Seattle Mariners Face Difficult Arbitration Choices, James Paxton Due For Big Raise

The Seattle Mariners have seven players eligible for arbitration during the MLB offseason. It’s slightly less than the eight players who were arbitration-eligible last year, but there are still some difficult decisions ahead for the front office. A lengthy list of offseason activities for the Mariners will also likely include replacing Manny Acta as the bench coach. Acta got promoted third-base coach, but as a report by CBS Sports confirms, he has interviewed for the manager positions of the New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies in the last two days.

Back to the arbitration-eligible Mariners players, the team has the opportunity to sign those players to contracts before having to meet with an arbitrator. Jean Segura, James Paxton, and Drew Smyly are just three of the players who agreed to one-year contracts rather than go through the arbitration process last year. The players eligible for the process this winter are Smyly, David Phelps, Erasmo Ramirez, Paxton, Nick Vincent, Mike Zunino, and Shae Simmons. Tuffy Gosewisch is also technically arbitration-eligible, but he is expected to be released.

After making $6.85 million last season, it’s possible that the Seattle Mariners simply release pitcher Drew Smyly. He may miss a large portion of the upcoming season due to surgery, making it an expensive endeavor to simply sign him to keep him under team control. It could be difficult for Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto to just release a player that he acquired via trade, but it might be in the best short-term interest of the franchise. Releasing Smyly will open up salary for other players in free agency.

Players typically get raises when they become arbitration-eligible and it is rare for someone to take a pay cut and stay with the same team. The possibility exists, though, if the front office makes it clear that a player might be released if they don’t accept a contract offer. That scenario may apply to reliever David Phelps. unless he feels he can get a raise from his $4.6 million salary through free agency.

As for the other Mariners players due for a raise, Erasmo Ramirez will go up from $3.12 million, James Paxton from $2.35 million, and Nick Vincent from $1.32 million. Mike Zunino and Shae Simmons were on rookie contracts, so they will get an increase from the league minimum. This is where fans debate on whether each of these players is important to the team or whether the team should move on and explore free agency.

The player who could be in line for a big raise is starting pitcher James Paxton, who might be the best arm on the staff. It’s possible that the team could look to offer him a long-term deal that encompasses his next three arbitration seasons, but Paxton is also a Scott Boras client, so it could get very expensive. Every dollar the team spends on these seven players is also a dollar they cannot spend in free agency to address holes on the roster, making these decisions even more difficult for the Seattle Mariners’ front office.

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