Over the weekend, Seattle Mariners Twitter was in an uproar when it was reported by Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times that longtime Mariner third baseman Kyle Seager was informed via email from assistant general manager Justin Hollander that the club would not be exercising its $20 million option for 2022, effectively releasing Seager with a $2M buyout, ending his Mariners tenure, and making him an unrestricted free agent. The majority of the outrage (and there’s nothing quite like Twitter outrage) stemmed from who the messenger was and the form of communication. After eleven years securing the hot corner for the Mariners, he was notified his contract wasn’t being picked up in an email? And by the assistant general manager?
After fifty or sixty similar comments, someone who actually pays for the Seattle Times and could get behind the paywall noted that if one read the article, it would be clear that the matter had been discussed in person and that president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto had tried to call Seager. Still, Seager had not answered or returned any of the calls. It’s almost equally disturbing that the assistant GM sent an email as it is that Seager’s and Dipoto’s relationship had deteriorated to the point that the player didn’t even want to talk to the GM. On one of the last broadcasts of the season on ROOT Sports, Seager was asked if there had been any discussion about his contract, to which he replied to the effect the two hadn’t spoken in several years, even just in passing in the building. That sort of lack of respect for players doesn’t seem to bode well for signing free agents this offseason.
The baseball decision not to pick up Seager’s option is understandable. This past season, Seager hit .218/.285/.442 with a slightly below average 99 wRC+. His OPS+ of 100 was precisely league average, and depending on your preferred flavor of WAR, he accounted for between 2 and 2.5 wins, league average everyday player. League average salary of a 3B in 2022 will be $4,975,492. Seager would have exceeded that figure by over $15M.
In interviews on his semi-regular podcast The Wheelhouse, Dipoto has indicated that ownership is willing to spend in free agency this offseason but that his personal preference is for flexible players who can play multiple positions. Kris Bryant’s name has come up in rumors of Mariners’ interest. In 2021 while playing for both the Chicago Cubs and the San Francisco Giants, Bryant hit .250/.363/.443 with a 113 wRC+ while playing 1B, 3B, and all three outfield positions. He even played one game at SS. Realistically, coming off a slightly down year in which he made $19.5M, Bryant should command an average annual salary near $30M.
Whether the Mariners will be willing to pay that much per year remains to be seen. Other top-notch free agents who will undoubtedly command even higher salaries than Bryant include Nolan Arenado, Freddie Freeman, Trevor Story, Carlos Correa, and, ironically, Corey Seager, the younger brother of the email mentioned above recipient. One thing is for sure, every one of the free agents this offseason will be aware of how the Seattle front office treated one of its home-grown players. How will they treat free agents?