The Mariners’ 40-man roster currently consists of 46 players, including those who ended the season on the 60-day disabled list or under suspension. What follows is a positional analysis broken down by the following:
1. Those about to become free agents.
2. Those under contract for next season.
3. Those under control next season through a club option.
4. Those who are eligible for arbitration (with option status).
5. Those who are not eligible for arbitration (with option status).
STARTING PITCHERS (9)
Felix Hernandez (under contract through 2019): Showed signs this year of slippage but remains the staff ace. Club officials are keenly interested to see whether he follows through on his pledge to get in better condition.
Hisashi Iwakuma (under contract through 2017): Faded down the stretch, which raises questions as to whether he’d be more effective next year with greater rest — say 28 starts instead of 33. Will turn 36 in April.
James Paxton (arbitration eligible, options remaining): Key No. 1 to next season. Showed increasing signs over closing months of being able to harness his potential. But his injury history, particularly his fingernail problems, remain a concern.
Taijuan Walker (arbitration eligible, options remaining): Key No. 2 to next season. He looked like an emerging staff ace in April, but the rest of his season was a mess. Still has the potential to front a winning rotation.
Nathan Karns (not arbitration eligible, option remaining): He comes to camp penciled in for the rotation’s final opening. He’s got to hold the job through spring training, but there’s no reason he can’t be an effective No. 4 or No. 5 guy.
Zach Lee (not arbitration eligible, option remaining): Showed little this season at Triple-A Tacoma after arriving in June 19 trade from the Los Angeles Dodgers for infielder Chris Taylor. He’s affordable with an option left, so back to Tacoma.
Cody Martin (not arbitration eligible, option remaining): Likely ticketed again to be an organizational swing man. He figures, again, to spend most of his time at Tacoma but be first in line for short-term promotions when needs arise.
Ariel Miranda (not arbitration eligible, options remaining): Closed the season as the No. 5 starter while Nathan Karns was on the disabled list and could win that job again. Also a bullpen candidate as a power lefty.
Adrian Sampson (not arbitration eligible, options remaining): Must prove he’s healthy after undergoing elbow surgery in late June. Even then, he figures to open the season at Tacoma.
RELIEF PITCHERS (15)
Drew Storen (free agent): The Mariners are open to retaining him, but he’s a former closer with almost no chance to fill that role here. Unless the market turns cold, he figures to sign elsewhere.
Steve Cishek (under contract through 2017): Pitched well down the stretch as the primary set-up reliever and serves as viable backup closer if Edwin Diaz is plagued by injury or ineffectiveness in his second season.
Ryan Cook (arbitration eligible, option remaining): Spent the entire year on the 60-day disabled late, which makes it hard to imagine the Mariners would accept arbitration. An incentive-filled deal? Maybe.
Charlie Furbush (arbitration eligible, options remaining): Not expected back until spring 2018 after undergoing surgery to repair a torn rotation cuff. Likely to be released.
Vidal Nuno (arbitration eligible, option remaining): Should continue in his role as a lefty swingman who fills a number of holes. Having an option remaining makes him a particularly attractive retention candidate.
Evan Scribner (arbitration eligible, no options remaining): His near-flawless September makes him a must-keep reliever. While eligible for arbitration for the first time, he should be low cost because of his five months on the disabled list.
Nick Vincent (arbitration eligible, no options remaining): Salary should jump as he is eligible for arbitration for the first time, but he’s viewed as a key member of the bullpen. He’ll be back.
Tom Wilhelmsen (arbitration eligible, no options remaining): Could easily get squeezed out in a crowded bullpen, and his lack of remaining options works against him. Cishek, Altavilla, Vincent and Scribner all rank ahead of him.
Dan Altavilla (not arbitration eligible, options remaining): Turned heads with a power arsenal after making a two-step jump in late August from Double-A Jackson. Not guaranteed to make club but would need to pitch his way off.
Jonathan Aro (not arbitration eligible, option remaining): Didn’t pitch after June 30 because of forearm strain. He’s got an option remaining so, barring something unexpected, he’s headed to Tacoma.
Arquimedes Caminero (not arbitration eligible, no options remaining): He’s got a power arm and isn’t yet eligible for arbitration, so it’s hard to see the Mariners cutting him loose. Whether he makes the club next spring is a different question.
Edwin Diaz (not arbitration eligible, options remaining): Established himself as a potential long-term fit this year as the closer, but the next step is even harder: proving he can do it year after year. Mariners have alternatives if he slips.
David Rollins (not arbitration eligible, option remaining): Has yet to prove he can be effective at the big-league level, but he’s a lefty with an option remaining. He probably returns to Tacoma.
Pat Venditte (not arbitration eligible, options remaining): It’s still hard to tell whether his ability to pitch from both sides is a weapon or gimmick. Has shown some left-on-left skills. With options remaining, he also likely returns to Tacoma.
Tony Zych (not arbitration eligible, options remaining): Will undergo minor surgery on his rotator cuff — i.e., he’s expected to be ready for spring training. Injury caused him to lose considerable ground in bullpen pecking order.
Chris Iannetta (club option for 2017): Mariners need a backup catcher, and he provided a major boost in the first few months. But his alarming second-half fade makes it unlikely the club picks up his $4.25 million option.
Steve Clevenger (arbitration eligible, no options remaining): There was no way the Mariners were going to arbitration with him even prior to his suspension for racially-insensitive comments on Twitter. Look for him to be released.
Jesus Sucre (arbitration eligible, no options remaining): His connection with Felix Hernandez is no small thing. He can bark at the King and get him to listen, at least on occasion. That makes him a viable (and affordable) backup option.
Steven Baron (not arbitration eligible, options remaining): Had a solid year at Double-A Jackson, but he’s yet to play to the expectations of a first-round pick (No. 33 overall in 2009). Hard to see where he fits going forward.
Mike Zunino (not arbitration eligible, option remaining): He is, again, the No. 1 guy after starting the season on remedial duty at Tacoma. A fine defensive receiver with power, the key factor is whether he swings at strikes.
Dae-Ho Lee (free agent, options remaining): Faded in the second half after an encouraging start, but he could return if Mariners can’t find an alternative. They need a right-handed-hitting first baseman.
Adam Lind (free agent): Headed elsewhere. The Mariners signaled their intention to walk away from Lind in July by acquiring Dan Vogelbach, whom they designated as their first baseman of the future.
Robinson Cano (under contract through 2023): Bounced back big-time after an injury-plagued 2015 season. That’s enough to believe his contract won’t become an albatross for at least a few more years.
Kyle Seager (under contract through 2021): Continues to excel in the shadows of others, although his consistent production generally remains underappreciated around the league. Only troubling note is some defensive yips on balls to his left.
Mike Freeman (not arbitration eligible, options remaining): A genuine utility infielder who could push Shawn O’Malley for a spot on the big-league roster. Otherwise, he heads back to Tacoma.
Ketel Marte (not arbitration eligible, options remaining): A disappointing season puts his job as the starting shortstop in jeopardy. The Mariners have already signaled they plan (at minimum) to examine veteran acquisition targets.
Shawn O’Malley (not arbitration eligible, options remaining): A play-anywhere utilityman in the mode of Willie Bloomquist, which made him a valuable component. He also erased concerns regarding his defensive skills at shortstop.
Dan Vogelbach (not arbitration eligible, options remaining): Will be a focal point next spring. Penciled in (at minimum) as the replacement for Adam Lind as a left-handed platoon option at first base. Job not guaranteed but is his to lose.
Nori Aoki (free agent): His torrid finish boosted his numbers to their career norms and hiked interest from the Mariners in retaining him. If they do re-sign him, it will be interesting to see whether the deal includes a no-trade clause.
Franklin Gutierrez (free agent): His defensive range is now a fraction of his Gold Glove form, but affordable right-handed power is tough to find. He has a comfort zone here. So a new deal seems reasonably likely.
Nelson Cruz (under contract through 2018): Another big year suggests he’s a good bet to remain productive through the end of his contract. But he played just 48 games in the outfield and none after Aug. 16. He’s now a DH.
Seth Smith (club option for 2017): Club officials privately confirm plans to pick up his $7 million option. Could become a trade chip if Mariners choose to re-sign Aoki because it’s hard to see how both could fit again next year on the roster.
Leonys Martin (arbitration eligible, no options remaining): Likely made the biggest impact of any off-season acquisition by solidifying the outfield defense. Showed surprising pop, too. If he could only boost his OBP a little…
Ben Gamel (not arbitration eligible, options remaining): Will get long look next spring and could emerge as the leadoff hitter, particularly if Aoki heads elsewhere. Could make roster as defensive replacement if he doesn’t win a starting job.
Guillermo Heredia (not arbitration eligible, options remaining): His chance to play his way onto next year’s roster could hinge on other off-season moves. The question is his bat. If it plays, he likely makes the club.
Boog Powell (not arbitration eligible, options remaining): Must rebuild his reputation and bonafides after serving another suspension for an illegal supplement. Also, others have moved ahead of him in the order last year. That means Tacoma.
Stefen Romero (not arbitration eligible, no options remaining): It was telling that he didn’t get a late-season promotion after Tacoma concluded its season. Since he’s out of options, he’s almost certainly headed elsewhere via trade or waivers.
Bob Dutton: email@example.com