The Seattle Mariners will once again enter the off-season with money to spend and will try to lure free agents to come to Seattle. The Mariners tried to bring Josh Hamilton to Seattle last winter but he spurned their offer and signed with the Los Angeles Angels. Even Justin Upton used his limited no-trade clause to prevent his trade to Seattle. This off-season, GM Jack Zduriencik will try once again to attract a few choice free agents to Seattle.
It is unlikely that Robinson Cano will be a target for the Mariners. However, Jacoby Ellsbury could be. There have already been reports that the Mariners are interested in Ellsbury and could be willing to meet his asking price which could be as much as $120 million or more. However, Ellsbury won’t change the fortunes of the Mariners alone. Zduriencik will need to bring in a few more free agents if he wants to change the fortunes of his team.
One area that will need an upgrade is the starting rotation. The Mariners have their ace in Felix Hernandez, a solid number two in Hisashi Iwakuma and some nice young arms in Taijuan Walker, James Paxton and Danny Hultzen. While the Mariners young arms are exciting and extremely promising they still can’t be counted on to provide immediate quality innings. The Mariners will need to add a veteran or two to add stability to the backend of the rotation and there should be quite a few veteran arms available this off-season.
Josh Johnson could be the perfect addition to the Mariners rotation if he can stay healthy. Of course, given Johnson’s history, that is a big if. However, before last season, Johnson was one of the better pitchers in the National League. He pitched to a 3.81 ERA in 31 starts while striking out 165 in 191.1 innings with the Miami Marlins in 2012. He was, of course, part of the blockbuster deal that brought him to the Toronto Blue Jays.
Johnson’s 2013 season was, to put it nicely, forgettable. He posted a 6.20 ERA, by far his worst in any season he made more than five starts, and 1.66 WHIP but did strike out 83 in 81.1 innings. Johnson had surgery last month to remove floating bodies from his elbow and should be healthy to start spring training. Since the Blue Jays are not extending Johnson a qualifying offer Johnson should have several suitors this winter as teams hope to get the pitcher who made back-to-back All Star teams and not the oft-injured, very hittable pitcher he was last season.
Johnson could be looking for a one-year, make-good contract and if he is he will likely choose his next team based on reestablishing his value more than money. This is where Seattle could have an edge. Safeco Park is very pitcher friendly and, depending on what other offers Johnson gets, could be the best possible place for him to reestablish his value before trying to cash in on a multi-year deal next off-season.
If the Mariners are seeking to solidify their team then they will need to invest in high-risk/high-reward players like Johnson. He might not be the best available option but he could make a real difference if healthy and will allow the Mariners to make sure their younger starters are ready before throwing them into the fire.