30 Clubs in 30 Days: Seattle Mariners

Posted: March 21, 2014 in Uncategorized

mariners1The Seattle Mariners haven’t made the postseason since 2001. Heck, they haven’t even had a winning season since 2009, when the M’s went 85-77. Three 90+ loss campaigns later, and the Mariners have just about had enough of being the also-ran in the AL West.

That’s why, this offseason, they made their biggest splash perhaps in the history of their franchise by signing former Yankees’ 2B Robinson Cano to a 10 year, $240 million contract. The deal made Cano one of the richest players in baseball. It also made the Mariners supposed players in a very competitive Western Division.

For Seattle to actually compete for their first postseason berth in over a decade, they’ll need to get more than just All Star level production out of Cano, who could expect a decline in his statistics moving from lefty-friendly Yankee Stadium to pitcher’s haven Safeco Field.

A year ago, the Mariners’ offense was one of the worst in baseball, scoring just 624 runs. Disappointing seasons from Mike Morse, Dustin Ackley, and Jesus Montero were among the key reasons. Seattle also boasted one of the youngest lineups in the league, with five starters at or below the age of 26. Growth from players like Kyle Seager, Mike Zunino, Nick Franklin, and Michael Saunders should be expected, especially with Cano’s influence in the clubhouse.

The offseason additions of Corey Hart (Milwaukee) and Logan Morrison (Miami) should help if they can stay healthy. Granted, that’s been a difficult proposition for both, as Hart missed all of 2013 and Morrison has played in just 178 games combined over the last two seasons.

If Seattle can improve their offense even a little bit, their pitching is good enough that they should at least stay relevant until the fall. Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma form one of the best one-two punches in the American League at the top of their rotation. After that, it’s going to be up to the pitching rich farm to produce after years of speculation. Erasmo Ramirez, James Paxton, Taijuan Walker, and Brandon Maurer will all be expected to contribute to the major league rotation at some point. All are 24 or younger with electric stuff and ceilings higher than the Sistine Chapel.

Seattle may not be prepared to win the division this season. But, the acquisition of Cano, coupled with the growth of their plethora of prospects, should allow Seattle to weather the current storms of change before blue skies emerge beyond the horizon in 2015.

Key Acquisitions

C John Buck (Pirates)
1B/DH Corey Hart (Brewers)
2B Robinson Cano (Yankees)
OF Logan Morrison (Marlins)
RHP Scott Baker (Cubs)
RHP Fernando Rodney (Rays)

Key Departures

OF Mike Morse (Giants)
OF/DH Raul Ibanez (Angels)
LHP Joe Saunders (Rangers)
RHP Carter Capps (Marlins)

Projected Lineup and Rotation

OF Dustin Ackley – .262-6-30
3B Kyle Seager – .265-20-60
2B Robinson Cano – .304-21-90
DH Corey Hart – .270-18-68
OF Logan Morrison – .253-11-47
1B Justin Smoak – .253-20-57
OF Michael Saunders – .244-14-49
C Mike Zunino – .242-12-37
SS Brad Miller – .258-11-48

RHP Felix Hernandez – 14-8, 2.78
RHP Hisashi Iwakuma – 7-6, 3.41
RHP Erasmo Ramirez – 6-7, 4.41
LHP James Paxton – 6-7, 3.96
RHP Taijuan Walker – 6-7, 3.84

RHP Fernando Rodney – 2-2, 3.00, 28 Sv

Outlook

This might be Seattle’s most powerful (as in, home run potential) offense since they won 118-games in 2001. With healthy campaigns, Cano, Hart, Morrison, Smoak, and even Zunino could hit 20+ dingers.

mariners2But, Seattle’s influx of power also meant a decline in defensive metrics. The team is expected to go with an outfield of Saunders, Ackley, and Morrison. The latter is the only plus fielder of the group. Ackley is a converted second baseman, so who knows what to expect there. Meanwhile, Morrison was such a butcher in the outfield for the Marlins that they moved him to first base. With Smoak and Hart manning that position, there’s really nowhere else to put the former Miami slugger.

Another question is regarding their rotation. While the Mariners do have a plethora of young, high-ceiling arms, their relative health is a significant concern. Taijuan Walker, the team’s top prospect, dazzled in his MLB debut in 2013 (1-0, 3.60). But, he’s been slowed by shoulder inflammation and has just now begun tossing. Brandon Maurer has back problems and Hisashi Iwakuma injured his finger and has just returned to Spring Training. If these injuries persist, Seattle might find themselves once again at the bottom of the AL West.

All in all, it was a successful offseason for Jack Zduriencik and his front office. By landing Cano, they set the groundwork for what is hopefully only a two or three year rebuilding process. The Mariners aren’t likely to win any playoff spots this season. But, the health and improvement of their youngsters is more important. That, and the continued dominance of Felix Hernandez and Cano. I foresee Seattle performing much better than in the past, winning between 78-84 games to put themselves in a good spot for 2015 and beyond.

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