Mariners reportedly made a strong push for Martin

How adamant are the Mariners about finding some right-handed bats to augment their offense? Adamant enough that they might have been willing to shake up their seemingly secure catching spot.

According to a source, the Mariners, surprisingly, were among the finalists who pushed hard for Russell Martin, who eventually agreed to a five-year, $82 million contract with the Blue Jays on Monday.

On the surface, this makes little sense, as the M’s have a very highly regarded young catcher in 23-year-old Mike Zunino. That said, Zunino just finished up his first full Major League season, so he still has quite a bit of growth to accomplish as a Major League hitter (he had a .658 OPS this year). And the free-agent market is thin enough for offense that one could understand the M’s, who have long struggled to lure sluggers to Safeco Field, leaving no stone unturned in their quest for bats. Martin, after all, had an adjusted OPS+ 36 points better than league average in ‘14.

It’s possible the M’s envisioned a scenario in which they would have signed Martin and then taken advantage of a weak catching market to move Zunino, but that is purely speculation.

Anyway, in the end, Martin will be in Toronto, so it doesn’t matter. But this does give some insight into just how hard the Mariners — a team that ranked last in the Majors in weighted runs created and OPS from the right-hand side against both right-handers and lefties — are pushing to improve offensively. They have been linked to free agents Nelson Cruz and Hanley Ramirez, and trade targets such as Matt Kemp and Justin Upton are also possibilities.

— Anthony Castrovince


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