With a top-heavy free-agent class and some obvious holes to fill, the Seattle Mariners figure to be interested in some of the premier players available on the market.

The Mariners need some help on offense to complement a strong pitching staff that nearly led Seattle to the postseason in 2014. According to President Kevin Mather in an interview on Brock and Salk on 710 ESPN, payroll is set to increase, meaning the Mariners will be in the fold for players like Victor Martinez, Nelson Cruz and Yasmany Tomas.

Even if Seattle were to land one of those big names, it may be interested in making more additions. The Mariners have a need at designated hitter, outfielder and potentially the back of the rotation.

Payroll may indeed go up, but Seattle will likely only be able to add one player from the top of the free-agent class. General manager Jack Zduriencik will have to look for some bargains to fill all of Seattle’s needs.

This year’s crop of free agents isn’t very deep, and most of the potential bargains are on the pitching side. None of these four players would be make-or-break signings for Seattle but could be relatively cheap complementary pieces if the Mariners are able to land one of the big names.


Jason Hammel, SP

It would make some sense for the Mariners to add a veteran pitcher to the back of the rotation, particularly if they decide Chris Young won’t be able to repeat his 2014 performance.

Brandon McCarthy could fill that role nicely but will be tough to keep away from the New York Yankees. Hammel could be one of several other potential options who will be a bit cheaper than McCarthy.

Despite a poor second half with the Oakland Athletics, Hammel has some upside. He was outstanding to begin the season with the Chicago Cubs (2.98 ERA, 3.19 Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) in 17 starts) and has totaled 2.6 WAR or better in three separate seasons.

Hammel has one of the higher fly-ball rates in the league at 38.5 percent, so Safeco Field could help him cut down on home runs. There’s risk here after the ugly stint in Oakland, but that makes Hammel an intriguing buy-low candidate.

One factor that could steer the Mariners away from Hammel is that he could command a multiyear deal when someone like Young may only require one year.


Chris Capuano, SP

If the Mariners really want to save money in the rotation but still bring in a veteran with some value, Capuano is a good candidate.

Following a series of injury setbacks, Capuano has been solid over the past three seasons, posting no worse than a 4.35 ERA or 3.95 FIP. Capuano was a valuable member of the Yankees rotation in the second half and could add depth to a number of thin pitching staffs across the majors.

The Mariners could likely bring in Capuano for one year and no more than $3 million, so the move wouldn’t carry any risk. Even if Capuano doesn’t work out, Seattle would be comfortable knowing it could fall back on Taijuan Walker or Roenis Elias at any time.


Alex Rios, OF

The fact that Rios could be considered a bargain speaks more to the strength of this year’s free-agent class than his value.

Rios had a down year in 2014, posting a .280/.311/.398 line in 131 games with the Texas Rangers. That means Rios is a big risk heading into 2015, but he may also be willing to take a short, cheap deal to rebuild value.

It was fair to expect the 33-year-old to decline, but it seems unlikely that all of Rios’ power should have vanished so suddenly. Anything close to the 3.1 WAR Rios posted in 2013 could help Seattle given its current outfield situation.

Rios posted a 142 Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) against left-handers even in a down season and owns a .800 OPS against lefties for his career. He could platoon with someone in the corner outfield (depending on what happens with Michael Saunders) or switch over to DH.

Whether the Mariners want to pay around $8 million for what essentially amounts to a platoon player is a different story. Still, with how weak the bottom of the market is, Rios may be the most valuable complementary piece available.

All stats via FanGraphs.com unless otherwise noted

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