The annual general managers’ meetings are when baseball’s off-season rumor mill typically revs up — and this year’s gathering, currently under way in Boca Raton, Fla., is no exception.
It’s also no surprise that the Mariners are in the middle of things given that new general manager Jerry Dipoto is on record as saying he wants to revamp his club’s club depth through trades.
Some of what’s circulating:
***The Mariners have shown interest in Yankees left fielder Brett Gardner, according to Joel Sherman of The New York Post. Sherman also says the Yankees have scouted James Paxton in the Arizona Fall League.
***Dipoto’s quest to add athleticism to the outfield could, according to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, prompt trade interest with the Cardinals for Jon Jay or Peter Bourjos; the Rangers for Leonys Martin; or the Red Sox for Jackie Bradley Jr.
***If the Mariners choose to pursue a free agent — which doesn’t appear to be Dipoto’s preferred route — a possibility is Gerardo Parra, according to Jon Morosi of Fox Sports.
That’s a lot to chew on.
Gardner, 32, would be an ideal fit in the Mariners’ quest for top-of-the-lineup speed to pair with shortstop Ketel Marte. He also adds enviable on-base and defensive abilities.
The question is whether Gardner can maintain those skills as he ages through his mid-30s because he is guaranteed $39 million over the next three years or $49.5 million over the next three years.
(The difference is a $12.5 million option for 2019 with a $2 million buyout.)
The Mariners must also weigh whether Paxton, who just turned 27, will ever reach his high-end potential. Injuries derailed him for much of the last two seasons and surfaced at times in his minor-league career.
The recent trade that netted right-hander Nathan Karns from Tampa Bay helped the Mariners’ rotation depth, but they might need to retain free-agent Hisashi Iwakuma to feel sufficiently comfortable to surrender Paxton.
Iwakuma is expected to reject the Mariners’ one-year qualifying offer of $15.8 million prior to Friday’s deadline, but the predominant view within the industry is he and the Mariners will eventually reach an agreement.
Dipoto was the interim general manager at Arizona in 2011 when Parra won his first Gold Glove for defensive excellence and remains a big fan.
"He can really play defense," Dipoto told Morosi. "He can really throw. And he can rake right-handed pitching."
Parra, 28, wasn’t eligible for a qualifying offer because he was traded last July from Milwaukee to Baltimore. That means signing him won’t come at the additional cost of a lost draft pick.
But that unprotected status is also likely to goose the market. Parra made $6.2375 million last season while batting .291 with 14 homers and 51 RBIs in 115 games for the Brewers and Orioles.
Jay, 30, would be a short-term fix because he will be eligible for free agency after next season. But he comes at a known cost of $6.225 million in concluding a two-year contract signed last February.
While Jay is generally viewed as a superior defensive player, he is likely to be available because of concern over a wrist injury that zapped his production.
He slipped to a slash of .210/.306/.257 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage) in 79 games from previous career averages of .295/.359/.396.
Bourjos, 28, stepped in as Jay’s primary replacement — and it didn’t go particularly well. Bourjos didn’t hit, which has been his career-long failing, and advanced metrics suggest his defense slipped notably.
That makes him a non-tender possibility in December (if not sooner).
Dipoto had Bourjos in Anaheim before sending him to the Cardinals in a trade after the 2013 season. Bourjos is eligible for arbitration after making $1.65 million and is on track to reach free agency after next season.
The Mariners are familiar with Martin, a 27-year-old who was the Rangers’ regular center fielder for 2 1/2 seasons before losing his job this season to Delino DeShields Jr.
Martin also angered the Rangers by failing to report to the Instructional League. So he’s available.
While Martin’s production dipped significantly this season to .219/.264/.313, his defensive play remained strong. If he bounces back to his 2013-14 form — .268/.319/.374 — he’d be a plus.
Martin also comes with club control. He is a first-time eligible this winter for arbitration after making $4.75 million and won’t reach free agency for three more years.
As for Bradley, it’s unclear yet whether the Red Sox are willing to move him. If so, he’s an interesting possibility because his production ticked up significantly this season — albeit in just 74 games.
Bradley would also be a relatively cheap option because he’s not yet eligible for arbitration.