Mariners expect to be active and spend after 90-win season

SEATTLE (AP) — Coming off the team’s first 90-win season since 2003, Seattle president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto said Thursday the Mariners will spend this offseason trying to build on their unexpected playoff push.

The free agent market and the uncertainty around the collective bargaining agreement will determine how dramatic the spending is. But Dipoto said ownership has provided assurances he can be aggressive in improving the club.

“It’s incumbent on us to go add where we can add, and improve where we can improve. And that’s not lost on us,” Dipoto said. “We’ll visit every avenue to do that, whether it’s the free agent market, it’s the potential for trade. But we do have payroll flexibility and we’re going to use it to go out and make the team better.”

The Mariners nearly ended their 20-year playoff drought and were in the AL wild-card race until the final day of the regular season. The late run reinvigorated Seattle’s fan base, in part because of the number of young players who contributed to the success.

Seattle now wants to see if moves in free agency or trades can add a needed punch to the offense and land another couple of arms for the starting rotation.

“Offensively, I’d like to see us add a couple players. I don’t think it’s just one big fish, so to speak,” manager Scott Servais said. “I think it’s a couple guys to balance out the lineup, to create more length to our lineup. And I do think some help in the starting rotation is key.”

Dipoto said the team would wait until the deadline following the conclusion of the World Series before making decisions about the contract options for pitcher Yusei Kikuchi and third baseman Kyle Seager. Both are likely to be declined by Seattle and in the case of Seager would make the veteran a free agent.

Kikuchi’s contract is more complex. If Seattle declines the club option, which would tie him to the Mariners for four more years, there is a player option he could exercise for one year. Or he could elect free agency.

Kikuchi was Seattle’s lone All-Star but cratered in the second half of the season and was yanked from the starting rotation in late September.

While Seattle’s young foundation is anchored by outfielder Jarred Kelenic, pitcher Logan Gilbert and infielders Ty France and J.P. Crawford, there are two players who were expected to be part of that group who are question marks for now.

First baseman Evan White, who won a Gold Glove in 2020, managed just 30 games because of a hip injury that required surgery. White also struggled badly at the plate, hitting .144 before getting hurt.

Then there’s Kyle Lewis, the 2020 AL rookie of the year, who played just 36 games due to continued knee issues.

Dipoto said it’s unclear at this time whether either will be ready for the start of spring training in February or can be considered locks for the Mariners lineup.

“I think we have to go into next season planning on whatever Kyle is able to deliver is a bonus for us,” Dipoto said. “He’s had a really rough go here with his knees and through no fault of his own missed a good part of this season. He’ll be a huge part of what we do, but we can’t push very hard on the pencil until we see him play.”

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