CARLSBAD, Calif. — Former Cubs star Kris Bryant’s next baseball stop, if not his biggest payday, might come down to a taste for lattes and clams.
Emphasis on clams.
Because if there’s one thing Seattle Mariners president Jerry Dipoto has this winter, it’s lots of clams, for the first offseason since starting the club’s latest rebuilding process three years ago.
And Dipoto has his sights on spending a lot of them on a hitter who sounds a lot like Bryant.
“Right now we’re looking more toward marquee players, or guys who can become drivers or impact players,” said Dipoto, who’s poised to spend aggressively this winter to augment a young, 90-win team with perhaps two starting pitchers and a big bat that comes with a defensively versatile skill set.
“He’s a great player, which is evidenced by the career he’s had to date,” Dipoto said when asked specifically about Bryant, a four-time All-Star, during the first full day of the annual general managers meetings Tuesday at the Omni La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, California.
“We have a variety of different ways we can address our team,” he said. “We are most interested in players who have the versatility to do a couple of different things, because it allows us to be creative in how we fill those gaps. But at the end of the day we want to improve our talent base, and we want to improve our run-scoring capability.”
The west coast always has seemed an ideal fit for Bryant, a Las Vegas native who went to college in San Diego and who said after the Cubs traded him to San Francisco that he was a Giants fan as a kid and loved the chance to play there.
The Giants have signaled they won’t be in the market for Bryant as a free agent this winter despite an All-Star 2021 season that included 25 homers, a .353 on-base percentage and .835 OPS after struggling as he played through a broken hand during the pandemic-shortened 2020 season.
Bryant’s agent, Scott Boras, said during the season he anticipated Bryant being one of the most valuable free agents in the market because of the “manifold” ability to play five different positions that goes with his impact bat.
Given the departure of longtime Seattle fixture/third baseman Kyle Seager, Dipoto’s newfound spending wherewithal, his desire for versatility in a new hitter and his intention to contend in 2022, the only thing left to do might be for Boras to find this year’s “mystery team” to drive up the bidding.
“We’ve developed a young core at the major league level, and we feel more is on the doorstep,” said Dipoto, who’s trying to end a Seattle baseball curse that might be as big as anything related to the Billy Goat Curse Bryant helped end.
Consider that the Mariners are the only one of 30 teams in the majors to never reach the World Series — in 45 seasons of existence — and face annually the worst travel schedule in the sport.
Can Bryant play a big role in ending another long curse?
“We do intend to build around our young group, but we want to augment it with real talent, and we feel we have the payroll flexibility and frankly the obvious needs,” Dipoto said, “whether they be one infield position, making that lineup a little longer, and a couple arms for the rotation.”
Five years? Six or seven — $100 million, $150 million? More?
Hard to predict for sure.
But go ahead: Try finding another MLB locale with better and bigger clams than Seattle.