While most teams have expectations of being competitive in the shortened season of 2020, the Mariners are likely more focused on development.
The Mariners have a young roster with notable players on the farm (or this year the taxi squad) chomping at the bit to get their opportunity to shine.
While the team’s recent performances may not exude excitement, Mariners’ fans should embrace the young core and be excited about their future. That is easier said than done for a club that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2001 (when Ichiro was a rookie) and will be experiencing its first season without either Ichiro or Felix Hernandez on it in two decades. But the future does remain bright in Seattle, even if the Mariners’ betting odds may not be the greatest.
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Seattle Mariners 2019 Results
It would certainly be fair to classify the 2019 season as a disappointment. Through the first 15 games, the Mariners looked like world-beaters at 13-2. In fact, that was only the 17th time since 1900 that a team had won at least 13 of its first 15 games.
Unfortunately for Seattle fans, that is pretty much where the fun ended. When it was all said and done, the Mariners finished 68-94, 39 games behind the AL West-winning Houston Astros.
In terms of home/road splits, the Mariners were 35-46 at home, while they were 33-48 on the road. They also had a run differential of -135 as they scored 758 runs but gave up 893.
Needless to say, the Mariners will certainly be looking for a better 2020.
Seattle Mariners Key Additions
The Seattle Mariners were relatively quiet in the offseason, but they did add a trio of arms.
One is reliever Carl Edwards Jr. The Mariners signed the hard-throwing righty to a one-year deal worth just under a million dollars (although incentives could push it over that figure).
Spending time with both the Cubs and Padres, Edwards struggled. He pitched to the tune of an 8.47 ERA and 1.47 WHIP over 22 games.
Despite the struggles, he is a year removed from a season where he went 3-2 with a 2.60 ERA and 67 strikeouts in 52 innings, so the Mariners are hoping the 28-year-old can bounce back.
Another bounce-back candidate general manager Jerry Dipoto signed is righty Kevin Graveman. He was also signed to a one-year deal worth $1.5 million (plus incentives). Graveman did not pitch last year as he recovered from Tommy John surgery, but in 2018, he went 1-5 with a 7.60 ERA for the Oakland Athletics.
The last addition was bringing back a familiar face in righty Taijuan Walker. Once considered one of the best prospects in baseball, Walker has struggled to stay healthy. He was lost to Tommy John surgery in 2018 and missed almost all of 2019 due to an issue with a strained shoulder capsule.
Like the other two, though, Walker is definitely a low-risk, high-reward type signing that could pay dividends for the franchise.
One other notable signing came from within. Before stepping foot on an MLB diamond, the Mariners signed first base prospect Evan White to a six-year, $24 million contract that also includes three club options.
The benefit for this deal is that it not only locks him up long term but also allows the Mariners not to worry about service time and can have him either start with the big club or pull him up whenever they deem him ready.
Seattle Mariners Big Losses
There were few acquisitions and few departures. The major exit came via trade, where Seattle sent catcher Omar Narvaez to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for a minor league pitcher in Adam Hill and a Competitive Balance draft pick.
Narvaez served as the Mariners’ primary catcher. He hit .278/.353/.460 with 22 home runs, 55 runs batted in and 63 runs scored in 428 at-bats. While he might not be considered a defensive wizard, he is expected to be Yasmani Grandal’s replacement in Milwaukee.
Seattle Mariners Pitching
Manager Scott Servais is going with a six-man rotation. Given the minimal spring training 2.0, as well as the fact that his rotation will include a mixture of both youngsters and pitchers coming off an injury, this may be a wise decision for the shortened season.
At the top of the rotation will be lefty Marco Gonzales. This offseason, Gonzales signed a four-year contract worth $30 million that will keep the southpaw in Seattle through 2025.
Gonzales went 16-13 in 34 starts with a 3.99 ERA, 1.31 WHIP, and struck out 147 in 203 innings pitched. The Mariners are hoping the 28-year-old can be their ace.
Next in the rotation is the aforementioned Taijuan Walker. He is hoping to put together a full season. The last time he was able to put one together was 2017 with the Diamondbacks, when he went 9-9 with a 3.49 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, and had 146 strikeouts in 157 1/3 innings.
Third, up will be lefty Yusei Kikuchi. One of the major acquisitions for the Mariners last year, Kikuchi struggled with consistency in his first season in MLB. He went 6-11 with a 5.46 ERA and 1.52 WHIP in 32 starts, striking out 116 batters over 161 2/3 innings pitched.
Fourth will be Kendall Graveman, who, like Walker, will be hoping for a full, healthy season.
The last two spots will go to a couple of youngsters in Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn. Both will be looking to put in their first full season, though both got a little taste of the majors last season.
Last year, in eight appearances (seven starts), Sheffield went 0-1 with a 5.50 ERA and 1.72 WHIP. He struck out 37 in his 36 innings of work.
For Dunn, he pitched in 6 2/3 innings over four games amassing a 2.70 ERA, 1.65 WHIP and struck out five batters.
Seattle Mariners Offense
The Mariners’ starting lineup will likely look something like this: 2B Shed Long, SS J.P. Crawford, 3B Kyle Seager, C Tom Murphy, DH Dan Vogelbach, OF Kyle Lewis, OF Jake Fraley, 1B Evan White, OF Mallex Smith.
Granted, there are a lot of moving parts here where you could see a wide variety of lineups. For instance, Dee Gordon is still on the team, and if Servais wants a more veteran leadership, Gordon could play either second base or the outfield, which would result in a lot of shifting of other players.
In what is considered a rebuilding season, though, it is likely that the youngsters will likely get first crack at the lineup, and Kyle Seager will be the only true veteran. Seager hit .239/.321/.468 with 23 home runs, 63 runs batted in and 55 runs scored.
Dipoto would likely love to move Seager, but between the two years left on his seven-year, $100 million contract and his past health issues, it is almost unmovable.
At catcher will be Tom Murphy, taking over for the traded Omar Narvaez. In 260 at-bats, the 29-year-old catcher hit .273/.324/.535 with 18 home runs, 40 runs batted in and 32 runs scored. His success at the plate mixed with a better defensive profile is likely why the Mariners felt comfortable in moving Narvaez.
Another big bat in the lineup for Seattle will be Daniel Vogelbach. There is a lot of swing and miss in his game as he hit just .208 and struck out 149 times in 462 at-bats last year, but when he connects, he can hit it a long way.
He hit 30 home runs, had 76 runs batted in and scored 73 times in his first full season as a lineup regular.
Three Key Players
With so many young players, it is hard to know which players will have a breakout season and what players may hit the proverbial wall when they get to the majors.
One player fans should be excited to watch is Kyle Lewis. In 2019, Lewis got his first experience in the majors and didn’t disappoint. In 71 at-bats, he hit .268/.293/.592 with six home runs, 13 runs batted in and 10 runs scored.
During spring training 2.0, Lewis has been knocking the cover off the ball and could be destined for a nice season. There is a lot of swing and miss to his game, but when he is locked in, there is a lot of excitement to his game as well.
From a developmental standpoint, the Mariners would really like to see Shed Long take the second base spot and run with it. Again, they have Gordon waiting in the wings, but Long should be the future.
Long hit .263/.333/.454 in 152 at-bats and had five home runs, 15 runs batted in and 21 runs scored. Both he and his double-play partner in JP Crawford (.226/.313/.371 with seven home runs, 46 runs batted in and 43 runs scored) will top the lineup, and both could use a breakout of sorts in 2020.
The last key player could simply be the prospects. The Mariners have a slew of interesting prospects on the taxi squad, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see any of them get a chance at some point in the season.
Players like Jarred Kelenic, Julio Rodriguez, Logan Gilbert and Emerson Hancock are likely the future in Seattle. Their debuts should bring a lot of excitement to what might otherwise be a dismal year. White will fall into this category.
The Mariners play 40 games against their AL West rivals (Astros, Rangers, Mariners, Angels), while playing 20 games against the NL West (Dodgers, Diamondbacks, Padres, Giants, Rockies) in interleague games.
Keeping the teams playing against their division and their regional interleague division lessens the need for travel to help minimize the risk of spread of the coronavirus for teams.
As found in the sportsbook, the Mariners currently have AL pennant odds of +10000. Furthermore, they are seen as a significant longshot with their World Series odds as the sportsbook currently has their moneyline at +25000 to win it all.
In terms of MLB regular-season wins odds, the over/under is set at 24 games in the sportsbook for the Seattle Mariners. Only the Baltimore Orioles (20.5) and the Detroit Tigers (22.5) have lower expected win totals/
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While the expectation is that the Mariners won’t be much of a contender this year, such a short race to 60 games could just give them a chance. It would certainly be a longshot, but this is the type of season where some longshots might hit.