In 2001, 27-year-old Ichiro Suzuki made his MLB debut. Later that year, the Seattle Mariners reached the playoffs. It was the last time October baseball was enjoyed in Seattle, although with 89 wins last season, they came so very close.
From a position of 24 games over .500 in early July, the Mariners were leap-frogged by the Athletics at the start of August, and the team from Oakland never missed a beat to claim a wild card spot.
It is unfair to call the Mariners chokers. Instead, the accolades should be heaped on the Rays and Athletics for their stunning finish to the season.
Praise should also be directed at the Mariners front office who, instead of sitting back with the knowledge that 89 wins usually makes the playoffs, realised that they should totally flattern their team and have undertaken a 2019 rebuild.
Pythagorean expectancy is an estimate of a team’s winning percentage given their runs scored and runs allowed. According to this estimation, the Mariners should only have won 77 games not 89.
Not that Jerry Dipoto needs an excuse to hit the trade market. I like the Mariners’ GM, but he does remind me of that annoying guy in my fantasy league who constantly bombards everyone with trade offers.
Like almost every deal of the offseason, Mariners’ trades have generated more disapproval than approval, but it is tough to trade when teams know there are so many free agents with falling price tags available.
The 2019 Opening Day roster will be very different to the one that finished this season. Manager Scott Servais illustrated his position well:
“Jerry goes out shopping for the groceries and I get to put the soup together”
Pitching ace James Paxton will be sorely missed by the Safeco Field faithful. Over the last three seasons, the Canadian has posted a 3.52 ERA, but his 2.90 FIP suggests he has been a top-5 pitcher over that time. He will be very difficult to replace.
Three prospects went the other way from New York, the highest profile being former first-rounder Justus Sheffield.
The reacquisition of Mallex Smith looks an inspired move which will install one of the best young centre fielders at the top of the Mariners’ lineup. The speedster led the AL with 10 triples and also swiped 40 bags.
Dipoto bought low on Brewers’ Domingo Santana, who will join Smith in a new look outfield. The slugger is only one year removed from his 2017 campaign of 30 home runs and .875 OPS.
The Phillies, one of the few contending teams looking for a shortstop, secured the services of Jean Segura in exchange for walk-machine Carlos Santana and spluttering prospect JP Crawford. It shouldn’t be overlooked that Crawford was still considered a top-10 hitting prospect at the start of 2018 by Baseball Prospectus, so the Mariners might have just picked up a bargain.
To remove the pressure off Crawford’s shoulders, Dipoto signed former first-overall pick Tim Beckham from free agency to start the season at shortstop.
Although they would have benefited from Carlos Santana’s switch-hitting and OBP skills at first base, the 32-year-old was flipped before his first taste of Seattle coffee. In an intriguing three-team deal on the last day of the winter meetings (actually concluded from Dipoto’s hospital bed), the Mariners received reliable RBI-slugger Edwin Encarnacion and a competitive balance pick in exchange for Santana. In the same deal, Jake Bauers went from the Rays to the Indians with infielder Yandy Diaz going the other way.
The biggest deal saw the Mariners say goodbye to future Hall of Famer Robinson Cano in a blockbuster. By taking on Cano’s $120M contract, the Mets also received one of the best closers in the game, Edwin Diaz.
Jay Bruce and Anthony Swarzak went the other way, and both players are in line for bouncebacks after a disappointing 2018. If Bruce can stay healthy, he has the potential to replicate the 36 homers and .832 OPS from 2017. Swarzak didn’t become a bad pitcher overnight, so Mariners fans can point to his 2.33 ERA over 70 appearances in 2017 as a reason for optimism.
And as for Cano, no-one knows how he will age. No-one knows how much benefit he gained from using PEDs. Although to be fair, he didn’t test positive for PEDs; he tested positive for a masking agent. Anyway, it is difficult to see a scenario where the 36-year-old produces value to match the $23M he will be paid in each of the next five seasons.
You will need to check back in five seasons to see how Jarred Kelenic has developed. The 19-year-old was the prize in the return from the Mets. One of the hottest properties in the 2018 draft, the left-hander projects as a high risk/high reward outfielder.
The rotation was boosted by the acquisition of exciting Japanese lefty Yusei Kikuchi. The 27-year-old posted 2.49 ERA over the last two seasons in Japan with more than a strikeout per inning.
Many MLB teams attempted to secure Kikuchi’s services back in 2009, but with the confidence of youth, the teenager stated:
“I’ll try to take on the world once I have become the number one pitcher in Japan.”
YK (as he is known) will form an intriguing 1-2 with Marco Gonzales. The former first-round pick made 29 starts to accumulate 3.6 WAR, but he needs to generate more whiffs and allow less contact to take the next step.
The travails of Felix Hernandez are heartbreaking. The King was the best pitcher in baseball from 2006 to 2015, but the Venezuelan has been tagged with 4.62 ERA and 1.38 WHIP over the last three seasons.
After finishing 11th in MVP voting, Mitch Haniger would return an impressive hoard if traded, especially given that he is not arbitration-eligible until 2020, but the Mariners need his production in the heart of their lineup.
In another interesting offseason move, the Mariners picked up Kaleb Cowart off waivers from the Angels with the intention of converting him into a two-way player.
The Astros are overwhelming favourites for the AL West again, but there is no reason why the Mariners cannot compete for a wild card spot. Kyle Seager will probably not be as bad as in 2018, Dee Gordon may get to double-digit walks, and Dipoto will continue dealing.
I am going to hit “publish” before Encarnacion gets dealt.