Players that become free agents can officially sign with other teams on Friday at 2 p.m.
With the Red Sox winning the 2018 World Series on Sunday night at Dodger Stadium, the Major League Baseball offseason began officially on Monday morning at 6 a.m. PT when players that were eligible under Article XX (B) of the Basic Agreement between Major League Baseball/Major League Baseball Players’ Association officially became free agents.
For the Mariners, seven players — most notably designated hitter Nelson Cruz — fall into that category and are now free agents. The MLBPA released the full list for every team (below).
Joining Cruz in free agency:
- Cameron Maybin, OF
- Andrew Romine, OF/IF
- Gordon Beckham, IF
- David Phelps, RHP
- Adam Warren, RHP
- Zach Duke, LHP
None of these players are eligible for qualifying offers, expected to be just about $17 million per season. Obviously, only Cruz would fall into such consideration. But since he’s already had two qualifying offers in his career (Texas and Baltimore), it can’t be used on him.
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All free agents cannot sign with another team until 2 p.m. PT on Friday, giving every team a small time frame to possibly re-sign their free agents. Though realistically, most teams wouldn’t wait till that small window if a player was a priority to bring back.
That seems to be the case with Cruz and the Mariners. Going into the final week of the season, there had been no contact from Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto with Cruz or his agent Bryce Dixon about a possible extension.
Reached last week via text, Dixon said he had no comment on Cruz re-signing with the Mariners. In his end of the season press conference, Dipoto was non-committal about bring back Cruz.
“Nelson Cruz is a championship player” Dipoto said. “We are not yet determined on how we want to look at our DH role. But clearly if we were committed to going back to the DH-only, we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation right now. We would have taken care of it much earlier this year.”
Since they didn’t, it would seem logical for Dixon and Cruz to test the free agent market. He’ll be 39 going into next season, but a commitment to offseason conditioning and in-season daily work have kept him performing at a high level. He’s hit 37 or more homers in each of the last five seasons while driving in at least 93 runs. Over the last five seasons, he’s averaged 41 homers and 104 RBIs with a .281 batting average and .897 on-base plus slugging percentage.
The Mariners’ hesitation about not pushing for an extension with Cruz was due largely to the uncertainty of the direction the organization wants to go with its roster construction. While the team won 88 games in 2018, a three month fade into regression that saw an 11 1/2 game lead in the second wild card lost and elimination from the postseason with a week to go can’t be overlooked.
Even with the high win total, it was obvious that the Mariners aren’t at the same level as the Red Sox, Astros, Yankees, Indians and possibly the A’s. And reaching that level won’t be simple. Seattle has a bloated payroll with many players in their 30s and a depressed farm system that makes restocking or acquiring players in a trade difficult. Dipoto and ownership seem wary of a total teardown and rebuild, but they also recognize they need to change some thinking.
“Those decisions have yet to be made,” Dipoto said. “We’re looking at all of the different possibilities and potentials, and we won’t know because just in that, right now it appears that there’s a very clear need at DH, and we all know and love Nelson. We have to consider what comes next, and the different creative ways that a roster might come together. But we’ll never close the door on considering anything up to and including bringing him back, and again I think Nellie would like to be back, but I’m sure that he is considering his options as well.”
As for the remaining free agents, the impetus to bring any of them back is far from a priority, pitchers like Warren and Duke will be readily available on the market, while Maybin was just a late season stopgap, who never really performed as expected.
Phelps, who sat out all of 2018 following ulnar ligament construction in spring training, is the most intriguing of the group. Relievers have premium value. And given his injury history and the limitations following surgery, the Mariners might be able to bring back Phelps, who spent all season in Seattle rehabbing the injury instead of going home to St. Louis.
With the seven players becoming free agents, that means that seven spots on the 40-man roster have opened up. The Mariners will need those spots because all players on the 60-day disabled list must be transferred back to the roster by 2 p.m. PT on Friday. Right-handed reliever Sam Tuivailolo (achilles) and Juan Nicasio (knee surgery) will be added back to the 40-man.
Outfielder Denard Span is not on the list of free agents, but he’s expected to become a free agent in the coming days as well. Span has a $14 million club option for 2019 and the Mariners must make a decision whether to exercise it by Wednesday. While Span was a useful player for Seattle after being acquired from the Rays in May — he was one of the few players in the lineup with a “control the zone” approach — the Mariners aren’t going to pay that much for a part-time outfielder that will be 35 going into next season. Instead, they’ll pay a $4 million buyout. They’d probably like to bring him back on a much lesser one-year deal, but Span may choose to opt for a similar contract closer to his home in Florida.
Here’s the full list from the MLB Players Association.
Arizona Diamondbacks (10): Clay Buchholz, Patrick Corbin, Randall Delgado, Daniel Descalso, Jacob Diekman, Jon Jay, Jeff Mathis, A.J. Pollock, Chris Stewart, Brad Ziegler
Atlanta Braves (9): Brad Brach, Lucas Duda, Ryan Flaherty, Nick Markakis, Brandon McCarthy, Peter Moylan, René Rivera, Aníbal Sánchez, Kurt Suzuki
Baltimore Orioles (2): Adam Jones, Colby Rasmus
Boston Red Sox (7): Nathan Eovaldi, Joe Kelly, Craig Kimbrel, Ian Kinsler, Steve Pearce, Brandon Phillips, Drew Pomeranz
Chicago Cubs (6): Jesse Chavez, Jorge De La Rosa, Jaime García, Daniel Murphy, Bobby Wilson, Justin Wilson
Chicago White Sox (3): Jeanmar Gómez, Miguel González, Hector Santiago
Cincinnati Reds (1): Matt Harvey
Cleveland Indians (10): Cody Allen, Michael Brantley, Melky Cabrera. Lonnie Chisenhall; Rajai Davis, Josh Donaldson, Andrew Miller, Óliver Pérez, Adam Rosales, Josh Tomlin
Colorado Rockies (5): Drew Butera, Carlos González, Matt Holliday, DJ LeMahieu, Adam Ottavino
Detroit Tigers (4): José Iglesias, Francisco Liriano, Víctor Martínez, Jarrod Saltalamacchia
Houston Astros (6): Evan Gattis, Marwin González, Dallas Keuchel, Martín Maldonado, Charlie Morton, Tony Sipp
Kansas City Royals (1): Alcides Escobar
Los Angeles Angels (6): Jim Johnson, Garrett Richards, Junichi Tazawa, Blake Wood, Chris B. Young, Eric Young Jr.
Los Angeles Dodgers (7): John Axford, Brian Dozier, Yasmani Grandal, Dan Hudson, Manny Machado, Ryan Madson, Hyun-Jin Ryu
Miami Marlins (0):
Milwaukee Brewers (3): Gio González, Curtis Granderson, Wade Miley
Minnesota Twins (4): Matt Belisle, Logan Forsythe, Chris Gimenez, Joe Mauer
New York Mets (6): Jerry Blevins, Austin Jackson, José Lobatón, Devin Mesoraco, A.J. Ramos, José Reyes
New York Yankees (8): Zach Britton, J.A. Happ, Adeiny Hechavarría, Lance Lynn, Andrew McCutchen, David Robertson, CC Sabathia, Neil Walker
Oakland A’s (8): Brett Anderson, Trevor Cahill, Jeurys Familia, Edwin Jackson, Matt Joyce, Shawn Kelley, Jed Lowrie, Jonathan Lucroy
Philadelphia Phillies (4): José A. Bautista, Asdrúbal Cabrera, Aaron Loup, Wilson Ramos
Pittsburgh Pirates (1): Jung-ho Kang*, Jordy Mercer
St. Louis Cardinals (4): Matt Adams, Bud Norris, Tyson Ross, Adam Wainwright
San Diego Padres (2): A.J. Ellis, Freddy Galvis
San Francisco Giants (4): Gregor Blanco, Derek Holland, Nick Hundley, Hunter Pence
Seattle Mariners (7): Gordon Beckham, Nelson R. Cruz, Zach Duke, Cameron Maybin, David Phelps, Andrew Romine, Adam Warren
Tampa Bay Rays (2): Carlos Gómez, Sergio Romo
Texas Rangers (3): Tony Barnette*, Adrian Beltré, Bartolo Colon, Yovani Gallardo
Toronto Blue Jays (2): Tyler Clippard, Marco Estrada
Washington Nationals (8): Joaquín Benoit, Tim Collins, Bryce Harper, Jeremy Hellickson, Kelvin Herrera, Greg Holland, Mark Reynolds, Matt Wieters,
* Eligible per contract terms.