With free agency kicking off in earnest today, this is a good time to talk about what the Mariners could do in free agency, and whom they should go after.
The answer is so boring though. Given how bad they have been, this isn't exactly a franchise that many quality veterans will line up to play for. Plus, with the youth movement underway, it's not the greatest idea for player development to keep young players from playing. It all adds up to the M's being far away from any juicy free agent action, in all likelihood.
Interestingly enough though, the M's have money to spend. They have roughly $30 million, if they keep the same payroll that they had this season. That's enough to talk to anyone, even Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, but again - would any of the premium free agents really look at Seattle as a great fit for them?
Instead, the Mariners might be able to indirectly benefit from the most expensive free agents. They are in a position to take on salary, which could make them a good trade partner.
For instance, what if the Dodgers really want to sign Pujols or Fielder? They might have to go over budget to get the job done. Maybe then they would look at their roster, and make someone like Andre Ethier available. The Mariners could offer one of their glut of outfield prospects (Michael Saunders perhaps), and maybe a little something else. They wouldn't have to pay fair market value in the trade, because taking on the financial burden would add value in itself.
Maybe the Mariners could think even bigger though. I really wonder if the Cardinals can afford both Pujols and Matt Holliday. Granted, there might be a sound argument that Holliday's deal will look bad by the end of it, but still, the Mariners can afford to think big. This is the kind of deal that might make sense for both teams, depending on how free agency plays out.
Nobody knows where the big-time free agents will wind up, but wherever they go, they will get paid. The Mariners might be able to acquire some talent for cheaper than they should, simply because they can take on money, and other teams might find themselves in positions where they really want to dump $5-$10 million to clear space for someone else. Free agency could play out this way, and few teams (if any) would be in better position than the Mariners to take on a good player with a significant salary.