A few weeks ago at the Major League Baseball general managers meetings, the company line being used by team executives when it came to their offseason thinking and planning was “business as usual.”
It didn’t matter that the collective bargaining agreement between owners and the MLB Players Association was expiring after Dec. 1 with an expected lockout, featuring a freeze on all transactions, to be enacted Dec. 2.
They supposedly weren’t going to let the looming shutdown dictate how they would meet their offseason goals.
Now, three weeks later, has it been business as usual?
“This month has been a bit of a rush,” Jerry Dipoto, Mariners president of baseball operations, said in a video news conference Saturday. “It’s been fun — the activity in discussing trades with other teams, the interaction and meeting with free agents. Initially, we had planned to sit down with three or four, but that number has doubled in short order. We were broken up by the holiday, but otherwise we’ve had at least one meeting every day for just about the last week and are set up to do the same, you know, headed into this week. I love the pace right now. It’s been a blast.”
It’s setting up for what might be a chaotic four days before the CBA expires.
“I wouldn’t call it chaotic,” Dipoto said. “It’s just fun. We’re open ears, and we’re going to continue to try to push and add players and mostly that’s because there seems to be a sense of urgency in the industry. We want to make sure that we are on that same wavelength.”
Dipoto was speaking to the media Saturday morning after completing a trade with the Padres that brought infielder/outfielder Adam Frazier to Seattle in exchange for a pair of minor league prospects.
It was an acquisition of opportunity. The Padres had some roster clog, and the Mariners were able to add a solid player who can play multiple positions. Dipoto was adamant that adding Frazier won’t stop them from trying to sign at least one of the impact-hitting infielders on the free agent market, such as Marcus Semien, Trevor Story or Kris Bryant.
“We had talked about the idea of identifying how we were going to fill those position player spots,” Dipoto said. “Once we were able to connect with and it appeared we were going to be able to acquire Adam Frazier, we were able to start spreading our wings in different places. Because it meant that was one player we weren’t going to get on the free agent market. This was more of a fixed cost for us. While we don’t have a specific number, we generally know what Adam Frazier’s rate of pay is going to be, which allowed us to then go and better assess how far our dollars could go in the free agent market, which resulted in us reaching out and connecting with our top pitching targets. That is more of what doubled our meeting sessions.”
Those meetings have resulted in two firm contract offers to players.
“We have two offers on the table, one that I would say is notable,” Dipoto said.
Who is it?
“I will tell you later,” Dipoto said with a chuckle.
But that little comment stoked speculation from Mariners fans on social media.
Could Seattle outbid the Yankees, Giants and White Sox for Semien? Would the Mariners give the versatile Bryant a seven-year contract? Or will Story be signed as the everyday second baseman with Frazier moving around?
Besides the trio of Bryant, Semien and Story, the Mariners are also shopping for starting pitching. The free-agent supply of arms has been reduced over recent weeks with seven pitchers signing contracts. There are still front-line starters like right-handers Marcus Stroman and Kevin Gausman and lefty Robbie Ray, who won the AL Cy Young in 2021, as well as back-of-the-rotation depth pitchers like lefty Tyler Anderson.
There is also still the potential for trades with the A’s and Reds, who are actively shopping high-level players.
Said Dipoto, “You can’t help but be excited as a baseball person, or a baseball fan.”