup flashed. He’ll be two years removed from UCL surgery in May and that’s often when the snap returns in TJ recipients.

Michael Wacha, RHP
Wacha’s upside at this point might be 140-inning No. 4 starter, but he’s just 29, still touched 96 mph with the four-seamer and is due for a bounce-back with his changeup.

Relief Pitchers

Archie Bradley, RHP
Bradley’s arsenal fared well in 2020, including a plus changeup that produced a 39% whiff rate. He’s 93-96 with the heat, the curveball still is a weapon and it all adds up to middle-innings value.

Mark Melancon, RHP
Melancon has fought through a few injuries to remain productive and consistent in the late innings. He’ll be 36 in March, has closing experience, and there are few signs he’s fading fast. His cutter-curveball combo is fun, though the cutter was beaten to a pulp in 2019 and 2020, suggesting maybe he should go back to incorporating the four-seamer.

Joakim Soria, RHP
Soria had a terrific 22-game season in 2020, producing a 2.97 FIP and a WPA that projects out to be his best since 2015. He’s a legit four-pitch reliever with a fastball 91-94 mph, 77-80 mph slider, a slow curveball and occasional firm changeup. He’s 36, but should be good on a one-year deal.

Pedro Baez, RHP
Baez served in the middle innings for the World Champion Dodgers and had mediocre-at-best season, but he’s been better in years’ past. He’s a three-pitch arm — fastball up to 97 mph, above-average slider, fringe-average changeup. With a rebound in command, Baez is again a valuable middle innings option.

Alex Colome, RHP
Colome, 32 on New Year’s Eve, had an odd 2020, putting up his second-best WPA and FIP of his career while posting his worst strikeout rate (17.8%). Colome hovers around 95 mph and the cutter remains a plus pitch, suggesting a rebound in the bat-missing department may be in order.

Brad Peacock, RHP
Peacock is a versatile arm with the ability to spot start and cover multiple innings out of the bullpen. He had arthroscopic shoulder surgery in October, but expects to be ready for spring training. When he’s right, Peacock sits 91-94 mph with a two-seamer, complemented by an above-average slider, average curveball and useful changeup.

Justin Wilson, LHP
Wilson likely is out of the Mariners’ reach as one of the more consistent left-handed relievers in baseball. He’s 33 now, but coming off another strong year, and sat 94-97 with a solid-average cutter. But if he wants to close, Seattle may be able to offer that and gain a leg up on other suitors.

Greg Holland, RHP
The 35-year-old sat 92-95, threw 51% sliders and 11% curveballs in 2020 — and it worked. How long he can effectively throw 60% breaking balls and stay off the IL. But if he can, he’s a solid middle reliever with some high-leverage ability.

Jeremy Jeffress, RHP
Jeffress has had two puzzling seasons. Make that… eight… Jeffress has had eight puzzling seasons. He’s 94-98 with the fastball and at different times his splitter and curveball are plus to plus-plus. His control and command are below-average, however, and the offspeed stuff tends to bounce back and forth and rarely overlaps with the other on the positive end of the spectrum. Still, he’s an interesting piece for Seattle as one of several bounce-back candidates.

Keone Kela, RHP
Kela’s forearm injury ended his 2020 after just three appearances. Now, if it was really a forearm and not an injury that leads to Tommy John, Kela has value for 2021 and beyond. He’s 95-98 with the fastball and his curveball may be among the elites in the relief world.jeffre

Jake McGee, LHP
McGee struggled badly for three of his four years in Denver and rebounded with a 1.67 FIP and 41.8% strikeout rate with the Dodgers this past season. He had reverse splits in the shortened season that were even wider than his career, but he had command of a 97-3 fastball-slider ratio. He’s 34, but still throws 95 mph and has earned some guaranteed money.

Steve Cishek, RHP
Cishek is 34 and two years removed from a decent performance, but he’s still throwing 90-92 with an above-average slider. He uncharacteristically had problems versus right-handed batters in 2020 but was oddly tough on lefties — probably a small-sample anomaly. If used to knife through righty-heavy sections of the opponents lineup, Cishek has a role in the middle innings.

Hector Rondon RHP
The 32-year-old has struggled the past two seasons, missing fewer bats (18.7%, 23.7%, down from 29%, 29.1%, and 26.8% the previous three, and his control has gone backwards at the same time. The rigth-hander’s velocity remains big at 95 mph or better on the fastball, suggesting maybe his issues are delivery related.

Nate Jones, RHP
Jones still throws hard — 96.2 mph average two-seam fastball in 2020 and has a useful changeup. But his slider has fallen flat the last three years and if a team can help him get it back they’ll find a very good middle-innings reliever with some high-leverage ability.

Kohl Stewart, RHP
Stewart was the No. 4 overall pick in 2013 and made his MLB debut in 2018 , posting a 3.92 FIP in 36 2/3 innings. He was knocked around in nine appearances in 2019 and did not appear in a big-league game this past season. When healthy, the right-hander is 91-95 mph with a sinker and offers a slider and curveball. He owns a changeup, but doesn’t throw it enough — it’s well below average — but there could be some upside to Stewart in a full-time relief role.


Adam Eaton, OF
Eaton is 32 this week and has had a full share of injuries over his nine-year career. He didn’t hit in 41 games last season — .226/.285/.384 — breaking a six-season streak of a .360 or better on-base percentage and .400 or better slugging percentage. He’s average in a corner outfield spot, struggles versus left-handed pitching but even in 2020 he hit righties well.

Tyler Naquin, OF
Naquin has two average or better seasons at the plate — his 2016 rookie year and 2019 — and is fine in a corner outfield spot. He struggles against left-handers but has a career .281/.329/.454 mark versus right-handed arms.

Ben Gamel, OF
Gamel has reverse splits over the course of his career — 107 wRC+ versus lefties, 92 versus righties — but has always appeared to be stuck between trying to hit 25 homers and hitting for average. He’s worked himself into at least a fringe-average left fielder.

Nomar Mazara, OF
Mazara, 26 in April, hasn’t broken through with the bat to the levels many expected — and he was awful in 2020 (.228/.295/.294) — but he’s too young to give up on, especially considering he was passable 2016-2019 batting .263/.320/.423 with three 20-homer campaigns. He’s at least average in right field and there still may be a breakout in the offing.

Brian Goodwin, OF
At 30, Goodwin can still run and despite struggling overall in 2020, can still be relied upon to post league-average offense if deployed properly. Oh, and he’s a good defender.

David Dahl, OF
Dahl was a budding star when injuries started to pile up on his resume. He has plus power and hit tools, runs well and profiles as a plus glove in a corner and average in center. Seattle doesn’t have a place for him, necessarily, imagine starting 2021 with a healthy Dahl in left field and hitting the deadline with a surplus that has a career .286/.334/.494 slash line entering the season.

Albert Almora Jr. OF
Almora is a capable centerfielder, but after putting up two-plus average offensive seasons to start his career, the former No. 6 overall pick (2012) has scuffled with the bat — .236/.271/.381 in 2019, .167/.265/.200 in 28 games in 2020.  There’s little power in his game but he’s just 27 in April and still has solid bat-to-ball skills.

Kyle Schwarber, DH/OF
Schwarber, 27, isn’t a good defender but he has been surprisingly been playable as long as his bat is working. It didn’t work at all in 2020 (.188/.308/.393), but he did hit 11 homers and boasts a career .230/.336/.480 slash, including two 30-homer seasons. He’s really more of a DH, though Seattle’s best chance to get Ty France in the lineup is that same DH spot.

Brock Holt, UT
Holt struggled in 37 games in 2020, but has been a very capable bench option, posting a .337 career OBP in parts on 9 seasons. He also handled lefties as well as righties, and can play all five infield positions plus the outfield.

Jonathan Villar, UT
Villar had an awful 2020 in 52 games split between Miami and Toronto (.232/.301/.292), but owns a .259/.327/.400 career slash and posted a 107 wRC+ in 2019. His batted ball data tells us he struggled mightily putting the fat part of the bat on the ball — as much as any hitter in baseball. But it was just 207 plate appearances. He can handle shortstop, second base, third base, and has dabbled in the outfield. He’s a switch hitter with success from both sides and will be 30 in May.

Hanser Alberto, UT
Playable at second and third with a touch of outfield experience, clubs could do worse than Alberto as their 25th or 26th man. He doesn’t walk (career 2.6%), but he also doesn’t strike out, has a bit of pop and the last two seasons batted .305 and .283.  He’s a right-handed hitter and may be redundant to Tim Lopes, but he’s also more accomplished at the plate.

Robbie Grossman, OF
Grossman, a switch hitter, boasts a left-handed bat which fits well into the picture for Seattle in 2020, as a strong-side platoon with Phillip Ervin as the Mariners look to cover time prior to the arrival of Jarred Kelenic in left field. The issue here is getting Grossman interested since the writing is wall he’ll lose PT once the club’s top prospect gets the nod — and that may be very, very early in the 2021 season.…

There’s no real point to this — you’ve been warned — but here’s why this now exists:

It’s December and most owners are liars.

That’s it, that’s the reason. There’s so much time to dig, think, research, because there’s no news to lament, no rumors to kill. Just hours upon hours to scour the org rosters of 30 teams and their affiliates. And that’s what I did, looking for misfit talents, players running out of time in one organization, blocked or drowned prospects, and potentially expendable veterans.

There’s one from each of the 29 other teams in Major League Baseball. Some aren’t very exciting. Some are simply sensible and nothing more. But there are a few of intrigue, I’d say. All of them make sense, however. But this isn’t fantasy baseball, we’re not drafting a team from the other 29. This also isn’t about finding a trade package to acquire said player, so don’t ask.

Here we go.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Stefan Crichton, RHP

Crichton has been solid for Arizona the past two seasons with a 93-95 mph sinker and plus curveball. He’s rather ordinary as a middle reliever, but an accomplished one two years shy of arbitration status.

Atlanta Braves: Patrick Weigel, RHP

The Braves are looking to add incremental wins to their 26- and-40 man rosters, suggesting a minor league reliever is at least in play. He’s 93-97 with a slider that flashes above-average and a useful changeup. He’s on the Braves’ 40-man, but could be more valuable as a trade chip and roster spot.

Baltimore Orioles: Anthony Santander, OF

Baltimore remains in rebuild mode and might not be out of it for another year or two at least, so a player such as Santander is a possible trade chip. He’s not arbitration eligible until after next season, but could interest clubs this winter as a switch-hitting corner outfielder with average or better power. He’s significantly better as a lefty stick, and Seattle wants one of those — and need another outfield option, preferably one that hits left-handed, so …

Boston Red Sox: Chih-Jung Liu, RHP

Who knows what the Red Sox are going to do, but my guess is they’re going to spend enough to keep another awful season off the board, and that may also mean a few prospect-driven trade packages sent out to acquire more arms. Liu is 21 and a few years from the majors. He’s a bit undersized at 6-feet and 193 pounds, but he’s up to 96 mph and has a potentially-plus splitter and slider.

Chicago Cubs: Duane Underwood Jr., RHP

The Cubs may very well hit the rebuild button and if that’s the case anything is possible, including trading Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo. Underwood is a bit of an under-the-radar relief arm that may be ready to pop, despite ERAs and FIPs that tell a different story. He’s run xFIPS in the mid-3s two years running and is a legit three-pitch reliever who has thrown more strikes since he walked 18.8% of the batters he faced in 2018.

Chicago White Sox: Matthew Thompson, RHP

Thompson was a second-round pick in 2019 and has all the makings of an athletic mid-rotation arm with some upside. He’s just 20 and a few years away, and the White Sox opened a winning window in 2020 suggesting prospects such as Thompson are in play in exchange for big-league help.

Cincinnati Reds: Tyler Mahle, RHP

Stuff was finally met with quality performance in 2020 as Mahle posted a 3.88 FIP in 47 2/3 innings of work. He’s 93-96 with the fastball and the improvement of his upper-80s cutter-slider and curveball made a big difference. He’s just 26, is hitting arbitration for the first time this winter and could be a nice trade piece for the Reds as they try to add more focused impact to their postseason efforts.

Cleveland Indians: Carlos Carrasco, RHP

Carrasco could be part of a retool approach by the club this winter, one that likely includes trading shortstop Francisco Lindor. The right-hander is owed $47 million over the next four years, which is a bargain, despite Carrasco turning 34 early in 2021.

Colorado Rockies: Jon Gray, RHP

My favorite potential target for Seattle, the 29-year-old Gray has gone backwards since he posted a 3.18 FIP in 2017 over 20 starts. He’s still 93-97 with three useful secondaries led by a plus slider that prior to 2020 was one of the best in baseball. He has one year of control left at a third-year arbitration price, and the Rockies are looking to shave payroll.

Detroit Tigers: Daniel Norris, LHP

As the Tigers’ young arm push Norris to the bullpen, his value seems to be higher outside of Detroit. But even as a reliever, the lefty has a lot to offer, and he’s a free agent after 2021.

Houston Astros: Lance McCullers Jr., RHP

The Astros are a mess; Justin Verlander is out most or all of 2021, George Springer and Michael Brantley are free agents, Carlos Correa is a year from the open market, as is defacto ace Zack Greinke, so the future beyond 2021 is bleak on paper. McCullers is also a year from free agency, now deep into pricey arbitration status and might be worth more to the Astros in trade — to fill multiple holes and create a bit more payroll flexibility. Houston should be cutting bait on 2021, but even if they don’t, moving McCullers make sense.

Kansas City Royals: Scott Barlow, RHP

It looks like the Royals are trying to take a step forward in 2021, but the time to move Barlow is now — he’s been a consistent middle reliever and is now arbitration eligible — and could help KC land help elsewhere.

Los Angeles Angels: Jose Soriano, RHP

The Angels’ system is bottom third of the league but they’re more concerned about the big-league roster and an arm like Soriano could net the Halos a big-league reliever.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Dylan Floro, RHP

Floro is hitting arbitration this winter, and while the Dodgers aren’t afraid to spend seven figures on a reliever, Floro also could be a nice additional piece to a larger trade that lands the Dodgers an everyday outfielder or left-side infielder. He’s more of a middle reliever now, but the fastball-changeup combo is plus.

Miami Marlins: James Hoyt, RHP

Hoyt is 34 but will not be arbitration-eligible until after 2021, so the motivation for Miami to trade him isn’t high. But if the Marlins are looking to take a meaningful step forward with their 26-man roster, Hoyt could be available in a package. He’s always missed bats despite below-average velocity, and could be perceived an undervalued relief arm.

Milwaukee Brewers: Corey Ray, OF

Ray was the No. 5 pick in the same draft Kyle Lewis went No. 11 to the Mariners. He’s had multiple injuries along the way, and has yet to produce with any consistency. He’s 26 now and on the 40-man, but if the Brewers plan to win in 2021, Ray’s roster spot may not be stable.

Minnesota Twins: Nick Gordon, 2B

Yep, Dee’s brother. The arm and range fit shortstop fine and eventually he should hit for enough average to reach the majors, but like his older brother brings little power to the table. Nick is an average runner, so he has to get on base a lot to warrant everyday treatment, and he’s fallen out of favor in Minnesota simply due to other talents passing him by.

New York Mets: Steven Matz, LHP

The Mets are going to spend and trade big, and at least some of that is going to be about the rotation, which needs more probability and fewer hope-and-pray approaches. Matz’s stuff suggests he’s still capable of No. 3 starter production, but lack of availability and command problems have prevented that since 2016. He’s a pricey arbitration case that could be on the block.

New York Yankees: Anthony Volpe, 2B/SS

Volpe was on the Mariners radar in the 2019 draft, but he didn’t get to the club after Round 1. He’s a few years away from the majors so he’s not the next Yankees shortstop, but could easily be prime trade bait as the Bombers add to their roster moving forward.

Oakland Athletics: Jeremy Eierman, SS

With Marcus Semien a free agent, the A’s shortstop situation is unclear, but Eierman is down the depth chart a bit after Logan Davidson and Robert Puason. At this point, Eierman is more of a potential utility infielder, but needs work on the hit tool. Similar to Dylan Moore prior to the 2019 season.

Philadelphia Phillies: Hector Neris, RHP

Philly declined Neris’ option but now have a decision to make via the arbitration process. The right-hander was good in 2020 sans the 4% rise in walk rate but misses bats with 93-96 mph fastball and plus splitter.

Pittsburgh Pirates: Chad Kuhl, RHP

Kuhl, 28, has better raw stuff than his performance suggests — 92-96 mph sinker with three average or better offspeed pitches — but is well into arbitration now and the Pirates are years away. Just the kind of project the Mariners like.

St. Louis Cardinals: Dexter Fowler, LF

Fowler hasn’t hit much the last three years, but draws walks and as a left-handed bat is playable. His contract is a bit of an issue (owed $15.5 million for 2021), but such an issue could be mitigated via negotiations, and the deal expires after next season.

San Diego Padres: Justin Lange, RHP

The Padres are in win-now mode which makes just about any prospect potentially available. Lange has yet to make his pro debut, of course, but the arm strength suggests a high floor and ceiling.

San Francisco Giants: Trevor Gott, RHP

Gott struggled in 2020 after a strong 2019, and it appears the struggles were very much about his elbow problems. If healthy, he’s potentially an undervalued middle reliever, and one Jerry Dipoto has acquired before.

Tampa Bay Rays: Greg Jones, SS

With Willy Adames, Wander Franco, and Vidal Brujan ahead of him, Jones isn’t in the Rays’ picture just yet, but he’s the most likely misfit considering Tampa doesn’t typically trade top prospects, and more rarely move pitching prospects.

Texas Rangers: Jose Leclerc, RHP

Leclerc will miss bats. He’ll also miss the strike zone. He’s signed to a multi-year deal with two club options that could take him through the 2024 season.

Toronto Blue Jays: Estiven Machado, SS

Machado is down the org depth chart quite a ways in terms of middle infielders, but might be the most likely of the group to stick at shortstop. There’s more hit than power, but the range is above-average to plus, making arm strength the only real concern for a future on the left side.

Washington Nationals: Sammy Infante, SS

Infante, 19, has all the raw tools to not only stick at shortstop but develop average power and perhaps build a valuable enough package to play regularly. He’s currently third among middle-infield prospects in the Nationals’ system, lined up behind Trea Turner on the org depth chart at shortstop.…

The latest episode of Baseball Things is all Blake Snell.

Word hit the street this week via Mark Feinsand that Tampa Bay is open to dealing the former Cy Young winner, and once that tweet hit the wire the wacky trade proposals weren’t far behind.

And when I say wacky, I mean wacky.

Despite the assumption the Mariners, or any other club with interest, would have to part with an elite young talent to headline such a deal, I disagree.

In this episode, I explain how a club, including the Mariners, might be able to get away with a good package, rather than a great one, to land the left-hander.

Subscribers can listen to the episode right here or via their favorite podcast app by way of their own private RSS feed.

Not a subscriber? Click here and choose the level you prefer, which includes annual options at a discount.

Logan Gilbert, Jarred Kelenic, Cal Raleigh, Emerson Hancock, Kyle Lewis, Marco Gonzales, Justus Sheffield, Justin Dunn, Noelvi Marte, Brandon Williamson, Nick Margevicus, Jonatan Clase, Sam Carlson, George Feliz, and Zach DeLoach all are mentioned in this episode.…

This time of year in baseball it’s all about the Hot Stove, which may not be as hot this winter, but there will be movement. In reading reports’ tweets and stories as clubs maneuver for roster and payroll flexibility there are nuggets everywhere.

Here’s what I’ve seen so far since the end of the World Series that rang up some intrigue, though most of it came with any level of surprise.

The Pittsburgh Pirates declined their option on right-hander Chris Archer, which would have paid out $11 million. The 32-year-old had surgery in June to repair neurogenic thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS). As a result, he missed all of 2020 but is expected to be ready for 2021.

Archer made 23 starts for Pittsburgh in 2019, covering just under 120 innings and posting a FIP over five and a career high home run rate. He peaked in 2015 and 2017 posting fWARs of 5.1 and 4.5 with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Archer represents a potential reclamation project for a club in search of relatively inexpensive help on the mound. The Seattle Mariners may be in a position to discuss such a player, but Archer may represent one of those starter converts we’ve discussed on Baseball Things recently.

Archer is likely to get offers to start, but if he doesn’t get starter money — and guaranteed money at that — he may be willing to start thinking about a career coming out of the bullpen. His stuff plays anywhere, including a 93-96 mph fastball and a plus slider. His changeup, however, has been below-average most of his career, putting a lot of pressure on his ability to locate and vary the breaking ball.

In relief, the questionable durability — he’s made 50 starts since the end of the 2017 season — goes away, his two-pitch arsenal plays up and the lack of a consistent, quality changeup becomes pretty much irrelevant.

Archer the closer? Just a thought.

The Minnesota Twins will not spend big dollars. They went to a prorated $158.2 million in 2020 and two seasons hovering around the $140 million range. The 2021 club needs a bat or two, plus some additional pitching to complement Jose Berrios and likely replace Jake Odorizzi in the rotation. They’d like to bring back 123-year-old wonder Nelson Cruz. But in order to do all that they may need to say goodbye to more than free agents. One of those possibilities? Eddie Rosario, per Lavelle E. Neal III.

Rosario, 29, had a solid 2020, batting .257/.316/.476 with 13 home runs, resulting in a 110 wRC+. The left-handed batting outfielder is a former infielder due a raise via arbitration. He made a prorated $7.75 million this past season and would be due around $10 million for next season. So the Twins are almost certain to move on from Rosario.

Rosario isn’t likely a fit for Seattle, but any club looking for an outfield bat that doesn’t want to splurge for George Springer might wait for the Twins to make this move. But the move could vary from non-tender to trade, and in the current climate it appears the non-tender route is the most likely path.

The New York Mets have a new owner, Steve Cohen, and are expected to make a change at GM, a role in which former agent Brodie Van Wagenen has flailed the past two years. What’s apparent just about everywhere else is not in Queens; the Mets aren’t looking to go cheap. Right-hander Marcus Stroman, who opted out of the 2020 season, will receive a qualifying offer from the club, tweets Anthony DiComo.

Of course, this report comes while Van Wagenen remains atop the baseball operations totem and Cohen has yet to officially take over, but Cohen has all but given indications he’s going to spend. After all, he is the game’s richest owner and didn’t take ay revenue hits from the pandemic-laden season that just ended.

Stroman isn’t likely to accept the QO, but the fact the Mets are willing to dangle it in what is certain to be the dumbest winter ever in terms of free agency says a lot. Which prompts thoughts about how good the Mets could be in 2021, and how aggressive the new GM might be in reshaping that roster.

It’s already a good roster led by Jacob deGrom, Michael Conforto, Dominic Smith, Brandon Nimmo, Pete Alonso and Robinson Cano, but it’s imbalanced and has been running with a lot of what-ifs scenarios when it comes to injury-prone players.

What might a re-shaping of that club look like? If you’re thinking your favorite team might be able to rob the new GM the way Jerry Dipoto did Van Wagenen 24 months ago, don’t count on it. But some good players might become available, and if I’m betting, the Mets turn their sights toward adding more reliable starting pitching depth — including another frontline arm and at least two more relievers.

They could spend money and get a lot of that done with, say, Trevor Bauer, Liam Hendriks and Blake Treinen. But if Bauer signs elsewhere, there are some position players the Mets may want to use as trade bait in order to better align their roster.

For example, Dominic Smith is playing out of position in the outfield and whoever takes over the personnel reins may prefer not to have a regular DH so the spot can be used more efficiently.  Might this mean Alonso is dangled? Maybe Smith himself is trade bait.

More likely, a J.D. Davis or Jeff McNeil is available for pitching, and/or the logjam at shortstop is used to acquired a controllable arm.

Amed Rosario and Andres Gimenez each can play the position, though Rosario has the better defensive projection. Neither may last long at short with the imminent arrival of prospect Ronny Mauricio, but one of the two incumbents could slide to second and take over for Cano in a year or two. Cano’s contract runs through 2023, but he could serve as DH if the middle infielders force the club’s hand.

The most likely scenario for the Mets right now has expected-president Sandy Alderson hiring a baseball-first GM and fills the front office with varied skills and experiences on all sides of the evaluation equation. This strongly suggests an experienced GM or an executive with a unique blend of scouting, market evaluation, and how analytics fit best into the picture. Tampa Bay Rays special assistant Bobby Heck fits this description better than anyone mentioned in various reports.

If you’re unfamiliar, Heck drafted Carlos Correa, Lance McCullers Jr., George Springer, Dallas Keuchel, Kike Hernandez, J.D. Martinez, Jason Castro, Jordan Lyles, Delino DeShields, Jr., Adrian Houser, Mike Foltynewicz, and Brett Phillips over a five-year span, laying the foundation for the recent run by the Houston Astros which included a World Series title and two appearances. Heck has spent the last six seasons with the Rays, gaining first-hand knowledge how that fascinating front office wins games with the most efficient roster approach in the game.

The Mets are one good offseason from being as dangerous as any club in baseball and I expect significant player movement, in name or quantity, once the new GM is named.

Speaking of the Rays, they’ve been busy since falling in Game 6 of the World Series, declining the options on right-hander Charlie Morton and catcher Mike Zunino. The 37-year-old Morton is likely to retire or return to Tampa, and it’s plausible the Rays look to bring back Zunino at a lower price than his $4.5 million option, but for the first time in years the Seattle Mariners have no need for a veteran major-league catcher.

With the trade acquisition of Luis Torrens and the expected return of Tom Murphy, Seattle has no need for a veteran due guaranteed dollars of any kind. They could, however, use another tweener to serve with Joseph Odom as a backup plan should injuries occur. Last year, Joe Hudson, who was recently outrighted and hit free agency, served in this role. Hudson could be brought back, but there are numerous veterans that could fit the mold, too.

More Notes

Catchers John Ryan Murphy and Luke Maile, recently outrighted by the Pirates, could be among the backstops Seattle looks into this winter to bolster their depth for spring training and perhaps Triple-A…

Another low-risk option on the mound is Jimmy Nelson, who has yet to pitch well since having Tommy John surgery in 2018. Nelson struggled in 2019, walking 16.4% of the batters he faced in 22 innings, and didn’t see the big leagues this past season thanks to the depth on the Dodgers roster and a back issue…

He’s 31 and last season showed a dip in velocity from 94 in 2017 to 92, but in March was touching 95 in bullpen sessions. Back in 2017 Nelson was the Brewers’ ace, posting a 3.05 FIP and 4.8 fWAR in 29 starts. The right-hander could be an interesting relief option or rotation project for a club that has the room, and Seattle has the room.

The Los Angeles Angels don’t have a GM and free agency is wide open. The Philadelphia Phillies don’t have a GM, either, but I’m picking on the Angels because of who the favorites for that job are.

From what I’ve been told, the favorites are Michael Hill and Dan Jennings in tandem, who represent an upgrade to Billy Eppler is allowed to run the baseball operations autonomously, but as I said to a friend in the industry over the weekend, I could serve as an upgrade to Eppler simply by emphasizing pitching this winter, rather than continuing to insist the lineup needs work…

Foltynewicz should interest the Mariners in some capacity this winter. He’s 29, made just one appearance in 2020 due to what can only be categorized as ineffectiveness. No injury was reported, but the right-hander’s velocity was down three and half ticks — 95 to 91.5 — and he never saw the majors again.  In his 3.1 innings, Folty walked four and served up three homers.

Prior to 2020, Foltynewicz had a plus fastball and posted 3.8 fWAR in 2019 before fading in 2019. This might be another potential convert option…

Free agent Hector Neris is another potential target for the Mariners in their attempt to stabilize the bullpen. The Phillies declined their $7 million option on Neris, who posted a 2.50 FIP and 26% strikeout rate in 24 games this past season. He also walked 12.6% of the batters he faced and has a career swinging strike rate of 16.6%, among the highest in baseball. Philadelphia holds the righty for another year via arbitration, but there’s a chance he’s traded or non-tendered, since his arb number is likely to get to $6 million or beyond after he made a prorated $4.6 million in 2020. If he’s non-tendered and hits the market, Seattle could have legitimate interest in making him their closer for 2021…

No team should give J.T. Realmuto anywhere near $200 million. That’s it, that’s the note.…

The Seattle Mariners, per GM Jerry Dipoto, will be in the market for a few arms this winter, and if his tone can be interpreted at all it seems to send the message that his ballclub is looking at a different kind of free agent than it was a year ago. That should make for a fun offseason.

Last winter, the Mariners signs right-handers CJ Edwards, Kendall Graveman, Taijuan Walker and Yoshihisa Hirano, most notably,  Now, don’t expect Seattle to throw out any mega deals, but this year’s list is very likely to be more interesting.

It sounds like — and can be backed up by common sense — Dipoto would like to add two or three proven veteran relievers, including one that projects as an option in the ninth inning, and a starter with some probability. What this means is the club isn’t just after projects with some upside, since they’re goal for 2021 is to snag one of 189 playoff spots in the American League.

Free agency isn’t the only way to add talent, of course, so included here are some buy-low trade candidates. Why ‘buy-low’? Because it’s not time for Dipoto to trade young talent for major leaguers, at least not in a significant manner.

I also believe the club should look to improve the bench with a multi-position player with some proven value at the plate. On the Baseball Things podcast recently, we discussed players like Josh Harrison and Brad Miller, both free agents this offseason. But there are a few buy-low trade candidates that may be sensible bench targets, too.

Here are some free agents I think Seattle should consider, at varying degrees.

Starting Pitchers

Anthony DeSclafani, RHP

DeSclafani entered 2020 with a career FIP around four, but scuffled in seven starts and was pushed to the bullpen before eventually being left off the Reds’ postseason roster.

He’s throwing as hard as ever (95.2 mph) and has a changeup, slider and curveball that have been average or better. The slider is consistently a plus pitch.

DeSclafani failed to miss bats (15.8%, down from 24% a year ago) and his walk rate was up 3% over 2019.

While not a frontline arm, the soon-to-be 31-year-old could be a value buy this winter. He’s had some injury issues in the past — he made just 41 starts between 2017 and 2018 — but also has two 31-start seasons and there were no signs of any significant injuries hampering his abilities this past season.

On a one-year deal, the right-hander could make a lot of sense for Seattle, and anything around league average over 25-plus starts would be a quality addition. Perhaps the Mariners six-man rotation can help him stay healthy and sharp.

Kevin Gausman, RHP

Gausman is comong off three average or better seasons, with the most recent being his best yet as a big leaguer. He made 10 starts and posted a 3.09 FIP and 32.2% K rate, showing occasional dominance and the same quality control that has made him interesting his entire career.

There’s No. 2 stuff here and the only question is whether or not Gausman can bring it for 25 starts or more. Seattle is a great fit for Gausman, but the Mariners will have competition for his services, and it ultimately may take a multi-year deal to acquire the former first-round pick.

He’s 30 in January but has a pretty clean health record and the miles on the arm are more than reasonable.

Michael Wacha, RHP

Wacha hasn’t been good at all since 2018, posting FIPs over five over his last 37 appearances, all but six in a starting role. But the arm is sound and the combination of command and stuff suggest mid-rotation ability.

Wacha’s fastball is firmly in the 93-95 mph range, but he hasn’t drawn much value from the fastball of late, which has him throwing his fringey cutter even more. His best pitch has typically been his changeup, but he didn’t have it in 2020.

Wacha was dinged as an amateur for not having a quality breaking ball, and that’s been the case the past two seasons with his cutter and curveball both being firmly below average, and he all but ditched the curveball in 2020.

He’s more of a project than Gausman, but there don’t see to be any health risks — beyond the inherent risk of throwing a baseball for a living. Like DeSclafani, a team with the chops Seattle has in terms of finding ways to improve pitch value should be all over Wacha this winter on a one-year deal.

Jake Odorizzi, RHP

Odorizzi has a finger injury in 2020, but made 28 starts or more from 2014-2019 with the Rays and Twins. The results were mixed, but he’s typically been a good No. 4 starter and was more than that in 2019 when his fastball dazzled thanks to quality command and three other average or better offerings, including a plus slider.

The right-hander sits 91-96 mph and carries a career strikeout rate of 25%, despite that dropping to 20% in four outings this past season.

He took a one-year qualifying offer for 2020 and after missing time and struggling in a small sample, he may be forced to take another short contract at a reduced price.

I’d feel comfortable with Seattle tabbing him their guy as long as the finger injury doesn’t project to bite him next year, too. Despite no guarantees, betting on a healthy Odorizzi being league average or better is a smart one.

Mike Minor, LHP

Minor has two 200-inning seasons under his belt — 2013 with the Braves and 2019 with the Rangers. He wasn’t as consistent this past season but was solid with the A’s in September and his postseason start was also adequate.

The positives of Minor’s 2020 include a 26% strikeout rate and an average exit velocity of 87.5 mph. But he also allowed too many hard-hit balls, which limits his potential value.

I’d bet on Minor as a league-average starter in 2020 if the risk was a one-year deal. He’s been as healthy as one can ask a pitcher to be, and if all else fails he has had great success as a 75-inning reliever.

I think Seattle is likely to add just one starter with significant guarantee money and I’d be shocked if they hand out a three-year contract or longer — and even mildly surprised if they go two years — but I could see them adding one of Minor, Odorizzi or Gausman, plus a Wacha, Walker or DeSclafani type if they feel like Justin Dunn will end up in the bullpen, anyway.

Relief Pitchers

Shane Greene, RHP

Greene covered 27.2 innings in a 60-game season in 2020 and had his ups and downs, but in a good bullpen is a solid middle reliever.

His strikeout rate was down this past season, but the velocity wasn’t and he’s a legitimate four-pitch arm — sinker, cutter, slider, changeup.

Greene isn’t going to get closer opportunities this winter, of course, but did save 55 games 2018-19 and could win such a role in Seattle, potentially making the Mariners intriguing for the 32-year-old.

Jeremy Jeffress, RHP

Jeffress, 33, was terrific in 2018 but has been somewhat ordinary since.  Still, it’s a middle-relief projection with some upside left if he can regain a little of the velocity he’s lost the past two seasons — he’s down two full ticks and averaged 93.8 mph in 2020.

He’s a sinker-splitter-curveball reliever and all three were average or better this past season. His control, however, was not as he posted a 13.6% walk rate.

A bounceback looks like a 7th or 8th inning arm, a role Seattle doesn’t have filled in the slightest at the moment, and Jeffress could get save chances from the outset.

Blake Treinen, RHP

Treinen is going to get looks from contenders who are willing to pay him, including the Dodgers, but in a good bullpen the 2020 version isn’t a closer and should be limited in high-leverage situations.

Treinen was elite in 2018, struggled in 2019, and while he rebounded in 27 appearances this past season, his strikeout rate was down to 20.6%. He’s using the sinker more and the four-seamer and cutter less, while his slider usage is up to 26%, which is neither good nor bad, but at his best all four were values and his fastball combo was devastating.

Treine is 32 and healthy, and a reasonable bet for better results in 2021 since the stuff — outside the fastball being hit harder, despite the same 97 mph heat — is similar.

Trevor Rosenthal, RHP

I think Rosenthal is a pipe dream for Seattle, since he’s now proven to some extent his bout with severe control problems are behind him. He posted a career-best 41.8% strikeout rate in 2020 and everything else is in line with his best years.

Some poor GM is probably going to give him a multi-year deal, but if that doesn’t happen and he wants to be assured the closer role to start the season, Seattle is one of a large handful of possibilities… as are the Angels, for the record.

Joakim Soria, RHP

Soria, 37 next May, had another strong year, the third in the last four he’s posted a FIP under three. But his xFIP this past season over five, his strikeout rate is down a touch and he had some control issues beyond a high-leverage arm.

He’s still very interesting for a club such as Seattle. He averaged 92.8 mph with the fastball in 2020 — 93.0, 92.9, 93.2 the last three years — and made 22 appearances, answering the bell every time upon which he was called.

If Soria is one of the arms the Mariners add this winter it’s a good move.

Justin Wilson, LHP

Wilson had a good 2020 and has always walked more batters than is ideal, but he misses bats — 26.7% this past season, 26.2 for his career — and dominates lefties, including a .115/.207/.231 slash with the Mets.

With his splits, Wilson can’t be any club’s relief ace, and the three batter minimum puts pressure on his ability versus RHBs, but if the Mariners can get more strikes out of him against righties he’ll be fine.

Greg Holland, RHP

Holland is more of an injury risk than most other free agent relievers, but he was very good in 2020, punching out nearly 28% of the batters he faced and posting a career-best 6.7% walk rate.

I wouldn’t bet on that kind of control over the course of a full 2021, but the stuff is the best its been since 2014. He’ll be 35 in November and the aforementioned risk is real and relatively high, but the price might be right all things considered.

Seattle could be attractive to Holland if the closer’s role is dangled.

Dipoto is very creative and for at least one of the relievers he acquires this winter he’s likely to surprise some onlookers. But that surprise may come by way of trade, rather than free agency.

A small-to-medium-sized trade that includes a proven, yet young-ish reliever would not shock me at all. Such deals have been Dipoto’s M.O. since he arrived in Seattle five years ago.

Buy-Low Trade Targets

Seattle’s needs are mostly on the mound, but Dipoto never stops looking ahead, either. Here are four buy-low trade candidates for Seattle to consider this winter.

Ryan McMahon, 2B/1B/3B

McMahon isn’t your traditional utility player since shortstop is out of the question and he’s merely adequate at second base, but he can help at three positions, including third base, and a lot of his peripherals suggest he’s a better hitter than he’s shown for most of his career.

He hits the ball hard — 90.1 mph average exit velocity and 40.3% hard-hit rate in 2020 — and draws enough walks to support his batting averages, but he’s struggled to make enough contact to make it all count.

He blasted 24 home runs in 2019, so Colorado is going to hang onto that if clubs approach them this winter, but they have so many needs up and down their organization and they’ve been waiting for McMahon to show consistency for three years.

He’s also arbitration eligible this offseason, suggesting a seven-figure salary, and GM Jeff Bridich, assuming he’s back for 2021, will have to make changes.

McMahon has a solid chance to upgrade Seattle’s bench in 2021, and despite the fact he can’t play the outfield, the fact Dylan Moore can, and fairly well, covers Seattle in case of mid-game emergency.

Adam Frazier, 2B/SS

Frazier batted .276, .277, .278 with .344, .342, .336 OBPs from 2017-2019, but in 58 games in 2020 it all fell apart to the tune of a .230/.297/.364 slash. He’s arbitration eligible for the second time and made a pro-rated $2.8 million this past season, suggesting the grossly-rebuilding Pirates could very well be open to a deal.

Frazier is a solid-average second baseman, capable at shortstop and has 99 starts in the outfield where he’s posted +8 DRS in four years.

Frazier has hitting chops and I’d bet pretty hard on him bouncing back. He’ll be 29 in December, bats left-handed — which adds some needed balance to a pretty right-handed lineup the Mariners will send out there in 2021 (J.P. Crawford and Kyle Seager are the lone lefties in the projected lineup).

While Frazier won’t be free, the Pirates aren’t likely to love the idea of paying him $3.5-4 mill, either, suggesting he can be had without costing anything more than expendable talent in return.

Maybe a multi-player deal including Bucs right-handed reliever Tyler Bashlor can be negotiated. Bashlor is out of options and has struggled throwing strikes, but that sounds an awful lot like Connor Sadzeck and Austin Adams.

Bashlor sits 94-97 mph with an average slider and useful changeup.

Jon Gray, RHP

You knew I was going to bring up Gray, right?

I’ve been talking about Gray for two years because he’s underperformed since 2017 and now is a year from free agency. The Rockies either need to fish or cut bait and they don’t know how to cast a line.

Gray’s shoulder injury that ended his season is an obstacle and could derail the idea altogether, but there’s no indication — yet — that the injury is long-term.

The former No. 3 overall pick has a big fastball at 93-97, though his average heater dropped from 96.1 to 94.1 in 2020. His slider is plus to plus-plus, but he didn’t have the best of it much this past season, and while his changeup hasn’t been useful since 2018, his curveball has been at least fringe-average, albeit more of an early-count option than an out pitch.

His strikeout rate sank to 12.6% this year, but his 23.5%-24.6% the past three years still doesn’t match the raw stuff. Gray needs someone to help him unlock his potential.

I’m not saying he’s Gerrit Cole — he doesn’t have that kind of upside… Cole always did (former No. 1 pick, always projected as a potential ace), Gray does have frontline stuff, and he’s always been able to throw strike, generally speaking — 7.6% walk rate over his career.

I’d sure like to see what the Mariners could do with a healthy Gray in 2021. Wouldn’t you? And we’re past the point where the cost is too prohibitive. He’s only controlled by Colorado for one more season and via arbitration could net between $6-7 million.

This suggests the Rockies could even non-tender the right-hander, and if I were Seattle I’d be at the front of the line looking for medicals and potentially handing Gray a guaranteed contract. Heck, I’d be willing to give him his projected arbitration salary.

Miguel Andujar, 3B/1B

The Yankees have Gio Urshela now entrenched at third base for the foreseeable future and Andujar struggled in his 65 PAs in 2020.  We saw some potential at the plate in 2018 when the now-25-year-old (26 in March) batted .297/.328/.527 with 27 homers, and his ability to make contact could be a valuable foundation for a fix to his recent struggles.

Andujar is not a good third baseman, and the Mariners have first base locked up for the time being, but there’s upside here and all it takes is one injury to Seager, Ty France, Dylan Moore, or Evan White to open up time for a player like Andujar.

The squeeze here is the fact the Yankees have an option left on Andujar and he’s not arbitration eligible until after next season (at the soonest), so the Bombers aren’t particularly motivated to move him, generally a tell on cost.

I just wonder if the Mariners don’t have an equally-valuable yet dispensable piece in their system the Yankees might believe is more likely to help them than Andujar.…

The Seattle Mariners threatened to make the postseason for a short time in 2020, but came up short and finished 27-33 in what was Year 2 of Jerry Dipoto’s rebuild.

During the year, a lot of players came and went.

As one way to get ready for the offseason, here’s a look at every player on the 40-man roster as of October 2 with their roster, contract status, and service time.

For pitchers, click here.


Joe Hudson

xwOBA :


CONTRACT: Club controlled through at lest 2026. Arbitration eligible after 2023 at the soonest. Two options remaining.

ROSTER: Hudson will again enter the offseason as potential depth likely set for Triple-A Tacoma to open the 2021 season.

Tom Murphy



CONTRACT: ARB1. No options remaining.

ROSTER: Murphy is expected to be 100% when pitchers and catchers report to camp in February. He’ll be the No. 1 catcher when the regular season begins, though it’s more of a timeshare scenario than a starter-backup.

Joseph Odom

G: 18


CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2026. Arbitration eligible after the 2023 season at the soonest. Two options remaining.


Luis Torrens

G: 25


CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2025. May qualify for Super Two status after 2021. No options remaining.



Shed Long Jr.

G: 34


CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2025. Arbitration eligible after the 2022 season at the soonest. One option remaining.

ROSTER: Long needs to hit, but did prove he can handle second base. His defensive versatility will likely become more crucial next season, and his 40-man roster spot is safe for the time being, but his 26-man spot is a bit shaky entering the offseason.

Kyle Seager

G: 60


CONTRACT: Has one year and $18 million remaining, plus a a $15 million option with a buyout amount to be determined.

ROSTER: Seager’s 40-man and 26-man roster spots are safe.

Dee Strange-Gordon

G: 33


CONTRACT: Club options for 2021 at $14 million or a $1 million buyout.

ROSTER: Strange-Gordon has struggled mightily the past two seasons as his speed is being neutralized by shifting, and the Mariners are certainly going to move on from the veteran after three years in Seattle.

Donovan Walton

G: 5


CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2026.  Arbitration eligible after the 2023 season at the soonest. Two options remaining.

ROSTER: Walton may be expendable with Lopes, Long, Haggerty, and Moore on the roster, plus another wave of multi-position utility defender closing in on the upper minors. The 40-man roster squeeze is coming for the Mariners. Walton is likely in the fence.

Evan White

G: 54


CONTRACT: Five years and $22.7 million remaining, plus $21 million in options for 2026 and 2027 combined. Three options remaining.

ROSTER: White’s roster spot is safe thanks to his long-term contract, and his role as the club’s starting first baseman is secure for the foreseeable future.

Dylan Moore

G: 38
HR: 8


CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2024. Arbitration eligible after 2021. Three options remaining.

ROSTER: Moore likely enters 2021 with a starting spot within his grasp, likely second base. If he continues to perform at the plate well into next season, don’t be surprised if there’s a multi-year extension in the offing.

J.P. Crawford

G: 53


CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2024. Super Two arbitration eligible this offseason. One option remaining.

ROSTER: Crawford is going to get at least the 2021 season to show he can produce better at the plate, and is defense allows him quite a bit of leeway, but once Year 3 of arbitration hits prior to the 2023 season, the price may start to be a significant factor.

Tim Lopes

G: 46


CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2025. Arbitration eligible after the 2022 season Three options remaining.

ROSTER: Lopes’ 26-man spot may be challenged by an offseason acquisition, though his 40-man spots is likely safe for the time being.

Sam Haggerty

G: 13


CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2026. Arbitration eligible after 2023 at the soonest. Two options remaining.

ROSTER: Seattle may end up choosing between Lopes, Haggerty and a veteran this offseason, and at some point relatively soon the Lopes-Haggerty-Walton trio will need to be sorted as 40-man roster spots become more precious.

Ty France

G: 23


CONTRACT: Club controlled through 2025. Arbitration eligible after 2022. Two options remaining.

ROSTER: France is a shallow core player on the current 40-man and 26-man rosters.


Braden Bishop

G: 12


CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2025. Arbitration eligible after 2022 at the soonest. One option remaining.

ROSTER: With the additions of Phillip Ervin and Jose Marmolejos, the expanded defensive profiles of Lopes, Moore, and Haggerty, and the inevitable arrival of Jarred Kelenic, Bishop’s 26-man prospects don’t look good for 2021. Furthermore, Bishop and Jake Fraley become dispensable from a 40-man standpoint before their arbitration years, so the pair is running out of time.

I do wonder if Seattle gives him a real shot at the left field gig out of the blocks instead of entering spring training without an actual competition. Bishop is a more natural fit as a fourth outfielder once Kelenic hits the majors since he’s a plus-plus glove, a plus runner and bats right-handed.

Phillip Ervin

G: 16


CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2024. Arbitration eligible after the 2021 season at the soonest. No options remaining.

ROSTER: While things can change this winter, Ervin enters the offseason as the seat warmer for Kelenic for the first few weeks of 2021. Once Kelenic is up, Ervin turns into a reserve, but keep an eye on a competition in March where Bishop may be a factor.

Jake Fraley

G: 7


CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2026. Arbitration eligible after 2023 at the soonest. Two options remaining.

ROSTER: Fraley is running out of opportunities, despite the fact the opportunities he’s received to this point have been few and far between. He’s unlikely to have a shot at the 26-man to open next season, and 2021 may be his last shot to find a long-term home on the 40-man.

Mitch Haniger (60-IL)


CONTRACT: Club controlled through 2022. Arbitration eligible for the second time this winter. Three options remaining.

ROSTER: Haniger’s roster spots are safe, though at the first sign of significant trade value, the 29-year-old is trade chum.

Kyle Lewis

G: 58


CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2025. Arbitration eligible after the 2022 season at the soonest. Three options remaining.

ROSTER: Lewis represents the closest thing to a true all-star the Mariners possess. He’ll enter 2021 as the starting centerfielder and ultimately be flanked by Haniger and Kelenic.

Jose Marmolejos, DH/OF

G: 35


CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2025. Arbitration eligible after the 2022 season at the soonest. One option remaining.

ROSTER: Marmolejos is a placeholder until the Kelenics and Trammels pop. The biggest threat to his 26-man roster spot to open 2021 is Fraley, but his 40-man spot will be threatened next summer.…

The Seattle Mariners gave the Houston Astros a bit of a scare for the No. 2 spot in the American League West, but came up short and finished 27-33 in what was Year 2 of a total rebuild of the franchise.

Again this season, we saw a lot of players arrive, a lot of players depart, and some came and went so fast we didn’t get much of a look.

As one way to get ready for the offseason, here’s a look at every player on the 40-man roster as of October 2 with their roster, contract status, and service time.

For hitters, click here.

Marco Gonzales, LHP

GS: 11
IP: 69.2
FIP: 3.32
xFIP: 4.13
K%: 23.1
BB%: 2.5%
BAA: .222
fWAR: 2.0
WPA: 1.39


CONTRACT: Owed $30 million over the next four seasons, including $5.25 million in 2021.

ROSTER: Gonzales is the easiest arm on the roster to project for 2021. He’s a proven, consistent performer with almost no risk of falling off a cliff anytime soon.

The trade front isn’t likely to sweep away the left-hander anytime soon, either, despite the chance the league starts valuing command-and-feel starter more.

Justus Sheffield, LHP

GS: 10
IP: 55.1
FIP: 3.17
xFIP: 4.27
K%: 20.7
BB%: 8.6
BAA: .249
fWAR: 1.6
WPA: 0.70


CONTRACT: Club controlled through 2025. Scheduled to become arbitration eligible following the 2022 season. Not in line for Super 2 status after 2021. Two options remaining.

ROSTER: Sheffield is a sure thing for the Opening Day roster next spring and has earned a spot in the rotation for the foreseeable future. Where he’s slotted depends on what the club does over the winter with regard to starting pitching.

Yusei Kikuchi, LHP

GS: 9
IP: 47.0
FIP: 3.30
xFIP: 3.78
K%: 24.2
BB%: 10.3
BAA: .236
fWAR: 1.1
WPA: -0.20

ROSTER: Kikuchi has improved his status as a starter for 2021 and likely to start 2022 as well, but if the rotation gets full in ’22 all bets are off.


CONTRACT: Owed $31 million over the next two seasons. Through third day after 2021 World Series, Seattle has the right to exercise four one-year options at $16.5 million per. If they decline, player has two days to exercise a $13 million option for 2022.

The club is not picking up those options unless Kikuchi dazzles in ’21, and while I like the left-hander, it’s tough to see that level of production from him after the 41 MLB starts we’ve seen.

Justin Dunn, RHP

GS: 10
IP: 45.2
FIP: 6.54
xFIP: 6.23
K%: 19.2
BB%: 15.7
BAA: 188
fWAR: -0.3
WPA: -3.49


CONTRACT: Club controlled through 2025. Scheduled to become arbitration eligible following the 2022 season. Not in line for potential Super 2 status after 2021. Three options remaining.

ROSTER: Dunn carries high probability to open the 2021 season in the club’s rotation but it’s not out of the question they deem time in Triple-A Tacoma necessary, whether it be at the outset of the season or after showing more signs of struggle.

Command needs to improve, but the changeup is also a key for Dunn if he wishes to remain a viable rotation candidate. I do wonder if he might get back some velocity in ’21; Last summer he was 92-93 and touched 94-95 most starts in Double-A Arkansas.

Nick Margevicius, LHP

G/GS: 9/6
IP: 35.1
FIP:  4.51
xFIP: 4.53
K%: 21.8
BB%: 7.5
BAA: .257
fWAR: 0.4
WPA: -0.18


CONTRACT: Club controlled through 2025. Scheduled to become arbitration eligible following the 2022 season. Two options remaining.

ROSTER: Margevicius’ 40-man roster spot is safe, but his 26-man spot depends on what GM Jerry Dipoto decides to do this offseason and how the club plans to move forward with their pitching staff.

The step forward taken by Margevicius in 2020 makes him more than interesting moving forward, however, especially since the fastball and slider both took large steps forward, and at 24 years of age and built like Cliff Lee, maybe there’s more in the thank than the back-end arm we’ve seen so far.

Ljay Newsome, RHP

G/GS: 5/4
IP: 15.2
FIP: 5.73
xFIP: 4.99
K%: 13.2%
BB%: 1.5%
BAA: ..303
fWAR: 0.0
WPA: -0.01

ROSTER: Much like Margevicius but with less of a big-league resume, Newsome will have to battle for a 26-man spot next spring, and even if he makes it out of Peoria the young guns will be coming after his job in no time.

The stuff is rather ordinary on the surface — 89-92 mph four-seam fastball, curveball, changeup — but he’s thrown a cutter in the past and some kind of cutter-slider could help him pitch inside to left-handed batters and even steal a strike versus righties.


CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2026. Earliest arbitration eligible: after the 2023 season. Three options remaining.

Anthony Misiewicz, LHP

G: 21
IP: 20.0
FIP: 3.04
xFIP: 3.67
K%: 30.1
BB%: 7.2
BAA: .263
fWAR: 0.5
WPA: -0.08


CONTRACT: Club controlled through 2025. Scheduled to become arbitration eligible following the 2022 season.

ROSTER: Misiewicz was my Mariners Reliever of the Year for being the most reliable from start to finish. But he didn’t lack impact, posting a 1.84 +WPA and a 30% strikeout rate.

The southpaw held LHBs to a .216/.256/.243 triple-slash and just one extra-base hit, but righties lit him up to the tune of .308/.386/.590 and seven extra-base hits. Misiewicz, however, is still learning how to use his cutter in on RHBs.

He’ll enter spring training with a great shot to break camp with the big club after his 2020 performance, but I’d like to see him get more value out of his curveball, a potential plus pitch that could help him versus hitters from both sides of the plate.

Kendall Graveman, RHP

G/GS: 11/2
IP: 18.2
FIP: 4.26
xFIP: 4.83
K%: 19.5
BB%: 10.4
BAA: .217
fWAR: 0.3
WPA: 0.03


CONTRACT: Club has $3.5 million option for 2021 that comes with a $500,000 buyout. Also arbitration eligible for the third time. One option remaining.

There are a handful of scenarios here for Graveman, and a few of them involve the Mariners. Seattle could pick up the option and be OK paying a reliever $3.5 million. They could pick up the option and try Graveman again in the rotation — which is where I think he belongs., just not in Seattle next season. The club also could decline the option and work out something else with Graveman via the arbitration process, presumably for a salary that better fits a relief pitcher with injury concerns.

ROSTER: If Graveman returns as a starting pitcher, it likely means the club doesn’t go out and look for another buy-low arm similar to the signing of Taijuan Walker over this past winter. With Gonzales, Kikuchi, Margevicius, Dunn, Newsome and eventually Logan Gilbert to fill up the rotation, adding Graveman to that group creates a bit of a crowd, which likely lends us some insight into the chances Graveman returns as a candidate for the rotation.

In relief, Graveman is a middle-innings arm — he is not a bona fide closer by any stretch. He gets some fastball value at 94-99 thanks to arm side run and sink , and he has a four-seam version in his back pocket if he’s looking to miss bats with velocity at the top of the zone.

The changeup is useful, though it may be too firm to be anything more than that. His cutter-slider is fringe-average as is his 79-82 mph curveball. It’s a lot of fringey stuff, despite the velocity, and the command is below average.

While 99 mph looks good out of the pen, there’s no swing-and-miss pitch to put away hitters, and the combo of stuff and command don’t bode well for consistency, suggesting a lot of ups and downs where he looks great one outing and not-so-great the next. The stuff is just too hittable, especially considering he’s using the sinker 72% of the time in relief outings.

As a starter he’s more inclined to use a mix, his ground ball tendencies are a lot more valuable, and having a short run where he gets hit hard is forgivable for a No. 4 starter looking to go five or six frames.

Yohan Ramirez, RHP

G: 16
IP: 20.2
FIP: 6.05
K%: 27.7
BB%: 21.3
BAA: .129
fWAR: -0.2
WPA: 0.52


CONTRACT: Club controlled through 2025. Schedule to hit arbitration after the 2022 season. Three options remaining.

ROSTER: Ramirez pitched well enough to be among those with a legitimate chance to again break camp with the big club next spring.

The stuff is undeniable — 94-97 mph with late life and a 60-grade slider. He also has a 60-grade curveball at 75-78 mph if he ever wants to give hitters a bigger velocity differential.

Batters have a tough time squaring him up consistently, but he hasn’t thrown strikes to a level ever acceptable in the majors, and he’s yet to learn how to pitch to left-handed batters, which was his biggest problem all year.

He’ll be in the mix come spring training, but he has all three options left and the Mariners’ brass are likely to want to see him earn his spot now that the Rule 5 status has been lifted.

Perfect World, Ramirez turns into world beater Edwin Diaz 2.0. Most likely outcome? He’s a middle-relief arm that sometimes looks like that world beater, but just as often shows up doing a great rendition of the bad Fernando Rodney.

Brandon Brennan, RHP

G: 5
IP: 7.1
FIP: 6.87
xFIP: 5.96
K%: 21.2
BB%: 15.2
BAA: .250
fWAR: -0.1
WPA: -0.18


CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2024. Schedule for arbitration eligibility following the 2021 season. Three options remaining.

ROSTER: Brennan is an “in the mix” reliever with no guarantees..

The raw stuff is solid, including a sinker at 93-96 mph and a plus changeup, but his control has been poor and he’s had two extended stints on the IL — one each in 2019 and 2020. He also has a slider he rarely uses but began to bring out a bit more in five appearances this season.

While Seattle is still in “find answers to questions” mode, there are a lot of arms that need time and at some point — perhaps in 2021 — the experiments will begin to narrow down a bit as the Mariners path to winning nears and becomes clearer. When that happens, arms like Brennan will be out of chances.

Joey Gerber, RHP

G: 17
IP: 15.2
FIP: 4.40
xFIP: 5.67
K%: 9.7
BB%: 8.1
BAA: .232
fWAR: 0.1
WPA: -0.37


CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2026. Not arbitration eligible until after the 2023 season, at the soonest.

ROSTER: Gerber is in the same boat as the rest of the relievers this season, but he has an advantage over Brennan and Ramirez, among others; he throws strikes.

His track record of pounding the zone dates back to college when he closed at Illinois, and he’s been up to 97 mph with deception.

Gerber’s slider hasn’t been very good this year, flattening out a lot and he seems to have lost some feel, but hitters aren’t lifting the ball much against him and there’s more velocity  in the fastball than what we’ve seen so far (93 mph).

Gerber has a leg up on the other relievers who remain unproven in the show, with more room to grow and control and command that already plays. But he’s going to have to miss more bats and the slider is likely key to that lock.

Yoshihisa Hirano, RHP

G: 13
IP: 12.1
FIP: 5.70
xFIP: 5.63
K%: 17.5
BB%: 12.5
BAA: .333
fWAR: -0.2
WPA: -0.14


CONTRACT: Free agent

ROSTER: Hirano signed a one-year deal with Seattle and missed half of the 60-game schedule. But he was more than serviceable, picking up two saves and getting through a scoreless outing in 7 of 9 appearances.

He doesn’t throw hard, but he finds the plate and the splitter is above average.

There’s a chance Hirano interests Seattle enough on another one-year deal, but likely only s a last resort.

Brady Lail, RHP

G: 7
IP: 15.0
FIP: 7.86
xFIP: 6.61
K%: 17.5
BB%: 12.7
BAA: .333
fWAR: -0.3
WPA: -0.58


CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2026. Not arbitration eligible until after 2023 at the soonest. Three options remaining.

ROSTER: Lail, 27, is among several middle relief options Seattle will have next spring. Typically, he pounds the zone with below-average velocity but some arm side movement and a plus curveball.

Lail’s issues with the long ball need to be addressed if he’s to break camp with a 26-man roster spot, and like so many others will have to throw more strikes.

Walker Lockett, RHP

G: 5
IP: 8.1
FIP: 4.39
xFIP: 5.15
K%: 8.3
BB%: 2.8
BAA: .343
fWAR: 0.0
WPA: -0.07


CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2026. Arbitration eligible after 2023 at the soonest. Out of options.

ROSTER: Lockett throws strikes but has rather ordinary stuff and if he makes it through the winter on the 40-man will have an uphill climb to make the club next spring.

Erik Swanson, RHP

G: 9
IP: 7.2
FIP: 7.50
xFIP: 4.92
K%: 24.3
BB%: 5.4
BAA: .333
fWAR: -0.3
WPA: -0.75


CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2024. Arbitration eligible as early as 2023. Two options remaining.

ROSTER: Swanson’s increased velocity help his case in 2021 — he went from 92-93 mph to averaging 95.6 and touching 99. He throws his changeup less in a relief role and his slider must improve if he’s to be more than up-and-down fodder.

He’ll likely enter camp with a real shot at a spot in the bullpen.

Casey Sadler, RHP

G: 7
IP: 9.2
FIP: 3.29
xFIP: 4.11
K%: 26.9
BB%: 11.5
BAA: .217
fWAR: 0.2
WPA: -0.33


CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2024. Needs one more years of service to become arbitration eligible. Out of options.

ROSTER: Sadler, 30, has solid stuff, sitting 94-96 with the fastball and complementing with a cutter and curveball to give him three big-league pitches. He has a decent track record of throwing strikes, but struggled with control in New York and wasn’t a lot better with the Mariners.

If he remains on the 40-man he’ll get some looks in Peoria, but the club is going to add some proven veteran talent which may limit the open spots.

Matt Magill, RHP (60-IL)

G: 11
IP: 10.1
FIP: 6.56
xFIP: 5.02
K%: 24.4
BB%: 13.3
BAA: .231
fWAR: -0.2
WPA: -0.62


CONTRACT: ARB1, out of options

ROSTER: Magill started the season strong and served as the most reliable arm in the club’s bullpen, despite some bouts with control problems. It all caught up with him in the form of too many walks and too many long balls, but the makings of a legitimate middle reliever are there.

But he’s first-year arbitration eligible, which generally requires a raise into the seven-figure range. He ended the season on the IL with a shoulder problem, and then had surgery September 16, clouding the club’s decision to tender, despite the expectation he’ll be ready for spring training. At this point, I’d put it at 50-50, largely dependent on updated medicals, but a roster crunch could come into play as well.

Art Warren, RHP


CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2026. Not arbitration eligible until at least 2023. Has two options remaining.

ROSTER: Warren didn’t pitch in the majors in 2020 after making his debut last summer, throwing six games and posting a 2.46 FIP over 5.1 innings.

The 27-year-old has a plus fastball up to 97 mph, a slider and power curveball, but none of the pitches stand out and he has yet to show he can command them well enough to suggest he might be a consistent go-to anytime soon.

As a result, Warren’s 40-man spot is not secure, especially considering the slew of arms pushing toward the majors, including Sam Delaplane, Wyatt Mills, Ian McKInney, Penn Murfee, Logan Gilbert, and others.

Taylor Guilbeau, LHP (60-IL)

G: 8
IP: 7.2
FIP: 4.76
xFIP: 6.77
K%: 8.3
BB%: 16.7
BAA: .267
fWAR: 0.0
WPA: 0.04


CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2025. Arbitration eligible as early as 2022. He has two options remaining.

ROSTER: Guilbeau looked like an entirely different pitcher this season versus last. After the trade last summer, Guilbeau sat 93-97 mph with a plus changeup. He struggled to touch 91 this season and the changeup, and a slider he used more in 2020 than last season, were fringy at best.

When he’s right, the lefty is a legit option in the bullpen for 2021. We’ll see which version shows up in February, but he ended the season on the 60-day IL.

CJ Edwards, RHP (60-IL)

G: 5
IP: 4.2
FIP: 1.26
xFIP: 2.92
K%: 35.3
BB%: 5.9
BAA: .125
fWAR: 0.2
WPA: 0.35



ROSTER: Edwards ended the 2020 season on the IL with a forearm issue, but if the prognosis remains promising, tendering the right-hander isn’t out of the question. After making a pro-rated $950,000 this past season, Edwards could earn seven figures next season, which will be a factor in the club’s decision.

Seth Frankoff, RHP

G: 2
IP: 2.2
FIP: 5.44
xFIP: 11.23
K%: 0.0
BB%: 12.5%
BAA: .429
fWAR: 0.0
WPA: -0.20


CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2026. Earliest arbitration eligibility is 2023. Two options remaining.

ROSTER: Frankoff isn’t likely to last the winter on the 40-man roster, but may earn an NRI next spring.

Aaron Fletcher, LHP

G: 6
IP: 4.1
FIP: 9.19
xFIP: 7.97
K%: 24.1
BB%: 24.1
BAA: .350
fWAR: -0.1
WPA: -0.19


CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2026. Not arbitration eligible until at least 2023. Two options remaining.

ROSTER: Fletcher’s 40-man spot is probably fairly safe, being a 24-year-old with two options left.

Nestor Cortes Jr., LHP (60-IL)

G/GS: 5/1
IP: 7.2
FIP: 14.41
xFIP: 7.25
K%: 18.2
BB%: 13.6
BAA: .333
fWAR: -0.6
WPA: -0.71


CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2025. May be Super two eligible after 2021. Two options remaining.

ROSTER: Cortes struggled in his few appearances in 2020 but may have value as a long reliever and swing starter if healthy. He spent the final month of the season on the IL with an elbow issue, however, suggesting his roster status is anything but safe.

Gerson Bautista, RHP (60-IL)


CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2026. Not arbitration eligible until after the 2023 season at the soonest. Two options remaining.

ROSTER: Bautista, now 25, struggled in 2019 — both at Triple-A Tacoma and in eight appearances in the majors — and spent 2020 on the IL with an elbow issue.

Bautista could very well be among those exposed to waivers as the club adds players to the organization over the next six months, and as early as November.

Andres Munoz, RHP (60-IL)


CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2026. Not arbitration eligible until after the 2023 season as the soonest. Three options remaining.

ROSTER: Munoz, who came over in the August 31 trade with the San Diego Padres in exchange for Austin Nola, is rehabbing from March Tommy John surgery, which may mean he’s unable to pitch until as late as June, 2021.

But his roster spot is safe, thanks to relatively high upside as a high-leverage reliever. When healthy, the 21-year-old lives 98-101 mph and has touched as high as 104 mph. He also has a slider and has been known to alter grips on the heater to generate horizontal run to both sides of the plate.

Ian Hamilton, RHP


CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2026. Not arbitration eligible until after the 2023 season at the soonest. Two option remaining.

ROSTER: Skyview High School’s Hamilton, 25, made his MLB debut in 2018 and has 14 games — 12 innings — of big-league experience. His entire pro career has come in a relief role after he made 15 starts for Washington State in 2016.

He’s a fastball (93-96 mph), slider, changeup right-hander and the slider is his best offering. In his limited time in the majors he’s had problems with the base on balls and his minor league record is spotty. But he’s athletic and the live arm give him a shot.…

The 2020 Major League Baseball season didn’t go as any club planned, but from the perspective of the Seattle Mariners, all things considered, it went quite well.

Young players received valuable time and showed why they were worthy of it, the club continued to its collections of young, controllable talent, and the Mariners even won more games, 27, than just about anyone thought was a good bet when the season started in July.

With every season, long or short, comes superlatives. Here the best season-long performances in a handful of categories, courtesy Luke Arkins and Jason A. Churchill.


Churchill: Marco Gonzales, LHP
Gonzales wasn’t just a steady performer, he was consistently good in 2020 and raised the bar for the young arms pitching behind him in the rotation.

Gonzales went at least five innings in all but one start — the first one in which he went 4.1 at Houston — and pitched into the seventh six times in 11 starts.

Furthermore, Gonzales led baseball with a 2.5% walk rate and finished in the top 20 in BAA (.222) and FIP (3.32), and No. 26 in xFIP (4.13).

Arkins: Marco Gonzales, LHP

It’d be tough to say anyone else on the Mariners was more valuable than Gonzales was this season. A fun fact about Marco’s extremely low walk rate. It was the seventh lowest BB-rate recorded by a pitcher qualified for the ERA title since baseball integrated in 1947.

Rookie of the Year

Churchill: Kyle Lewis, CF
The easiest choice, since Lewis now is the favorite to win the Rookie of the Year award in the American League.

But Lewis put together a very strong 60-game run, including average defense in center.

At the plate, his ability to use the whole field helped him maximize batted ball success and hide some of his zone deficiencies (top of the zone), but there’s a ton on which to build for 2021.

Perhaps the most promising aspect of Lewis’ season is the K-BB rate evening out by the 25-year-old cutting the whiffs some and increasing his bases on balls.

Very early in 2021 we’re likely to see an outfield alignment of Lewis in center, Jarred Kelenic in left and Mitch Haniger in right, with a Phillip Ervin-Jose Marmolejos timeshare filling the gap until Kelenic arrives.

Arkins: It’ll be a massive upset if Lewis isn’t AL Rookie of the Year. For this reason, he’s the obvious choice for this category. The logical alternative would be Justus Sheffield, who probably nets a few votes in ROY balloting.

Although Lewis didn’t project as the regular center fielder in March, he was the team’s starter and rated as an average-to-plus defender. Impressive considering the Mercer alum’s 56 starts in center field this year were a career-high as a professional. Barring unforeseen circumstances, K-Lew continues patrolling center field for the Mariners in 2021.

Reliever of the Year

Churchill: Anthony Misiewicz, LHR
Misiewicz led the team in appearances (21) and was second in relief innings (20.0). He was consistent all year, posting a 3.04 FIP, and 3.67 xFIP.

Opponents hit just .100 against his fastball (1-for-10), but his cutter and curveball underperformed considering the advanced data on both pitches.

The data, including high spin rates, suggest there’s more to come for Misiewicz in a continued middle-relief role in 2021.

Arkins: Casey Sadler, RHP

My first choice would’ve been Misiewicz, but I don’t want to parrot Jason in every category. Sadler performed well after the Mariners claimed him off waivers in early September. During the last month of the season, the 30-year-old tossed 10 innings leading Seattle relievers with 12 strikeouts and a .247 xwOBA.

Yes, Sadler’s month in Seattle was a micro-sample. But he’s a five-year veteran coming off a good 2019 campaign with the Rays and Dodgers. Perhaps the Oklahoman can help stabilize a 2021 bullpen likely to be chock full of young relievers – like Misiewicz.

Defensive Player of the Year

Churchill: J.P. Crawford, SS

I imagine many would vote quite a bit for Lewis and Evan White, but shortstop is a critical position defensively and Crawford is among the tops in the game.

He posted +6 DRS, No. 4 among MLB shortstops and No. 2 in the American League. He also ranked No. 9 in Outs Above Average and led all MLB shortstops in Out of Zone plays made (62, tied with Javier Baez). In fact, no player at any position made more Out of Zone plays than Crawford.

Arkins: Evan White, 1B

Crawford was superb at a position rife with elite-level gloves and is deserving of recognition for his defensive prowess. Nevertheless, I’m going with White, who’s one of the best first baseman I’ve ever seen.

Whether White wins the Gold Glove as a rookie is unclear, but he was the top defensive first baseman based on Defensive Runs Saved. Only last year’s AL Gold Glover at first base, Matt Olson, leads the former Kentucky Wildcat when we review Statcast’s Outs Above Average.

Best Newcomer

Churchill: Nick Margevicius, LHP

Margevicius made 10 appearances, seven starts, and was more than serviceable, posting a league average FIP and xFIP.

The southpaw went at least five innings in five starts, went six in three of them and showed a better fastball — 89-91 mph — than in years past when he sat 86-88.

He’ll need to avoid the barrel a bit better to take another step or two in 2021, but using his slider more might help (.174 BAA, no XBH), and he’s just 24 years old with some physical projection left.

Arkins: Ty France, INF

Where France plays in the field moving forward isn’t clear, but his bat will ensure he gets regular playing opportunities. During combined time with the Padres and Seattle this year, the right-handed hitter slashed .305/.368/.468 with a 133 OPS+ in 43 games.

Evaluators often compare France to another multi-position player named Ty from San Diego – Ty Wigginton. Sounds good considering Wigginton played 12 big-league seasons, could hit, and shared a similar position profile to France’s.

Perhaps France is a bench player or morphs into a regular in the infield or as a designated hitter. Either way, having a player with the former San Diego State Aztec’s positional versatility and hitting ability will benefit a championship-caliber roster.

Breakthrough Player of the Year (non-Rookie)

Churchill: Dylan Moore, UT

Moore went from worst player on the roster to one of the best in a year and his future with the club may include ‘Opening Day 2B’ next spring.

Moore’s line drive rate jumped 9% and he got to his pull side better without selling out to the extreme. He cut his strikeouts from 33% to 27% and maintained a solid walk rate at 8.8%.

But the two things that make Moore so interesting include how hard he hits the ball consistently (77th percentile exit velocity, 89th percentile barrel rate) and his defensive versatility. He’s not a long-term option at shortstop, but he can handle it, and he projects as average or better at second base, third base and now right field, too. It’s the closest thing to Ben Zobrist the Mariners have had since Mark McLemore in 2001, and this version has power.

Arkins: Yusei Kikuchi, LHP

Yes, Kikuchi was inconsistent this year. But the southpaw made big strides over his 2019 rookie campaign.

Kikuchi’s .279 xwOBA led the Mariners rotation and was top-30 among MLB starters. Since xwOBA reflects quality and quantity of contact, it’s clear the Japanese import has the talent to be a valuable contributor to Seattle’s starting staff.

Still, Kikuchi does have work to do. The 29-year-old seemed like a different pitcher with runners on base and the stats back that up. When bases were empty, opponents had a .251 wOBA against him – twelfth best among MLB starters. Conversely, his wOBA with men on base was .355, which ranked in the bottom 20-percent.

Prospect Development of the Year

Churchill: Justus Sheffield, LHP

Lewis is a legitimate choice here, as is Austin Nola, but because Sheffield’s developments in 2020 bring a higher floor and less risk for the future –and he’s still with the club — I’m going with the left-hander.

Sheffield made 10 starts, led all MLB rookie pitchers in fWAR (1.5) and went six or more innings in six outings — including seven innings twice.

The lefty reduced his barrel rate to 3.7% (91st percentile) — the switch from a four-seamer to a two-seam sinker did exactly what the club had hoped, limiting the damage on hard-hit balls.

In addition, Sheffield’s command took a large step forward, and his general ability to throw strikes improved, too, as he went from 10.7% walks to 8.6%.

The command improvement allowed Sheffield to go to his slider more in favorable counts, and the results are remarkable. In 2019, opponents hit .302 with a .491 slugging percentage off his slider. In 2020, Sheffield flipped the script, holding opposing batters to a .192 average and .219 slugging with the slide piece.

The same can be said about his changeup to a large degree.

Sheffield lacks the big ceiling, but has reduced the risk in his performance, suggesting he’s destined for a mid-rotation role for the foreseeable future.

Arkins: Ljay Newsome, RHP

Mariners “Gas Camp” helped Newsome increase his four-seam fastball velocity to a 91.4-MPH average. But bringing the heat isn’t Newsome’s specialty — avoiding free passes is. We already noted Gonzales had a historically good walk rate; Newsome’s was better (1.5%) albeit over a span of just 15.1 innings.

So what does Newsome become? Perhaps he’ll be a back-end starter. Then again, the Mariners’ 2015 twenty-sixth round pick could morph into a long reliever/swingman. Either role potentially makes him a valued contributor on a team that believes it could contend in the AL West next year.

Flash Player of the Year

Churchill: Yohan Ramirez, RHR

I thought about Luis Torrens here, but the sample was too small.

Ramirez has terrific raw stuff, including a fastball up to 98 mph and a plus slider. He’s shown a plus curveball in the past and the makings of a changeup, but in a relief role stuck with a two-pitch attack.

He was dominant at times, but he walked 21.3% of the batters he faced, pitching himself into trouble at a high rate. But after allowing three earned runs August 7 versus Colorado, Ramirez allowed two earned runs on four hits over his final 11 appearances.

As a Rule 5 pick he had to remain on the active roster (or IL) for the entire 2020 season, but the club is now free to option the right-hander as they see fit.

At his best, Ramirez sits 94-98 mph and pitches effectively in high-leverage situations, but there will have to be mechanical fixes if he wants to avoid the minors to start next season.

Arkins: Luis Torrens, C

Evaluators generally believe Torrens’ is a glove-first backstop with a bat good enough to keep him in the majors. Ironically, he proved better with his bat and struggled defensively with Seattle. To be fair, the 24-year-old only joined the team on August 31 and had to learn a new pitching staff on the fly.

For now, Torrens projects as a backup. Then again, something similar was said about two other Mariners backstops — Tom Murphy and Nola. Heading into next year, it’ll be fun seeing where the Venezuelan’s talent takes him and how the team integrates him into the catching mix with Murphy and top prospect Cal Raleigh.…

So, the 2020 MLB season has come to an end. The expanded playoffs are about to start. In a month we’ll learn the results of the official voting, but let’s talk about MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year.

But first, a couple of notes about the way I look these awards.

The MVP, for me, is the best player in the league that year. If, after studying the players’ performances, it’s really close between two or more, his place and value to his team’s winning, or lack thereof, can be a deciding factor, but isn’t part of it until and unless.

Not unlike MVP, the Cy Young is more of a Pitcher of the Year for me, and has nothing to do with value to a winning team unless the race is so close I can use that as a tiebreaker.

It’s not that when these players perform and how much it means in general aren’t part of my process, but looking at team win-loss to quantify it is shallow and close to meaningless.

Rookie of the Year is no different than MVP or Cy Young, but I tend to add a little extra credit if the player is especially young and inexperienced. That, however, isn’t the case in 2020 in either league.

And for the record, I don’t do Manager of the Year. It’s a ridiculous award that shouldn’t be voted on by media. How can a reporter possibly have enough info to vote on such an award? Too many of the things one would need to know are intentionally kept secret, and even if one had all the info it would be impossible to quantify it in comparison to the rest of the league’s skippers and their own secret info.

Anyway, here are my picks for both leagues.

National League MVP: Freddie Freeman, 1B — Atlanta Braves

Freeman is a solid defensive first baseman, but a first baseman nonetheless, meaning to be the MVP he’d have to produce special offensive numbers.

He did just that in 2020.

Freeman finished No. 2 in all of baseball in on-base percentage (.465), slugging percentage (.648), and wRC+ (190), finishing behind Juan Soto in all three categories.

Freeman batted .343, No. 3 in MLB and No. 2 in the NL, again behind Soto, and finished No. 1 in runs scored and No. 3 in RBI — No. 2 in the NL behind teammate Marcell Ozuna.

Freeman, who posted a 225 wRC+ in high-leverage situations, played all 60 games and led all of baseball with a 3.4 fWAR.

So why not Soto?

The phenom played in 13 fewer games, which is 21.6% of the season — than did Freeman and wasn’t as valuable with the glove. Had he played a full slate, Soto might very well be the pick here, despite the Washington Nationals sleeping until noon this season.

2. Fernando Tatis Jr., SS — San Diego
3. Mookie Betts, RF — Los Angeles
4. Manny Machado, 3B — San Diego
5. Yu Darvish, RHP — Chicago Cubs

American League MVP: Jose Ramirez, 3B — Cleveland Indians

Ramirez won this award in September by batting .354/.440/.823 with 10 home runs and a 229 wRC+. He was helped by the struggles of others, but his underrated all-around game and red-hot final month was overwhelming in the end.

Ramirez batted .287/.380/.597 for the season, posting 10 stolen bases and another great year on the bases, not to mention the above-average defense at third base.

Ramirez’s 158 wRC+ was No. 5 in the AL and he led the circuit with 3.2 fWAR.

2. Shane Bieber, RHP — Cleveland Indians
3. Jose Abreu, 1B — Chicago White Sox
4. Mike Trout, CF — Los Angeles Angels
5. DJ Lemahieu, 2B — New York Yankees

National League Cy Young:  Jacob deGrom, RHP — New York Mets

Darvish got the nod as the top pitcher in my MVP rankings but deGrom edges the Cubs’ ace and Reds right-hander Trevor Bauer because, well, he had a better year.

The Mets star led the NL in xFIP (2.46) and K/9 (13.76), and was second in FIP (2.26 to Darvish’s 2.23). DeGrom struck out 10 or more in five of 12 starts, and beat Atlanta twice, the Rays once, and Philadelphia twice. All three opponents ranked in the Top 10 in wRC+.

Darvish faced just one of the Top 15 offenses in baseball (White Sox twice). Bauer, who  won the Nl ERA title, finished No. 5 in both FIP (2.88) and xFIP (3.26), and while he’d use the total number of playoff teams he faced to boost his candidacy, let’s top off the argument against Bauer with a closer look at how he put up the great numbers.

Bauer faced Detroit twice — No. 24 offense in MLB — Pittsburgh twice (No. 29), Milwaukee (No. 25) three times, and both Kansas City (No. 20)  and Chicago-NL (No. 21) once.  Bauer faced one team with a top-19 lineup, the 6th-ranked White Sox.

2. Yu Darvish, RHP — Chicago Cubs
3. Trevor Bauer, RHP – Cincinnati Reds
4. Corbin Burnes, RHP — Milwaukee Brewers
5. Dinelson Lamet, RHP — San Diego Padres

American League Cy Young: Shane Bieber, RHP — Cleveland Indians

Bieber had this wrapped up before September. The ace led all starting pitchers in K/9 (14.2), fWAR (3.2), ERA (1.63), FIP (2.07), xFIP (2.07), K% (41.1), SIERA (2.52), and he did it against the White Sox (No. 6) twice,  and the No. 16 Minnesota Twins three times.

He fanned 10 or more eight times in 12 starts and allowed more than two runs in a game just three times.

2. Kenta Maeda, RHP — Minnesota Twins
3. Lucas Giolito, RHP — Chicago White Sox
4. Zack Greinke, RHP — Houston Astros
5. Framber Valdez, LHP — Houston Astros

National League Rookie of the Year: Jake Cronenworth, 2B — San Diego Padres

There’s a lot of beat-reporter chatter about Brewers reliever Devin Williams, but Cronenworth was the best NL rookie in 2020, despite a late fade at the plate.

His .285/.354/.477 triple-slash says a lot, but he was also versatile defensively, playing 47 adequate innings at shortstop as well as 78 very good innings at first base and the bulk of his time as an above-average second base glove.

He hit just four home runs, but tripled three times and logged 15 doubles in 54 games.

2. Tony Gonsolin, RHP — Los Angeles Dodgers
3. Devin Williams, RHP — Milwaukee Brewers
4. Ian Anderson, RHP — Atlanta Braves
5. Sixto Sanchez, RHP — Miami Marlins

American League Rookie of the Year: Kyle Lewis, CF — Seattle Mariners

Lewis struggled in September, but finished the year a .262/.364/.437 with 11 home runs and a rookie-best 1.7 fWAR. He played a more-than-adequate center field and is an above-average baserunner.

Furthermore, Lewis served as an anchor in the Mariners lineup with as little ‘protection’ as any ROY contender in either league.

2. Luis Robert, CF — Chicago White Sox
3. Willi Castro, SS — Detroit Tigers
4. Sean Murphy, C — Oakland Athletics
5. Justus Sheffield, LHP — Seattle Mariners

2020 All-MLB Team


1B Freddie Freeman Atlanta Braves 187 wRC+, 3.3 fWAR
2B DJ LeMahieu New York Yankees 177 wRC+, 2.7 fWAR
3B Jose Ramirez Cleveland Indians 163 wRC+, 3.4 fWAR
SS Fernando Tatis Jr. San Diego Padres 149 wRC+, 3.0 fWAR
 C J.T. Realmuto Philadelphia Phillies 125 WRC+, 1.5 fWAR
OF Mookie Betts Los Angeles Dodgers 149 wRC+, 2.9 fWAR
OF Mike Trout Los Angeles Angels 164 wRC+, 2.6 fWAR
OF Juan Soto Washington Nationals 200 wRC+, 2.4 fWAR
DH Marcell Ozuna Atlanta Braves 179 wRC+, 2.5 fWAR
SP Shane Bieber Cleveland Indians 2.04 xFIP, 3.2 fWAR
SP Jacob deGrom New York Mets 2.46 xFIP, 2.6 fWAR
SP Yu Darvish Chicago Cubs 2.82 xFIP, 3.0 fWAR
SP Trevor Bauer Cincinnati Reds 3.26 xFIP, 2.5 fWAR
SP Dinelson Lamet San Diego Padres 3.30 xFIP, 2.4 fWAR
RP Devin Williams Milwaukee Brewers 1.09 xFIP, 1.4 fWAR
RP Liam Hendriks Oakland Athletics 207 xFIP, 1.4 fWAR

In the clip above, Jason A. Churchill opines on whether or not there should be legit concern about Kyle Lewis‘ lack of extra-base hits in 2020.

In the full episode subscribers can find here, Jarred Kelenic, Dylan Moore, Marco Gonzales, Justus Sheffield, Justin Dunn, Logan Gilbert, Nick Margevicius, J.P. Crawford, Kendal Graveman, Matt Magill, Yoshihisa Hirano, CJ Edwards, and Mitch Haniger are all discussed.

Subscribe for les than $.50 per episode right here.

Yeah, so, the Seattle Mariners are in contention in the American League by way of finishing No. 2 in the West. Entering play Monday, the Houston Astros held a 1.5 games lead on Seattle, which essentially extends to 2.5 games because the defending division champs already have clinched the tiebreaker: head-to-head.

But the burning questions, plural, surrounds top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert.

1) Should the Mariners call up one or both to enhance their chances to catch Houston?

2) If they do, what are the service time ramifications?

3) Should those ramifications even matter?

Should Seattle Summon Kelenic, Gilbert?

This is a question only the Mariners can answer. Why? Because they are the only ones to have laid eyes on these players all year with any regularity.

One can easily take a leap on Gilbert being more likely to help than one or more of the current arms residing in the big-league bullpen. He was close enough when 2019 concluded and the club admitted their original plan for the right-hander this season included a summer call-up.

But we don’t know a thing about how things have gone at the Alternate Training Site in Tacoma. At least not the kind of stuff we’d need to even begin to make an assessment on how ready he might be to help a club in some role.

Again, though, it’s reasonable to believe in Gilbert more than, say, Seth Frankoff or Aaron Fletcher. If only it was as simple as believing based on others being bad and how things were trending a year ago, the last time Gilbert pitched in a game.

With Kelenic, it’s more difficult to reasonably suggest he’s ready beyond guessing, which is what some have done the past few weeks. Unfortunately, “well, he was in Double-A last year and has hit like 5 or 6 homers in Tacoma this summer” doesn’t qualify as practical evidence.

My argument for calling up both players centers on how easy it would be to protect them from some kind of developmental disaster.

Gilbert doesn’t have to be asked to go five or six innings. Use him out of the bullpen a few times.

Kelenic doesn’t need to be asked to hit in the top 6 in the lineup and play center field daily. Use him in favorable matchups (versus right-handed pitchers), bat him seventh or lower and if the test looks rough early, curb his usage even further.

The range of potential results for both players in the majors extends from one end to the other. Both could struggle mightily in the short stint, or they could both be very good, or somewhere in between.

If handled properly, I don’t feel there’s a lot of developmental risk if the task proves to be a bit much for them right now.

The Mariners are asking the same thing from inferior talents, and have all year, and it hasn’t worked. The minuscule downside doesn’t scare me at all.

What are the Service Time Ramifications?

There seems to be some confusion on how service time works, so let me start with some basics.

First, players require 172 days to earn one year of service. Those 172 days can come all in one season or over parts of multiple seasons.

Second, most MLB seasons are 184-187 days long, but players are maxed at 172 days. If a players earns service time for the entire season, they receive 172 days, not the pure number of days in the season. Yes, it’s dumb.

For 2020, players are receiving prorated service time. For every day they spend on the 2020 roster, it means 2.8 days of credited service. This means if Kelenic or Gilbert were called up and spent 10 days with the big club it would count as 28 days of service.

The impact of those 28 days, just for example, are as follows:

  • Both would start 2021 needing just 144 days to earn a full year of service.
  • The potential for eventual Super 2 arbitration status must be considered. Super 2 status is a when a player ranks in the top 22 percent (in service time) of all players with less than three but more than two years of service. These players get a fourth year of arbitration starting a year sooner.

If both Kelenic and Gilbert earned 28 days of service in 2020, in order to hold them off from ending 2021 with a full year to their ledger — which means they get to arbitration and free agency sooner — Seattle would have to hold both players out for 45 days or more next season, suggesting a mid-to-late May call-up.

If neither player gets a day in 2020, the club can wait as few as 14 days (depending on the exact length of the 2021 season).

For the record, the Super 2 number is usually around two years and 120-135 days, though last season it was just 2.115.

It would relatively easy to manipulate both arbitration and free-agent service time concerns for both Kelenic and Gilbert if they received 25-30 days of service for 2020. It may, however, disrupt the club’s roster plans if that is the case, and if GM Jerry Dipoto and staff decide not to make the move, that may be a significant factor.

Should Service Time Even be a Consideration Right Now?


If a big part of the club’s long-term plan includes starting fresh in 2021 with the players in question, it does matter, because not being able to do so right smack in the middle of a rebuild and right in the middle of offseason planning (yes, right now is the middle) is a pretty major issue.

While the counterargument of “yes, but you have a chance to get to the postseason” carries a little bit of weight, let’s hash that out for a second here.

It’s a small chance at the postseason regardless of who does or does not get called up this month. That matters. It’s also a very, very small sample for which these players would theoretically be upgrades. Entering Monday, Seattle has 16 games remaining.

For context, the best player on the planet has been worth 1.3 wins over replacement to lead all of baseball over the last 16 games. Even if we assume the players Kelenic and/or Gilbert replaced were worth, say, a quarter-win below replacement level for those 16 games, that still requires the call-up to be worth as much as a top-10 player to make a difference.

Of course WAR can’t account for the little things; a catch Kelenic makes that Phillip Ervin or Dylan Moore doesn’t. a batter Gilbert gets out that Fletcher or Frankoff may not. Those events, with specific context, are worth more than WAR accounts for in the grand scheme.

So, yes, service time should matter. But it shouldn’t be the deciding factor in anything. Almost ever. There rare occasions when waiting a day or two more may serve the club down the road.

As far as options go, there is an impact.

There’s a great chance Kelenic starts 2021 in Tacoma regardless of what happens the final few weeks this season, call-up or not, perform or not. There’s also a chance Gilbert does, too. Not as good a chance as Kelenic, perhaps, but it’s there. If the two are called up this month, it means being added to the 40-man roster, which in turn means if they are optioned to the minors next year, even just prior to the season opening, it burns an option.

It’s my opinion, however, options aren’t much of a concern in this situation. Players get three option years (or four in super-rare scenarios when a player has less than five season of pro experience — majors and minors — and hasn’t been on a pro roster for 90 days or more in any on season, and hasn’t posted a 60-30 active roster/IL split in any one season), so it’d be an upset if Kelenic or Gilbert ran into option issues down the road.

In the End

The Mariners are in no position to rush a prospect. There will be no need to start either player on the Opening Day Roster next spring, and it very well could benefit both from spending six or eight weeks in Triple-A.

But there’s no reason to hold off on 2020 because of 2021. So if the Mariners believe 30-40 PAs and some outfield time from Kelenic helps them compete better to finish things this season, he should be called up for 10-14 days.

If the club believes Gilbert has a better chance to get some outs than Frankoff, Fletcher or Brady Lail, he should be summoned, too.

It may not make a difference in their chase of the Astros. Both players could play well and Seattle still may come up short. Both players could struggle, too

But the same way the sample may not be long enough to make a meaningful difference on the club’s chances to make up 2.5 games, it’s also not enough to damage these players’ futures.

Kelenic is probably at a point now similar to where Evan White was to start 2020. He’s struggled, but the club keeps running him out there. Gilbert is probably close to where Justin Dunn was in March, and he, too, has shown he can handle it and keeps getting starts, despite struggles.

This is a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ scenario for the Mariners, and it’s not wrong to hold the players back.

But not only does the upside outweigh the risk (development, service time, offseason & 2021 planning), I think the most likely outcome does, too.…