Three moves the M’s should make once the lockout lifts

As MLB and the players union continue to meet and work on a new CBA, the off season has been frozen. That means that clubs were unable to met with free agents, or make trades with one another (for players on the 40 man roster). Once the lockout lifts we can expect a flurry of moves to fill out rosters and rebuilds prior to the start of (what should be) a truncated Spring Training.

One of the clubs that’s expected to be active in this market is the Seattle Mariners. The M’s put up the sixth highest win total in franchise history in 2021 and narrowly missed out on the playoffs. Since the club has a lot of free cash, a young and talented core, and a post season drought that’s almost old enough to drink they were expected to be big players in free agency. And they were prior to the start of the lockout as they signed reigning AL Cy Young award winner Robby Ray to a five-year deal and traded for Adam Frazier.

As we hopefully get closer to the lockout being lifted by the owners, and a new CBA, it’s time to start thinking about moves Seattle could make to shore up holes on their roster. While none of the three moves in this post are particularly sexy or splashy, they are low low risk/high reward moves that will raise the floor for the M’s in 2022 and beyond as they look to kick open their window of contention…and also leave the door open for a Kris Bryant or Trevor Story signing.

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Sign Tyler Anderson to a multi-year extension

Tyler Anderson was a smart trade for the Mariners at the deadline last season; the fact that he preformed beyond anything the M’s could have hoped for down the stretch was a major reason they had a shot at the playoffs entering their final homestand. It made sense then, and it still makes sense now, that Anderson wanted to enter the free agent market. What doesn’t make any sense is the fact that Seattle and the starter hadn’t started negotiations on a contract extension before the season ended; and it doesn’t sound like there was any conversation about it prior to the lockout.

Seattle needs depth in its starting rotation and Anderson makes a ton of sense as No. 4/5 starter at his career norms — and he’d be one hell of a No. 3 starter if his performance from the second half of 2021 is sustainable. With James Paxton signing a deal with Boston, and there being a lot of uncertainty around the backend of the rotation, general manager Jerry Dipoto needs to bring in the 32-year-old to shore up the back end of that rotation so the young guys are depth.

As for the contract that the southpaw could be expected to sign for, I had this to say back in September.

But I would be shocked if he’s offered any contract longer than three years, a fourth year would make sense only if a team is trying to put its offer over the others competing for his services.

As for the size of his the contract, anything that’s over $10 to $12 million a year would be a surprise as well. I think most teams would prefer to offer extra years to a dependable No. 4/5 starter than dollars to win his services on the open market. And that would make since for the 31-year old as his pitch selection and usage are the type that typically age well. I’m expecting to see him sign for three years, roughly $32 or $36 million with an option for a fourth year; but would not be surprised to see a four year, $44 million contract come his way either.

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That still holds true to this day. A three or four year deal sounds about right for the aging starting pitcher that has had Anderson’s track record.


Trade for Rays’ OF Austin Meadows

While the Mariners have a ton of tantalizing outfield prospects at the major league level, and in their farm system, there is no guarantee that they’ll be contributors to the 2022 squad — especially with Kyle Lewis’s series of unrelated, but concerning knee injuries. That’s why this story out Tampa Bay indicating that the Rays are interested in trading either Kevin Kiermaier or Austin Meadows caught my attention.

Kiermaier may be the more well known name, but Meadows is the the outfielder that is the most intriguing of the two named in that article. In four major league season, the 26-year-old has hit .260/.333/.489 with a wRC+ of 128 in 1,525 career plate appearances — his worst season at the plate was the Covid shortened 2020 season. But the most interesting stat for Meadows is his career walk rate of 9.2% with his strikeout rate hovering around 22.5%. He’s not a black hole at the plate, and can draw walks; in fact he’s drawn double digit walks in his last two MLB seasons.

Tampa is interested in moving Meadows because he’ll reach the arbitration process next off-season and by moving him they’ll be able to free up space in the budget to invest in their roster; the Mariners, coincidentally, have more than enough space in the budget to absorb his arbitration based raises. The left handed bat would immediately add length to Seattle’s line-up and could easily slide into the everyday role out in left which could help protect Lewis’s knee and Haniger’s health as well — yes, I’m aware he had 691 PAs last year but he is 31 and it’s better to be safe than sorry — by pushing them into a rotation between right field and designated hitter.

The biggest negative that a trade for Meadows would bring to Seattle is it would probably take them out of the Seiya Suzuki sweepstakes. But when you consider the fact that he already has a track record of success at the MLB level it feels like you’re trading a splashy signing with potential for a productive MLB hitter.


Start the season with George Kirby as the No. 6 starter on the depth chart

George Kirby is one of those starters that you see on a lot of list and rumors as potential starter we’ll see with Seattle in 2022. Which is surprising when you consider the fact that he’s never pitched an inning about AA ball. The 24-year-old is almost a lock to be on Tacoma’s roster come opening day, which is exactly where he should be at this point in his career. But placing him as the team’s No. 6 starter on the depth chart would be a bold move that keeps him with the Rainiers while also adding a pitcher with explosive stuff next in line to step in once a starter needs to take a day off or gets hurt.

This would cause Kirby to leap frog over Justin Dunn and Justus Sheffield in the depth chart. Neither Dunn nor Sheffield were particularly impressive in their limited usage in 2021 and it would be extremely disappointing if they are used at a similar rate as they were last season. Both need more time to marinate in AAA if they’re going to work out and be a part of the franchise’s future.

Kirby’s stuff is tantalizing and I’m curious to see what he’ll be able to do against major league bats. Tacoma will be a good test for the righty, but I don’t think it will be taxing enough on the young arm.

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