MLB Network’s Morosi: Bats in free agency Mariners could target

The World Series will be wrapped up this weekend, which means that the MLB offseason is just a few days away. And for the Mariners, it figures to be a key one for the organization as they find themselves in unfamiliar territory.

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After missing the playoffs every year since 2001, the Mariners made it back to the postseason in 2022, earning a wild card spot and winning the opening series against the Toronto Blue Jays before falling to the Houston Astros in the ALDS.

Seattle has won 90 games each of the last two seasons and could be seen as just a bat or two away from being a major World Series contender.

Someone who thinks that way is MLB Network insider Jon Morosi, who joins Seattle Sports 710 AM’s Wyman and Bob every week to talk about the Mariners. This Friday, Morosi discussed in depth two of his top targets for the Mariners this offseason as well as a few other players to potentially keep in mind.

OF Brandon Nimmo

Outfielder Brandon Nimmo is someone Morosi has discussed on the Seattle Sports airwaves before, and he again shared why he thinks the 29 year old would be a great fit for the Mariners.

“It’s the on-base (ability), it’s the ability to bat near the top of the lineup,” Morosi said. “You could also bat him lower if you have to.”

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Nimmo is from Wyoming, so Morosi said that may be close enough to Seattle to make a difference for Nimmo, whereas some players like All-Star shortstop Trea Turner, who is from Florida, may not want to come all the way to the Pacific Northwest .

Nimmo slashed .274/.367/.433 and doesn’t provide as much thump as some of the players Mariners fans may be hoping for, but he can play all three outfield spots and lengthen the lineup in a big way, Morosi said.

“He takes thorough at-bats, he sees a lot of pitches … I think that he offers them what they need,” he said, later adding, “It gives you that high on-base (guy) and that would sort of have this ‘move the line’ mentality top to bottom and really lengthen it out and make this lineup even harder to pitch to.”

SS Xander Bogaerts

For the second offseason in a row, there’s a very strong middle infield class in free agency.

This year, that includes the aforementioned Trea Turner, former Astros star Carlos Correa, Atlanta’s Dansby Swanson and Xander Bogaerts, who has played his entire career in Boston with the Red Sox.

Last week: Morosi on the two shortstops who make most sense for M’s to sign

Morosi thinks Bogaerts would be a major addition and a big help for the Mariners’ lineup.

“The guy in the infield that I think would really do the same thing in terms of just the ability to slow a game down in a big spot is Bogaerts because of all his playoff experience. He’s shown in the past a willingness to move and play different positions based on the circumstances of the infield,” Morosi said. “… He allows you to have some flexibility.”

Bogaerts is a natural shortstop who was a Gold Glove finalist this season, but the Mariners have a shortstop in JP Crawford, a former Gold Glover who had a down year in 2022. Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto said after the season ended that the M’s would ideally add a shortstop with a willingness to move to second base, but he didn’t close the door on Crawford moving to second, either.

As well as being a great hitter – a career .292/.356/.458 slash line in 1,264 games across 10 seasons – the 30-year-old Bogaerts would bring his two World Series rings to Seattle as well as a great mentality.

“He’s a great citizen in the clubhouse, A-1, first-class person, and I think he would fit well,” Morosi said. “I could see Bogaerts and (star Mariners outfielder Julio Rodríguez) really blending well in terms of the leadership group of the clubhouse. I think very highly of Xander as a person. I think he would be a really good fit for this team.”

Adding someone with such an extended background in winning would be huge for the Mariners, Morosi said. And it’s hard to find someone better than Bogaerts in that regard.

“He has been around winning since Day 1. The Red Sox won the World Series in his first year in 2013,” he said. “… When you are a player who is around winning all the time … it’s the expectation that you carry with you that that winning is what’s expected, it’s what you are coming to the ballpark everyday to do. And that sets a profound tone.”

Morosi said it’d be easy for the Mariners to fall in love with their “newspaper clippings” given their recent success, he thinks a guy like Bogaerts would be key in leading the team to the next step.

“When you stand up to that pressure at Fenway Park 81 times a year for the better part of a decade, you’ve earned some stripes on your sleeve in this sport,” Morosi said. “And I think the Bogaerts would walk in that clubhouse with a lot of respect, and also a lot of knowledge about what it takes to still be playing when the kids are trick or treating on Halloween.”

DH bats veterans

Currently, the Mariners don’t have a great option for an everyday designated hitter as Carlos Santana is a pending free agent and outfielder Jesse Winker’s future with the club is unclear.

“They do have a spot for a more veteran DH run-producer bat,” Morosi said. “And fortunately for them, this free-agent class has a couple of them in José Abreu and JD Martinez.”

Abreu, 35, was the AL MVP in 2020 and has spent his whole career with the Chicago White Sox, while Martinez, also 35, is a five-time All-Star who most recently was with the Red Sox, where he earned four of his All-Star nods and a World Series ring in 2018.

“They are not in their prime any longer. They’re not MVP-type players right now,” Morosi said. “But they can do potentially for the Mariners a little bit of what Michael Brantley did for the Astros, which is become the veteran oracle of the lineup at a reasonable cost … and really pick up some of those RBIs in those key situations.”

When the Mariners fell to Houston in the deciding Game 3 of the ALDS, they didn’t score a run in 18 innings. Morosi felt there were too many hitters trying to win the game themselves with a home run rather than trying to string good at-bats together to manufacture a run.

“I think if you had an Abreu in your lineup, if you had a JD Martinez in your lineup, things would look a little bit different in a good way,” he said.

Beneficiaries of shift limit

Defense as we know it at the MLB level will change dramatically in 2023 as the shift will be limited heavily. Teams must have two defenders on each side of second base, and infielders can’t have their feet in the outfield grass as a pitch is thrown.

With the shift being heavily restricted, Morosi said the Mariners and the rest of baseball will have some interesting decisions to make in terms of roster building with slugging lefties on the market who have seen their numbers impacted by defensive shifts to their pull side.

“Is Joey Gallo all of a sudden an All-Star? I don’t know. No one knows,” Morosi said of the slugging outfielder who has been heavily shifted against and strikes out a ton. “Is (outfielder) Joc Peterson going to win the triple crown because people aren’t going to be shifting on him anymore? He’s a free agent, too … All of a sudden, Gallo and Peterson (may) become way different players. That to me is going to be the secret sauce of this entire offseason.”

“You might look at a guy and say ‘Wait a minute, his numbers make no sense.’ And guess what? He’s gonna be a better player next year because the shift is out of play, including potentially someone like (outfielder) Michael Conforto, who, as you know, has some northwest roots himself and is bouncing back from injury,” Morosi added, referring to the Redmond product who sat out 2022 while recovering from shoulder surgery. “So there could be some value found in places that we haven’t even thought of yet, which is why I love the baseball offseason.”

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