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 2017 season is the Seattle Mariners, who finished in second place in the division last season
The Mariners had a bit of a surprising season in 2016, winning 10 more games than in 2015 to finish in second place in the division, but that still wasn’t enough to make the playoffs. They were looking to change the lack of a playoff run this winter by making several trades, some more impactful than others. Among the big moves the Mariners made were trading SS Ketel Marte and SP Taijuan Walker to the Diamondbacks for a package that included SS Jean Segura and OF Mitch Haniger. They also acquired SP Yovani Gallardo from the Orioles in exchange for OF Seth Smith and traded SP Nathan Karns to the Royals for OF Jarrod Dyson. And they acquired SP Drew Smyly from the Rays for some prospects, including OF Mallex Smith, and made a trade with the A’s for 1B Danny Valencia. Those newly acquired players will join the likes of 2B Robinson Cano and SP Felix Hernandez in Seattle.
The Mariners ranked 10th in Major League Baseball with a .259 average, but their 223 home runs were the third-most in the majors. Their .756 OPS was also in the top 10 in the league. Cano hit .298 with 39 home runs — tied for ninth in MLB — with a .882 OPS and a 7.3 WAR, which ranked sixth in the majors. DH Nelson Cruz hit the second-most home runs in the majors, with 43 to go along with a .287 average and .915 OPS, which was the sixth-highest in the American League; his WAR was 4.7. 3B Kyle Seager added another 30 home runs, a career high, with a .278 average and a 6.9 WAR. With the A’s, Valencia hit .287 with 17 home runs, and Dyson hit .278 and stole 30 bases with Kansas City.
The pitching staff finished in the top 10 with a 4.00 ERA and just missed the top 10 with 1,318 strikeouts. The bullpen recorded 49 saves, sixth-most in the majors. None of the starting pitchers was particularly good last season. Hernandez posted a 3.82 ERA with 122 strikeouts in 153.1 innings. SP James Paxton finished with a slightly better 3.79 ERA with 117 strikeouts in 121 innings, and SP Hisashi Iwakuma was the only starter to surpass 30 starts, making 33 starts with a 4.12 ERA and 147 strikeouts in 199 innings. With the Rays, Smyly put up a 4.88 ERA with 167 strikeouts in 175.1 innings, and Gallardo posted a 5.42 ERA with 85 strikeouts in 118 innings with Baltimore. RP Steve Cishek led the team with 25 saves, but RP Edwin Diaz took over as closer in the second half of the season and recorded 18 saves with a 2.79 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 51.2 innings in his rookie season.
The Mariners shouldn’t have a hard time hitting the ball out of the park with Cano and Cruz in the lineup, but they need better pitching if they want to take the next step and pass the Rangers in the AL West. Hernandez is trending in the wrong direction, with two straight years of regression in his numbers. He needs to turn it around and get closer to the numbers he was putting up in the prime of his career to return to being the true ace of the team that the Mariners currently lack. Smyly also had a disappointing year in Tampa, and if he doesn’t improve upon his numbers from 2016 that trade doesn’t look like it’ll work out the way the Mariners want it to. Paxton could be poised to have a breakout season if he can stay healthy, which he has struggled to do in his career so far. In the bullpen, Diaz will be the closer to start the season as Cishek is starting the season on the DL as he recovers from hip surgery.
I think the Mariners are going to take a step back this year, and with some of the moves the Astros made this offseason to improve their team I think the Mariners will return to being the third best team in the division after finishing in second place last year. After winning 86 games last year, I think the Mariners will be closer to a .500 team this season.