Our previews of the AL West continue, with the next team in our continuing series previewing all 30 MLB teams leading up to the start of the 2016 season is the Seattle Mariners, who finished in fourth place in the division last season
The Mariners, who haven’t been to the playoffs since 2001, showed some promising signs with 87 wins in 2014 but took a step back in 2015, finishing 76-86. Not content with their 76-win season, the Mariners had a busy offseason, acquiring OF Leonys Martin from the Rangers, 1B Adam Lind from the Brewers and SP Wade Miley from the Red Sox. In trading for those players, the Mariners gave up the likes of SP Roenis Elias, SS Brad Miller, 1B Logan Morrison and RP Tom Wilhelmsen. The team also signed C Chris Iannetta and RP Steve Cishek in free agency. Even with those moves, it’s going to be a tough climb for the Mariners to get into contention in the AL West.
The Mariners’ offense was a mixed bag in 2015; their .249 batting average was the third lowest in the American League, but they hit the fifth-most home runs in the league, with 198. OF Nelson Cruz was responsible for many of those home runs, hitting 44 of them to go along with 93 RBI and a .302 batting average, leading the team in all three categories. 2B Robinson Cano hit .287 with 21 home runs, while 3B Kyle Seager hit at a .266 clip with 26 home runs. The pitching staff posted the fourth-worst ERA in the AL at 4.16. Even usually dependable SP Felix Hernandez had a disappointing year — by his standards — with a 3.53 ERA and 191 strikeouts in 201.2 innings. SP Hisashi Iwakuma posted a 3.54 ERA in an injury-shortened season in which he started 20 games. SP Taijuan Walker had a disappointing year in his first full season in the majors, posting a 4.56 ERA with 157 strikeouts in 169.2 innings. With the Marlins and Cardinals last season, Cishek posted a 3.58 ERA, going 4-for-9 in save opportunities over 55.1 innings.
Cruz is likely going to provide he bulk of the offense again this season, although the addition of Lind gives the Mariners another potential 20-homer guy in the lineup. SS Ketel Marte showed promising signs in 57 games last season, so he could help out the offense if he can get to the next level as he starts the season in the majors. Hernandez needs to be closer to his 2.14 ERA from 2014 than his 3.53 ERA from last season to anchor the rotation as the team expects him to do. Walker and Miley improving from their performances last season is also essential for the Mariners to have much success in 2016. Cishek, likewise, needs to have get better than he did last season if he is going to keep the closer’s role. If he can’t, then veteran RP Joaquin Benoit will likely get a chance to take over the role as the season progresses.
The keys for the Mariners to improve upon their 76-86 record are much better pitching out of the rotation and a higher batting average from the offense. If those things happen, the Mariners will likely stay out of the cellar, but it still won’t be enough to pass the Angels, Astros or Rangers in the standings. The Mariners are looking like a fourth-place team again in 2016.