Commentary: Not pursuing Shohei Ohtani perpetuates the “Same Ol Mariners" stigma

It is a marvel that we can have so many exciting stories—from the 11–0 Huskies in the national title race, to this being Apple Cup Week and the game’s five-year extension, to the Sounders just two wins from a league championship match—and yet I’m still sitting here bothered by one story in particular.

According to Mariners writer Daniel Kramer of, industry sources said that landing Shohei Ohtani doesn’t appear to be within the Mariners realistic agenda this offseason. Kramer lists potential factors, from the overall cost to the Mariners' 2024 budget, to an emphasis on focusing on other needs rather than allocating most of their available financial resources to just one player.

To those factors specifically, I shake my head. Because all I hear is: "the Mariners don’t want to spend money again." And they seem to be more excuses from a franchise that continues to do nothing but disappoint its fanbase.

Now, I will acknowledge Jerry Dipoto’s argument that they’ve actually signed three of the top 40 contracts in baseball over the past two seasons, from Julio Rodriguez to Luis Castillo and Robbie Ray. But their payroll continues to be middle of the road, they didn’t make the playoffs again last year, and the fact that they’re seemingly not even going to kick the tires on Ohtani is absolutely maddening.

There’s one thing and only one thing this organization can do this offseason to shed the stigma that it just doesn’t care about winning, and it doesn’t care about its fanbase—signing the biggest free agent in baseball, a generational talent who seems like a perfect fit. 

Ohtani has said he likes it here, that he’s spent a couple offseasons in Seattle for a total of four months. So what if he can’t pitch next season? The Mariners biggest needs are generating offense, and that’s exactly what Ohtani does. To not even be in the mix for the guy is one more gut punch to a fanbase that’s been nothing but abused with disappointment for years. 

Do not sit here and tell us you’re doing us a favor when you don’t make the playoffs, but still increase ticket prices – with ownership unwilling to open up its checkbook and play with the big boys and reel in the biggest fish out there. 

All seven teams considered frontrunners in the Ohtani stakes in Kramer’s article – the Dodgers, Mets, Giants, Rangers, Cubs, Red Sox and Yankees – had Top 13 payrolls in baseball last year. Four of them were in the Top 6. But they can all somehow still afford his contract and the Mariners can’t? At this point, it’s more like the Mariners won’t.

Every pro team in this market seems committed to winning, and backs that up by regularly reaching the postseason and contending for championships. Every team except for one. 

Which is why that team doesn’t get a pass when it comes to sitting this one out. I don’t care if it’s an ownership thing or Jerry Dipoto, hellbent on showing everyone he can consistently win 54% of games without a top payroll in baseball. Good for him. But if you’re not even in the mix for a top talent like this, it sends the same old message to fans – that profits trump everything else. 

If the Mariners eventually win a World Series without Ohtani, I’ll eat my words, I’ll issue an apology and fully admit I was wrong.

But if they don’t, and they blatantly punted on a perfect opportunity to sign him this offseason, and don’t even try, they are once again guilty of perpetuating what so many already believe: That with this team, winning is never going to be top priority.