30 Clubs in 30 Days: Seattle Mariners

Posted: March 4, 2013 in Uncategorized

ImageNot since 2001, when they triumphed in an MLB record 116 games, have the Seattle Mariners reached the postseason. Years of promise, headlined by offseason moves to acquire veterans like Richie Sexson, Erik Bedard, and Carlos Silva, have ended in disappointment. In 2012, the Mariners improved their record for the second straight season. But, it was another year below the .500 mark, a plateau that Seattle has reached just twice since 2003.

Former Indians manager Eric Wedge, who took over a 101-loss team following 2010, has ushered in improvement in his two years with the club. Gone is Ichiro Suzuki and his era of dominance in Washington state. Enter 2B Dustin Ackley (.226-12-50), 3B Kyle Seager (.259-20-86), and DH Jesus Montero (.260-15-62), who are all 25 or younger heading into 2013. The pitching staff still revolves around RHP Felix Hernandez (13-9, 3.06) and with the offseason trade sending LHP Jason Vargas to Los Angeles for Kendrys Morales, youngsters will need to step into the fold in supporting roles this year.

The division is one of the toughest in baseball, with the Angels, Rangers, and Athletics all boasting stronger resumes than the Mariners. Still, Seattle has a strong cast of youngsters who will hit their prime soon enough. With Hernandez locked up long term, the Mariners could be prepared to contend for a playoff spot as soon as 2014.

Five Year Review:
2012: 75-87
2011: 67-95
2010: 61-101
2009: 85-77
2008: 61-101

2012 Team MVP: RHP Felix Hernandez: There were few better options for team MVP in 2012 than King Felix. The 2010 AL Cy Young winner, long cursed with pedestrian offensive support, bounced back from a down season in 2011 (by his standards) to finish fourth in Cy Young voting. Hernandez, 13-9 (3.06), led the AL in SHO with 5, whilst allowing 0.5 HR/9, also a league leading total. His 223 strikeouts were second most in his career and came in 33 starts, his eighth consecutive season of 30+ starts at just 26-years old.

2012 Team LVP: 1B Justin Smoak: His strong September numbers aside, Smoak was far-and-away one of the worst players in baseball in 2012. Let us keep in mind that he is winning this award despite the fact that Seattle boasted a young starter (Hector Noesi) who lost ten more games than he won and a veteran SS (Brendan Ryan) who could not hit his body weight (.194 average, 195 pounds). In spite of these failures, Smoak takes the LVP. The 2008 1st round pick was the key piece to the 2010 Cliff Lee trade that sent the 2008 AL Cy Young to Texas. In his first full season with Seattle, Smoak was mediocre with a .234-15-55 line in 123 G. It all fell apart last year, as he slumped to .217-19-51 with a team worst -2.2 WAR. In other words, an average level replacement player would bring 2.2 more wins to the Mariners over 162 games than Smoak, a former top-prospect, did. Heading into September, when Smoak hit .341-5-11, the Goose Creek, SC native was hitting a putrid .190-14-40 in 106 G.

Key Acquisitions:

C Kelly Shoppach (Boston Red Sox)
C Ronny Paulino (Baltimore Orioles)
1B Mike Carp (Boston Red Sox)
LF Jason Bay (New York Mets)
LF Raul Ibanez (New York Yankees)
LF Michael Morse (Washington Nationals)
DH Kendrys Morales (Los Angeles Angels)
RHP Jon Garland (free agent)
RHP Jeremy Bonderman (free agent)
LHP Joe Saunders (Baltimore Orioles)

Key Departures:

C John Jaso (Oakland Athletics)
C Miguel Olivo (Cincinnati Reds)
IF Chone Figgins (Miami Marlins)
RHP Kevin Millwood (retirement)
RHP Shawn Kelley (New York Yankees)
LHP Jason Vargas (Los Angeles Angels)
LHP George Sherrill (Kansas City Royals)

Projected Lineup/Rotation (w/composite 2013 projections):

1. 2B Dustin Ackley (.249-11-51-10 SB)
2. CF Franklin Gutierrez (.245-7-37-10 SB)
3. 3B Kyle Seager (.262-13-66)
4. LF Mike Morse (.267-20-67
5. DH Kendrys Morales (.265-20-70)
6. C Jesus Montero (.269-18-68)
7. 1B Justin Smoak (.232-12-39)
8. RF Michael Saunders (.235-13-48-14 SB)
9. SS Brendan Ryan (.227-3-37-11 SB)

1. RHP Felix Hernandez (14-10, 3.07)
2. LHP Joe Saunders (9-11, 4.29)
3. RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (10-10, 3.89)
4. RHP Erasmo Ramirez (7-9, 4.25)
5. RHP Blake Beaven (6-9, 4.54)
CP. RHP Tom Wilhelmsen (3-3, 3.46, 25 SV)
SU. Carter Capps (3-2, 3.54, 1 SV)

2013 Outlook:

Seattle sacrificed some of its pitching depth, notably LHP Jason Vargas, in the offseason to boost their maligned offense. By shipping Vargas and C John Jaso out in trades, the Mariners landed veteran middle-of-the-order talents Mike Morse and Kendrys Morales. Granted, both of these acquisitions come with risk. Neither lived up to their previous numbers in 2012, and both have mired injury histories. This could be another offseason that blows up in Seattle’s face, much like 2008, when the team came off an 88 win season and traded prospects like Adam Jones and Chris Tillman to Baltimore for LHP Erik Bedard. Bedard was injured and Seattle collapsed to 61-101 in 2008.

After Hernandez, their pitching staff does not inspire confidence. Saunders is a capable LHP with decent stuff. But, he does not serve as much better than a good #3 starter. The good news for Seattle is that their farm system is stocked with top flight young arms from years of poor finishes in the standings. RHPs Taijuan Walker and Brandon Maurer, and LHPs Danny Hultzen and James Paxton are all high-ceiling hurlers who should be in Seattle within the next year-or-two. Until then, though, Seattle’s pitching will be entirely reliant on the success of King Felix at the top of the rotation. If Seattle’s young bats finally break out, they could finish ahead of Oakland in third place in 2013. It remains unlikely that they all find their niche this year, so, I foresee Seattle winning between 74-80 games, likely finishing behind every team but Houston in the AL West.

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