The Seattle Mariners payroll is not shrinking by design. They’re not out of money. And they’re not being cheap. In case you were wondering why the club has yet to make an actual splash this offseason.
There are numerous possible reasons for the Mariners’ lack of aggressiveness in free agency, the obvious one being: most of the markets have yet to develop, and the one that has is the one road Seattle has travelled this winter: relief pitching.
But the Mariners are not up against their payroll limits for 2018. If they were it would mean the club is cutting payroll after paying out nearly $175 million in 40-man roster salaries in 2017, No. 12 in Major League Baseball.
Here is a look at the Mariners’ payroll chart as of December 30, 2017:
The above payroll chart is not a roster projection.
From the above, if the club wants to make the unlikely big splash — such as trading for Zack Greinke, signing Yu Darvish, J.D. Martinez or Jake Arrieta — the start-of-year payroll for next season will exceed any in team history… but it won’t necessarily exceed the club’s self-imposed limits, whatever those are and if they actually exist.
But keep an eye on Marc Rzepczynski and Erasmo Ramirez, who will earn a little more than $10 million combined, assuming our arbitration projection for Ramirez is close. While neither salary is entirely out of line for either pitcher, both could be trade bait if the team looks to clear some space for a free agent. I wouldn’t bet on it, but it’s plausible.
But the Mariners are NOT out of payroll space. But it seems clear they’re not going much further for marginal gains and that’s understandable. If the team starts 2018 with a payroll north of $175 million, it likely will be from 1-2 players, rather than four of those marginal adds.
So who are the most likely current 40-man roster Mariners to be traded this winter?
I’d rank them this way:
I’d also opine there is about a 25 percent chance any one of those players is moved.
The selection of Mike Ford in the Rule 5 Draft and the pick-up of catcher David Freitas ran a bit under the radar. I spoke about Ford on Baseball Things, but Freitas is similar to Mike Marjama and adds solid depth to the club’s catching crop.
Freitas, 29 in March, is a capable Triple-A catcher who made his MLB debut last August for the Atlanta Braves. He’s fringe-average defensively, throwing well but lacking ideal lateral blocking ability, and has on-base skills.
Marjama remains the favorite to be Mike Zunino‘s backup, assuming the Mariners don’t sign a veteran, but tehe possibility the club signs a veteran still are very good, but it may be a minor league deal unless the market falls apart.
Jason spent 4 1/2 years at ESPN and two years at CBS Radio prior to joining HERO Sports in July, 2016.
Find Jason's Mariners podcast, Baseball Things, right here and follow him on Twitter @ProspectInsider.