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By Eric Umphrey
The Times 

Several Factors influence Seattle Mariners Rebuild


February 14, 2019

SEATTLE, Wash. – If you’ve been following the MLB baseball hot stove you’ve probably noticed how busy the Mariners have been. General Manager Jerry Dipoto has been having a fire sale and everything must go. Over $200 million in guaranteed salaries have already been moved. The contracts that have come back in trade are expiring either in 2019 or 2020. In 2021 the bulk of that money is going to two players: Kyle Seager and newly acquired pitcher Yusei Kikuchi. Per Cots baseball contracts here is a table of Mariners total salaries going back a few years plus guaranteed contracts going through 2021.

Year Total in Millions Ranking in MLB

2016 $171.3 10th

2017 $174.7 12th

2018 $170.9 10th

2019 $143.6 Estimate

2020 $88 Estimate

2021 $44.7 Estimate

I’m not suggesting that the payroll will stay this low in the coming years but if they are going to be a competitive team in either 2020 or 2021 as the GM has suggested then where is that talent going to come from? Based on this offseason it doesn’t look like free agency.

Normally, a young core of players could be promoted out of either AA or AAA ready to start the rebuild of the team. Those players would have contracts around major league minimum. Supplement them with a few free agents and the team is filled out ready to compete. It’s never that easy though.

Teams develop farm systems as a result drafting great players, luck, and usually, enduring several losing seasons. The Mariners farm system, as recently as last year, was ranked 28th out of 30 teams. With recent trades this offseason they are estimated at around 20th overall. I don’t believe they have the depth yet to rebuild from their farm.

Also, players being drafted in the next two years may need several years before being ready to play at the major league level. Add to that several teams in the league are trying to rebuild at the same time and there is a limit to the amount of talent available.

Knowing this, what is the rush to rebuild so quickly? I believe a few events happening after the 2021 baseball season give the Mariners a three-year window to get relevant again.

The first is a certainty. Seattle will have a brand-new NHL team starting in the fall of 2021. Why would this effect baseball? Isn’t hockey a winter sport? All professional sports seasons are getting longer. The NHL is no exception.

The NHL now starts in early October before the baseball playoffs start and the regular season ends in early April. The playoffs then begin and the Finals don’t end until the first week of June now, which is in the middle of the baseball season. The new hockey team will likely have an effect on attendance and create competition for fans sports dollars.

The second is uncertainty around the upcoming collective bargaining agreement (CBA) for baseball. The baseball players association has become concerned over the what has been happening during the last two baseball free agent markets. A lot of older players aren’t getting contracts and salaries are getting pressured downward. In addition, players younger years are increasingly under team control that limit earnings. These factors and others lead some to believe a strike is possible following the 2021 season.

Another item up for consideration under a new CBA is expansion. The league could expand from 30 to 32 teams. One of the locations being considered is Portland, Oregon. In anticipation of this Portland is in the process of building a baseball stadium that would likely be ready for an expansion team to move into. This cuts into the Mariners market in two ways. First, they lose all of Oregon as a broadcasting market. Second, large sections of southern Washington now have a choice of teams. In some cases, the closest team would be Portland.

This is the Mariners most important rebuild yet and they need a lot of things to go right in a short period of time for the team not only to be competitive again but also relevant in the Pacific Northwest.


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