Your 2018 Seattle Mariners: Not Your 2017 Mariners--I Swear
By Stevil, March 25th, 2018
|Farm Director Andy McKay rehearsing for self-affirmation counseling with selected players. Photo still from SNL.|
Baseball season is getting underway and the Mariners' roster has evolved, or mutated, into something different than what was desired. That doesn't mean all hope is lost before we even get started, though. It simply means we're on a date with a girl (or guy) who just got dumped. I'll explain...
Update, March 27th: Seattle has signed Jayson Werth to a minor league deal and he will report to Peoria for extended spring training.
Seattle headed into the offseason with a glaring hole at 1st Base and in the outfield, and there was a dire need to get younger. With significant salary commitments to Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Mike Leake, Jean Segura, and a healthy chunk of change to David Phelps and Marc Rzepczynski, there wasn't a ton of room for adding a ton of salary and sacrificing draft picks to sign mid-rotation starters made little sense. The team hasn't been to the postseason in 16 years, but having a shot at snapping that streak was never dependent on the addition of another starting pitcher over the offseason. Snapping that streak is dependent on health, growth, and considerable luck. Adding a starting pitcher wouldn't have hurt, but another addition could come mid-season.
So, how healthy have the Mariners been this spring?
Phelps tore his UCL and is out for the season. Ben Gamel strained his oblique and will miss the start of the season. Erasmo Ramirez strained his lat and will miss the start of the season. Felix got drilled in the forearm on a comebacker, Cano and Segura have had tight hamstrings, Mitch Haniger had tendonitis in his hand, Ryon Healy had a bone spur removed from his hand, Cruz had a quad issue, Andrew Romine banged up his shoulder breakdancing in the dirt between innings (so stupid!), Nick Rumbelow has a shoulder issue, and Tony Zych's shoulder is such a mess, they shaved his head and beard and released him.
But that's not all.
Ichrio, who was dumped by Miami, was brought back to fill in for Gamel and apparently pulled a calf before getting beamed in the head--for pulling his calf. Welcome back! He's played very little this spring. Heredia is coming off of shoulder surgery, and though he's playing, they'll undoubtedly take it easy on him.
However, there is some good news. Though Zych and Phelps are done, Gamel and Ramirez shouldn't miss too much time, Rumbelow was/is to serve as depth, Wade LeBlanc--dumped by the Yankees--was wooed back to fill the void left by Phelps, and all the other injuries shouldn't impose any (further) acts of desperation upon the opening day roster.
Further, Juan Nicasio should take considerable work off of the rotation and 'pen, as he can offer multi-inning outings, as can LeBlanc. Dee Gordon has looked like a veteran centerfielder and brings elite speed to the top of the lineup.
There have also been some, perhaps unexpected, pleasant surprises. Dan Vogelbach, whom I admittedly had written off and dumped from my own ideas, sought counseling from Stuart Smalley over the offseason, and doggone it, he's mashing and looking like a competent 1st baseman. Mike Marjama, a relatively quiet acquisition in August, has stepped up and had a solid spring, earning the backup position to Mike Zunino, whom is also mashing. Marco Gonzales has been among the best pitchers in baseball this spring, looking like the rust from surgery is finally out of his system and his cutter has been, pardon the pun, sharp. Rob Whalen has come from a fitz of depression* to being a legitimate depth piece, Hisashi Iwakuma is ahead of schedule rehabing from his offseason surgery, and Casey Lawrence has looked stellar after an adjustment and change to his approach.
Payroll is set for a new opening day record with a little over 160 million on the books. The additions of Nicasio and Gordon bumped it up about 20 million, but that's looking like money well-spent and there's still flexibility for mid-season additions. It was important to add youth--not just for the future, but to curb spending. Healy and Marjama are both pre-arb players. Ichiro, though not young, cost a bouquet of roses and chocolates and won't be blocking anyone; LeBlanc: a 6-pack and um beijo. Lawrence was initially on a minor league deal, though he'll be added to the active roster shortly and make league minimum.
So, what does the opening day roster look like you ask?
Yes, that's only four.
Likely Primary Lineup:
1. Dee Gordon, CF (L)
2. Jean Segura, SS (R)
3. Robinson Cano, 2B (L)
4. Nelson Cruz, DH (R)
5. Kyle Seager, 3B (L)
6. Mitch Haniger, RF (R)
7. Ryon Healy, 1B (R)
8. Mike Zunino, C (R)
9. Ichiro Suzuki, LF (L)
Andrew Romine, INF (R)
Guillermo Heredia, OF (R)
Dan Vogelbach, 1B/DH (L)
Mike Marjama, C (R)
This is unofficial, but a safer bet than Scott Boras admitting he played the offseason poorly. Lawrence, barring a surprise addition that is better, is bound for the active roster. The lineup 6-9 isn't likely set in stone, but this should give you an idea what we'll see to start with. Ramirez is due back in mid-April; Gamel TBD.
Left field is a particular area of concern as is the rotation. All 3 options for left field come with question marks and durability concerns, though all 3 have upside (yes, including Ichiro). If one sticks, great. But this is an area where some additional depth could be useful (I'm still beating the Christian Walker drum) and another starter at some point would be invaluable. Additional 'pen pieces are a given.
Whether or not this will cut it remains to be seen. But Seattle started 2017 with Danny Valencia at 1st base, Ariel Miranda and Yovani Gallardo in the rotation; Dillon Overton, Casey Fien, and Evan Scribner in the bullpen. There's certainly hope for better results this season and our dates aren't nearly as ugly (speaking for myself, anyway).