Posted on March 6, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
No team has made more trades over the last two years than the Seattle Mariners. However, injuries and bad fortune have stopped the team from reaching the postseason. Is 2018 finally the year the Mariners can breakout and claim a playoff spot?
When healthy, the duo of Felix Hernandez and James Paxton can be as good as any 1-2 punch in baseball. However, Hernandez was limited to just 16 starts last year because of injury, and health could remain an issue for him now that he’s in his 30s. Paxton also had multiple stints on the DL in 2017, even if he posted a 2.98 ERA across 24 starts when healthy.
If the Mariners can’t get at least 25 or 30 starts each from Hernandez and Paxton, they’ll need the rest of the lineup to step up. Mike Leake should be a stable no. 3 starter in Seattle’s rotation, but the final two spots are more or less crapshoots. Erasmo Ramirez was solid late in 2017 but Marco Gonzalez and Ariel Miranda were both subpar last year and need to be more consistent in 2018. Andrew Moore can be considered a wild card; the 23-year old was 1-5 with a 5.34 ERA last year but has excelled at every level of the minors. Those backend options boast some potential but offer little in terms of a guarantee.
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The Seattle bullpen was solid if unspectacular last year and the Mariners are hoping for a little more depth there this season. The club signed Juan Nicasio, who excelled in a relief role in 2017. David Phelps could also make more of an impact after the Mariners traded for him late last season. The Mariners also have depth with the likes of Nick Vincent, James Pazos, Tony Zych, and Dan Altavilla, who were all solid in 2017.
Of course, the key to Seattle’s bullpen is closer Edwin Diaz, who saved 34 games for the Mariners last year. Still just 24 years old with two seasons of big league experience under his belt, the sky is the limit for Diaz, who has excelled at striking out hitters since coming to the big leagues. If he can continue to develop into a frontline closer, the Seattle bullpen could end up being one of the best in the American League.
On paper, the Mariners have what should be a potent lineup, although they were somewhat average a year ago. Both Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager saw their numbers drop from the previous year. Jean Segura also didn’t make the kind of impact the Mariners were expecting. Outside of Nelson Cruz, few of Seattle’s veterans matched or exceeded expectations in 2017.
Obviously, the Mariners need the likes of Cruz, Cano, and Seager to lead them offensively, but they’ll also look to lean more on younger hitters. Seattle acquired Ryon Healy to take over at first base after he hit 25 home runs for the A’s last year. Right fielder Mitch Haniger had what could have been a breakout season in 2017 had he not spent so much time on the DL. If Healy and Haniger can stay healthy in 2018, it would add considerable length to Seattle’s lineup.
Of course, the key for the Mariners offensively could be Segura and new addition Dee Gordon at the top of the lineup. How Gordon handles center field defensively is another issue. But he and Segura give the Mariners a lot of speed at the top of the order. If those two can get on base at a high rate, it’ll put Seattle’s power hitters in a good position to drive in runs and make the Mariners a force offensively.
If everything clicks, the Mariners could be an intriguing team to watch in 2018. Their lineup has a nice blend of power and speed, and with Diaz as their closer, the Seattle bullpen has plenty of upside. However, the Mariners may not have enough starting pitching to keep up in the AL West, even if Hernandez and Paxton stay healthy. Look for the Mariners to finish 82-80, which is respectable but not enough to earn a wild-card spot.