30 in 30: Seattle Mariners

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1983

For the past 6 or 7 years, the Seattle Mariners have been in one of the worst positions a professional sports team could be in. They weren’t good enough to make the playoffs, but they weren’t bad enough to justify tearing it down and rebuilding. In 2018, they finished 89-73, missing the playoffs for the 17th straight season, the longest stretch without making the playoffs in the 4 major professional sports. That doesn’t look like it is going to end anytime soon.

With the American League being very top heavy, and the AL West being dominated by Houston, the Seattle Mariners decided it was best to tear it down this offseason and regroup and rebuild and get assets for their best players while they still could.

Mike Zunino, James Paxton, Alex Colome, Robinson Cano, Edwin Diaz, Jean Segura, Ben Gamel. And that’s not even all of the MLB talent they traded away this offseason. Yes, they got some MLB pieces back, such as Edwin Encarnacion, Mallex Smith, and Jay Bruce, and Justus Sheffield doesn’t seem like he’s a far way away from being able to make an impact at the MLB level on the mound, but it is very safe to say that the Seattle Mariners got considerably worse this offseason. But at the end of the day, they still have to field a team in 2019. So what’s that going to look like?

Kyle Seager, arguably the M’s best player, will be out until June with a hand injury, so right off the bat, the Mariners look like it may be a slow and painful 2019. Marco Gonzales will get the ball for their first game of the year in the Japan Series against the Athletics. Gonzales is just a small question mark in a rotation full of question marks.

Yusei Kikuchi is a left-hander the Mariners signed from Japan this offseason, which can turn out to be huge for them this year and in the long run, but at the same time, we’ve never seen him against MLB players, it could also go really badly. Mike Leake is a solid back end of the rotation guy, but he’s never had an ERA under 3.50 in a full seasons work.

Felix Hernandez, the once unhittable, dominant ace of the Mariners has definitely fallen off as of late and is nowhere near what he once was. The positive of Hernandez? We’ve seen guys like CC Sabathia, who was once dominant and then struggled for a few years, and then learned how to pitch with their lesser stuff, so if Hernandez can figure that out, he can still be an impactful arm in the rotation or even out of the pen if that’s how the Mariners choose to use him.

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The bullpen is just as shaky as the rotation, and the lineup only has a few guys that we have an idea of what to expect. Edwin Encarnacion is still good for at least 25 home runs, but he is also someone they can flip come deadline time as he is on an expiring deal with a team option. Mitch Haniger is coming off a breakout, all-star season where he hit 26 homers with a .859 OPS and led the Mariners with a 6.1 WAR. Haniger and Encarnacion will likely be 2 of few high points in the Mariners 2019 campaign.

So what should the Seattle fans expect from their team in 2019? Kikuchi is definitely an exciting rookie who will be intriguing to watch and follow throughout the course of the year. I am excited to see if Felix Hernandez can come back and return into a respectable pitcher for the M’s, along with what the rest of the rotation can bring.

It will be interesting to see if Encarnacion is playing well in the first half if he gets moved again and what kind of package they can get back for him. Justus Sheffield is a name Mariners fans need to know. The lefty acquired from the Yankees in the James Paxton deal has electric stuff and has the potential to slide right next to Kikuchi in their rotation for the next few years and they can be a potent 1-2 punch in the rotation.

At the end of the day, the Mariners were aware they couldn’t compete in 2019. The Athletics, Astros, and Angels are just all better than them and they accepted that, and began preparing for the future, while still keeping some pieces to bring fans into the stadium and not be a complete embarrassment like some teams are when tanking. I think this team will win against teams like Texas and Detroit and Kansas City. But they have 0 chance of competing for an AL West crown in 2019, not when the rest of their division is so strong. If I’m a Mariners fan, I’m excited for 2020 and beyond, but I’d be okay with skipping 2019 if I was them.

Record prediction: 69-93

Team MVP: Mitch Haniger

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