Seattle Mariners: Can They Now Contend?
The Seattle Mariners have gone on a spending spree this off-season with the highlight spend being 2nd basemen Robinson Cano. Can the Seattle Mariners contend in a division which could turn into the best in baseball given each teams additions? Maybe. Here is a position-by-position breakdown based on each teams’ websites’ depth chart. I will pick the team that has the advantage over the other and pick the best team should theoretically win the division based on the current rosters. I will rank the best positional players in the AL West based on my personal opinion.
The Seattle Mariners in my mind have the second best catcher in the division. However, Mike Zunino has the potential to be the best catcher in the league. Zunino is the prodigy son in the Mariners system in terms of positional players and he has the potential to be an all-star year in and year out. He is young, but should be able to handle the pitching staff of the Mariners. He will possibly pass Houston Astros catcher Jason Castro this season giving the Mariners the best catcher in the division.
The AL West is full of power at the first base position. For the Mariners, Justin Smoak simply has not lived up to the bill when they acquired him in the Cliff Lee trade with the Texas Rangers. Smoak showed some promise in 2013, but not enough for me to rank him ahead of Brandon Moss. The Mariners fall behind the top players in the division in regard to 1st base. They did sign Corey Hart and traded for Logan Morrison, who could take over for Smoak should he fail in 2014.
The Mariners took home the most prized free agent in recent memory when they stole Robinson Cano from the New York Yankees. Cano is the best second basemen in the game and the best in the AL West. This acquisition could be the most influential in terms of whether the Mariners succeed this year as the offense, defense, and leadership abilities. Cano will inject offense immediately for the Mariners but will the rest of the team must be able to keep up with Cano and provide him with RBI opportunities.
The Mariners once again fall behind the division at the shortstop position. Brad Miller has the potential to grow and surpass Lowrie and Aybar this season. Miller has proven in his minor league career that he can bring a good average and some decent power to the shortstop position. He gets on base and has some stolen base potential. If Miller continues to grow, he will pass Aybar and Lowrie this season.
The third base position is absolutely stacked in the AL West. Third base is so good in this division that you could make a case for any of the top four third basemen to be on your team. Kyle Seager is emerging at third and could easily be one of the best in the league by years end. Seager is not quite ahead of Beltre or Donaldson, but he could make a case for himself to move ahead of Beltre or Donaldson by the end of the season. Seager is a great piece for the Mariners at the hot corner and and like many of the Mariners he is young and promising.
Left field is a young position for all teams in the AL West. It is also where the Mariners are slotting natural second basemen Dustin Ackley. Ackley has failed to live up to the expectations when he arrived in the majors, but much like teammate Justin Smoak, he has showed glimpses of what he could become in 2013. If Ackley can live up to the hype, he could be a nice piece low in the order for the Mariners. He will not move ahead of anyone in this division in terms of the rankings.
There is no question Trout is the best player in the game and the best center fielder in this division. Michael Saunders figured to be a candidate for a breakout 2013 season after an amazing World Baseball Classic for Team Canada. However, it did not work out for him. Saunders does have a ton of potential and can contribute in a lot of ways offensively. He can grow defensively but he has some work to do. Saunders is a big X factor for the Mariners this season and needs to improve in order to help the Mariners contend in the division.
Logan Morrison is one of the additions for the Mariners this off-season, but he has to prove he can rebound after a tough, injury plauged few seasons with the Miami Marlins. Morrison can play 1st base and right field, but his defense is not very good wherever he plays. He can contribute at times offensively and the Mariners must hope his bat comes through to be a worthwhile acquisition for the Mariners.
Corey Hart could be a great addition for the Mariners. Hart has 30+ home run potential and fits in nicely in the middle of the order for the Mariners. Hart will need to recapture his offensive form after coming off of major injuries with the Milwaukee Brewers. Hart could be one of the most underrated power hitters in the game and should be able to help Cano offensively.
Rotation: 1. Oakland Athletics, 2. Seattle Mariners, 3. Texas Rangers, 4. Los Angeles Angels, 5. Houston Astros
The Mariners boast two potential Cy Young candidates in Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. They do not surpass the Athletics due to the back half not being proven starters, but all 3 have potential to develop. There are rumors the Mariners could be interested in putting a package together for David Price. If that is the case, they would have the best rotation in the division. As of now, the Mariners need the back half of their rotation to step up behind Hernandez and Iwakuma.
Bullpen: 1. Athletics, 2. Rangers, 3. Angels, 4. Mariners, 5. Astros
The bullpen is a huge question mark for the Mariners. Danny Farquhar is the closer for 2014 barring any acquisition. While he was good in his time as the closer, there are better options out there as free agents. The bullpen could be the downfall of the Mariners this season and improvements are needed here.
The Mariners have boasted their offense with the addition of Robinson Cano, Logan Morrison, and Corey Hart. However, there are too many question mark players on their roster like Dustin Ackley, Michael Saunders, Mike Zunino, and Brad Miller. These four have potential to be excellent pieces for the Mariners but the sample sizes for these four either are too small or have not shown enough consistency for people to believe in them. The rotation also has question marks behind Hernandez and Iwakuma. Brandon Maurer, James Paxton, and Erasmo Ramirez will all need to step and and pitch to their capabilities, which is easier said then done in the AL West. The bullpen could end up being the downfall of the team. There are too many unproven arms in the bullpen for me to buy into them. The Athletics are projected to be even better in 2014, the Rangers are always dangerous, the Angels could bounce back with an improved pitching rotation, and the Mariners do not need to worry about the Astros…yet. The Mariners have potential to take the division, but they could also still finish 4th. They need a lot to go right for them in regard to their unproven position players, bullpen, and the back half of the rotation. The proven teams in the division have a lot less question marks going into 2014. While the Mariners have made a splash this off-season, I still do not buy them as contenders quite yet. If they improve the bullpen and acquire one more proven starter, they could have a much easier time in the division. I think they will finish 3rd in the division and just miss out on a wild card spot. The division is too strong right now for a team with too many question marks.