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What is the Price of One More Win for the Seattle Mariners?

Wednesday, December 03, 2014


Mariners' pitcher Chris Young, via Wikimedia Commons

While the Seattle Mariners did not make the playoffs last season, their performance gave the team hope to fans long suffering without much. For the first time in many years, the Mariner games were relevant to the very last day. Each one of the 162 games had an impact. After it was all said and done, the team wound up just one game shy of the last wild card spot.

One game. On the surface, it seems so insignificant. Yet, when presented to a front office, the challenge of getting one more win is a difficult one to address. With the ins and outs of a season, it is naturally hard to do anything that ensures one more win. However, that is the job of the front office. How will Jack Zduriencik, who was on the hot seat at the start of last season, look to get the Mariners over the hump in to the playoffs?

With the MLB offseason just beginning, it looks like we may have our answer. In the only major sport where spending is largely unlimited, the Mariners are opening the purse strings. First off, the team spent big to secure one of their own, giving Kyle Seager a 7-year deal worth over $100 million.

This marks the third season in a row that the Mariners have signed a player to a contract of $100 million or more (Felix Hernandez in 2012 and Robinson Cano in 2013). While Seager certainly had a solid year, earning a Gold Glove, an All-Star spot and knocking in 96 RBI, it is a leap of faith for the Mariners. Seager has only played three full seasons in the bigs. Signing a long term deal at this time is a bit of a risk. However, Seager has notched 20+ home runs in all three of his full seasons, in power-unfriendly Safeco Field. 

Not to mention, there is the old adage that past performance does not guarantee future results. There are plenty of examples in sports of teams paying the big bucks for players past their prime, only to be disappointed. To be sure, the Mariners haven’t fallen into that trend. Seager will be 34 at the end of this contract, meaning the Mariners have paid big for some of the young star’s prime years, instead of the waning years of his career. 

However, the Mariners haven’t stopped there. The signing of Nelson Cruz, the MLB leader in home runs during the 2014 season, adds another bat to the line-up. The 4 year, $58 million deal puts him in a similar annual salary as Seager but a shorter term. However, there are reservations to the Cruz signing. Power hitters signing with the Mariners have seen noted drops in their power numbers after joining Seattle. Even Cano, the team’s biggest offensive weapon, had his home run production drop nearly 50% (from 27 to 14) from 2012 to 2013. It is worth noting the Cano petitioned his front office with the New York Yankees to sign Cruz for years so this likely makes the M’s highest paid player a little happier.

Rumors say that the Mariners are not yet done either. Cruz nominally plays right field (to infamy, with the Texas Rangers in the World Series) but the Mariners reportedly feel that he is better suited to the designated hitter role. Not content to rest on their laurels, Seattle is looking to sign another right fielder. Names like Matt Kemp and Alex Rios are being tossed around.

No matter what, the Mariners aggressive signings have changed the picture in the AL West. The Mariners pitching staff has the potential to only get better. James Paxton only pitched 13 games due to injury in 2014. In addition, hopefully, Taijuan Walker should continue to progress. 

The Mariners are rolling the dice this offseason. They were a game shy of the postseason. At that point, fans hope and expect for the team to take a step forward. On paper, the Mariners have made the moves to make themselves not only compete for a wildcard spot. They may even contend for the AL West title.

GoLocalPDX partner Oregon Sports News: Since 2011, Oregon Sports News has provided entertaining, hard-hitting local sports news & commentary every weekday. To read more from this author, check out Oregon Sports News by clicking here.


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