The Seattle Mariners had a very strong 2022 season that saw them unexpectedly make it all the way to the ALDS. There’s no shame in losing to the eventual champions in the Houston Astros, but it was clear that for all the progress the Mariners had made during the 2022 season, they still have a long way to go to reach the top of the mountain.
The Mariners were busy last offseason, and that will likely be the case again this time around. Seattle has already made some big moves, swinging a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays for Teoscar Hernandez before sending Kyle Lewis to the Arizona Diamondbacks. These moves are the first in what figures to be an extremely important offseason in Seattle.
When it comes to free agency, everyone likes to focus on the big names and how their teams could land those players. But there are a lot of good players in free agency currently not getting a lot of attention that could be sneaky good additions for the Mariners this offseason. Let’s take a look at three such sneaky free agent targets for the Mariners and see why they could be such impactful additions.
3. Michael Wacha
The Mariners already have a very strong rotation, especially after them picked up Luis Castillo from the Cincinnati Reds at the 2022 MLB trade deadline. But they could add one last starter to fill in the backend of the rotation, and there might not be a better option than Michael Wacha to fill that spot.
Wacha spent the 2022 season with the Boston Red Sox, and was their most consistent starter throughout the season. Wacha’s final numbers (11-2, 3.32 ERA, 104 K, 1.12 WHIP) make it seem like he should be one of the top pitchers available, but he’s largely been overshadowed by the top tier of pitchers available in the early going.
For that reason, Wacha could end up signing a cheaper deal this offseason than initially expected, which provides the Mariners with a fantastic opportunity to swoop in and snag Wacha. If Wacha can continue to pitch like he did in 2022, he’s going to be a steal for whichever team lands him, and Seattle has a great opportunity to add the final piece to their dominant rotation this offseason.
2. Michael Brantley
The Mariners seemed to address their need for outfielders when they traded for Hernandez, but promptly reopened the need when they traded away Lewis. That will likely lead Seattle to continue exploring some upgrades in their outfield, and one of the more underrated options could be Michael Brantley.
Brantley played only 64 games with the Astros in 2022 before being shut down for the season with a shoulder injury, and that probably won’t help him very much in free agency. Brantley spent time in left field for Houston last season, but he actually played more at designated hitter, which at least would give the Mariners options if they were to add Brantley.
Brantley isn’t the player he once was, but he’s still a great contact hitter who could be a potential option to fill in the outfield or at designated hitter, which is another spot Seattle struggled to get consistent production from last season. Brantley will likely go for a cheaper deal, making him a very attainable option for the Mariners this offseason.
1. Dansby Swanson
Dansby Swanson isn’t exactly a sneaky player, but on the free agent market this offseason, he actually is. In another offseason, Swanson might be the best player available, but not this offseason, in fact, Swanson isn’t even among the top three players of his position at shortstop, as Trea Turner, Carlos Correa, and Xander Bogaerts have all drawn considerably more interest in the early going than Swanson.
That’s not to say Dansby Swanson is a bad player, because he isn’t. In fact, Swanson is coming off arguably the best season of his career (.277 BA, 25 HR, 96 RBI, 18 SB, .776 OPS) and should be in line for a big deal. But there’s a chance he won’t get the attention he deserves due to all the other star hitters hitting the market at the same time as him.
The Mariners could desperately use an upgrade in the middle infield this offseason, and if they don’t want to go all-in on one of the top three options, they could zig where everyone else zagged and make a big push for Swanson. Dansby Swanson won’t be cheap, but he will likely be cheaper than the other top options, and that could be just what it takes to convince the Mariners to put all their chips on the table when it comes to their quest to add a shortstop this offseason.