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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

November 1, 2012 at 11:56 AM

The survey says…Mariners won’t sign any of the top 50 free agents

MLBtraderumors.com has become the go-to site for finding out what’s going on in the Hot Stove League (that’s Stove, not Stone). They do a fantastic job of aggregating just about every nugget of information that has to do with player movement in major-league baseball.

Well, today, MLBtraderumors put up its forecast of where the top 50 free agents will land this year, part of a contest in which they invite readers to post their own predictions, with prizes for the most accurate ballots. The website’s predictions were done by its honcho, Tim Dierkes, who didn’t do so well in last year’s inaugural Top 50 prediction contest, correctly picking eight destinations.

I was surprised to see how many of the top free agents Dierkes thinks will wind up in Seattle. Try, uh, zero. That’s right: He doesn’t believe that any of the leading players on the market, from No. 1 Zack Grienke to No. 50 Jeremy Affeldt will be signed by the Mariners.

Not Josh Hamilton. Not Nick Swisher. Not B.J. Upton. Not Angel Pagan. Not Adam LaRoche. Not Mike Napoli. Not Melky Cabrera. Not Shane Victorino. Not David Ortiz. Not Torii Hunter. Not Ryan Ludwick. Not Kevin Youkilis. Not Cody Ross. And not any of the starters or relievers on the list.

Sorry, I just don’t see it. The Mariners have (potentially) too much money to spend this offseason (theoretically) for them to whiff on the entire list of top free agents. They should have enough, in fact, to sign two significant players, or sign one and get another established player via trade.

Here are their payroll commitments for next year:

Felix Hernandez $20 million

Chone Figgins $8 million

Franklin Gutierrez $7 million

Dustin Ackley $2 million (approximation)

Here are the estimated salaries, via MLBtraderumors’ arbitration projections, of their arbitration-eligible players:

Jason Vargas $7.1 million

Brendan Ryan $2.3 million

John Jaso $1.7 million

Shawn Kelley $900,000

Josh Kinney $700,000

Add it all together, and it comes to $49.7 million for nine players. Everyone else on the roster is under club control, subject only to the MLB minimum salary of $490,000 in 2013. Let’s allot about $7.15 million for 13 more players — an average of $550,000 per player, to be generous to players like Kyle Seager and Michael Saunders — to bring the roster up to 22 (or 21 if they end up eating Figgins’ contract, a distinct possibility).

The grand total is now $56.85 million for 21 or 22 roster spots. The Mariners haven’t made any public statements on their 2013 payroll, but if they keep it roughly the same as last year’s season-opening total — about $82 million, according to Associated Press — that leaves about $25 million to spend to round out the roster. A little more if, say, they non-tender Kelley and/or Kinney. And, of course, even more than that if the Mariners decide to raise payroll. They could also lower payroll, in which case all bets are off.

Assuming an approximation of last year’s payroll, $25 million in available funds should be enough to bring in two fairly big-ticket ballplayers (or one huge name like Josh Hamilton, or one big name and two medium names, or various other combinations of new talent). And you’ve got to figure that one of them would come off that top 50 list.

Right?

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