Mariners Insider Blog

Firing up the Hot Stove with Fangraphs’ free-agent salary projections

The Mariners have until 2 p.m. Friday to make a qualifying offer to right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma. But what are their options if they can’t sign him?
The Mariners have until 2 p.m. Friday to make a qualifying offer to right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma. But what are their options if they can’t sign him? AP

The folks at Fangraphs are, again, doing their best to aid those fans who enjoy pondering what their favorite club — the Mariners, for our purposes — will do to improve themselves in the off-season.

The website just published the results of its crowd-sourcing effort to project the salaries of this winter’s top free agents.

Notably, it projects right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma will receive a three-year deal for $42 million.

An aside: The Mariners have until 2 p.m. Friday to decide whether to extend a qualifying offer — one year at $15.8 million — to Iwakuma in order to get a compensatory draft pick if he signs elsewhere.

The expectation is the Mariners will do so. Heck, the Fangraphs’ projection would average $14 million over three years.

Iwakuma then has until 2 p.m. on Nov. 13 to accept or reject the offer. If he rejects the offer, he can still negotiate with the Mariners.

No player has ever accepted a qualifying offer, although there was speculation last summer that Iwakuma, if given one, might break that trend.

But Iwakuma was 7-3 with a 2.63 ERA in his last 12 starts and, industry insiders now believe, will likely reject an offer (if tendered) in order to test the market.

Now…here’s the qualifier on all this:

The numbers from Fangraphs are projections, although they say their history shows "a distinct tendency to underestimate the overall contract values," particularly among players at the top end.

For all that, Fangraphs has provided us with a reasonable starting point in our Hot Stove discussions.

So would you ante up $42 million for three more years of Iwakuma, who turns 35 in April and is coming off two injury-interrupted seasons? He had a 1.8 WAR (wins above replacement) rating in 2015.

Or do you prefer alternatives? (You can dream about David Price and/or Zack Greinke. Nothing wrong with that. But let’s look at more moderately-priced alternatives.)

Fangraphs offers the following (with WAR value noted):

***Jeff Samardzija (2.7): four years, $64 million.

***Mike Leake (1.7) or Yovani Gallardo (2.5): four years, $56 million.

***Wei-Yin Chen (2.8): four years, $52 million.

***Scott Kazmir (2.4): three years, $42 million.

***Marco Estrada (1.8) or Ian Kennedy (0.8): three years, $36 million.

***J.A. Happ (3.3; a reunion?) or Brett Anderson (1.7): three years, $33 million.

***John Lackey (3.6): two years, $30 million.

***Doug Fister (0.2; another reunion possibility) or R.A. Dickey (2.0): two years, $20 million.

***Chris Young (0.9, still another reunion?): one year, $6 million.

Like any of those better than Iwakuma?

The Mariners are also looking for help at catcher as either a backup or replacement for Mike Zunino and hoping to add speed in the outfield.

Matt Wieters (1.0) is the high-end catcher at $48 million over four years, but he’s played just 101 games over the last two seasons because of injuries.

Backup possibilities include four players projected at two years and $12 million: Alex Avila (0.3), Chris Iannetta (0.5), Dioner Navarro (0.5) and former Mariner John Jaso (0.7).

As for moderately-priced outfielders, the Mariners could look at:

Dexter Fowler (3.2; four years, $56 million); Denard Span (1.4; three years, $36 million); Alejandro De Aza (1.2; two years, $12 million), Shane Victorino (0.0, one year, $7 million) and Alex Rios (0.2, one year, $6 million).