The Mariners' offseason and money to burn

He might even come back, you never know - USA TODAY Sports

A simple proposed depth chart, for your edification:

Dustin Ackley - CF
Nick Franklin - 2B
Kyle Seager - 3B
Justin Smoak - 1B
Michael Saunders - RF
Abraham Almonte - LF
Mike Zunino - C
Jesus Montero - DH
Brad Miller - SS

Felix Hernandez - SP
Hisashi Iwakuma - SP
Taijuan Walker - SP
Erasmo Ramirez - SP
James Paxton - SP

Look it over like a used car you're about to buy. Take your time. Really study it. The first thing you notice is the pitching has serious potential. The second thing you notice is that Abraham Almonte is penciled in as the starting left fielder and #6 hitter, even though he was a name generated by Baseball Mogul. The third thing you notice is that Brad Miller is playing short, even though he's seven feet tall and a basketball player.

But here's something that you can't tell just by looking at the names:

Felix Hernandez - $22.86 million
Hisashi Iwakuma - $6.5 million

Those are the only two guaranteed contracts for 2014 on the Seattle Mariners right now. There are only two arbitration-eligible players, too, both in their first years of eligibility. MLB Trade Rumors predicts the two will combine for just under $2 million. According to Dave Cameron, there's a chance Charlie Furbush could be eligible for Super Two if Ruben Tejada wins his complaint against the Mets.

But the larger point stands. The Mariners are the anti-Angels. They have two players with guaranteed contracts, and one of them might be the biggest bargain in baseball right now. If the Mariners want to spend, they can spend. They can be the Blue Jays from last year, or the Marlins from two offseasons ago. Hopefully with better results. Here are their payrolls for the last few years:

2013: $82 million
2012: $82 million
2011: $86 million
2010: $98 million
2009: $99 million
2008: $118 million

Well, that's a funny trend. But it also hints that, for the right set of circumstances, the Mariners can spend with the second-tier big boys. The current roster will come in around $47 million. What would a $40 million spending spree look like?

Dustin Ackley - CF
Nick Franklin - 2B
Shin-Soo Choo - LF
Kyle Seager - 3B
Justin Smoak - 1B
Michael Saunders - RF
Mike Zunino - C
Jesus Montero - DH
Brad Miller - SS

Ervin Santana - P

Pick whichever soon-to-be-grossly-overpaid starting pitcher you want. It'll help them move the youngsters along at whatever pace is right, not what the roster demands. Or, even better, spend the money on a one- or two-year option, like Dan Haren. Or, even better, spend every damned thing on Robinson Cano and … well, I have no idea what they'd do with Franklin in that scenario, but it doesn't really matter when you have Choo, Cano and Ellsbury. Oh, also, they sign Ellsbury in this scenario. And Juan Uribe to be a utility player. And A.J. Pierzynski, just to lock him in a closet.

The Mariners will screw this up, mind you. But I'm just saying they can spend. They're the sleeping giants of the offseason, and at the very least, they're going to #mysteryteam other clubs into paying far more to sign the premium free agents.

A better question is if they should spend. We're all about fiscal prudence on the baseball-loving corner of the Internet, right? Flexibility is important. And looking at those names up there -- Franklin, Zunino, Miller, Walker, Ramirez, Paxton -- I'm not sure if this is the offseason to get crazy. In a year, we'll know more about how promising the Mariners' promising future really is. That's probably a better time to push financial boundaries.

At least one or two complementary pieces would make sense for this year, though. You'll snort at the money they're going to give to Ellsbury or the like, but it makes sense for the Mariners in a way it wouldn't for 27 or 28 other teams. If they don't spend it on players, the money is just going to R&D for a Nintendo controller you use with your feet.

Even if they don't spend, it's kind of stunning just how well set up the M's are in the short and long term. Not sure when that happened. But they will spend. Just how much, and how much this year, are the only questions.

For more on the Mariners, please visit Lookout Landing

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