The Seattle Mariners have started the season surprisingly well. At the time of writing they have a 12-2 record and have just tied the record for longest homerun streak to start a season. After moving a lot of key pieces in the offseason, the general expectation was that the Mariners were entering a long rebuild. However, this blistering start suggests that they may compete this year.
The Mariners lost five of their top six players by 2018 bWAR, over the offseason. Mitch Haniger is the only remaining player from that group. Other than Haniger, the Mariners lost the entire heart of their lineup with Jean Segura and Robinson Cano leaving via trade and Nelson Cruz becoming a free agent. Perhaps more significant though was Edwin Diaz and James Paxton being traded. Edwin Diaz was the best reliever in baseball last year and is almost irreplacable while James Paxton was the team’s best starting pitcher over the last couple of years.
So can the Mariners really compete this year despite the overhaul of the roster?
The offensive numbers so far are obviously not sustainable, they will not have a team OPS of .930 over a whole season and Tim Beckham will not slug .800. However, it should not be that surprising if their offense remains one of the best in the American League.
Most of the Mariners’ key of season acquisitions were power hitters that were coming off relatively poor seasons. Edwin Encarnacion and Jay Bruce both had injury disrupted seasons in 2018 and were pretty much discarded in trades by their previous teams. Both players have been consistent power hitters this decade so a bounce back season for either player would give the Mariners a big weapon in the middle of the lineup.
The Mariners also acquired Domingo Santana for very little, in a trade with the Brewers. Santana was a breakout star in 2017 but spent most of 2018 as a bench player. His strong start to this season suggests that he could be that good again and will form a scary middle of the lineup along with Haniger, Bruce and Encarnacion.
To go with the potential power in the lineup, Mallex Smith and Dee Gordon could easily combine for 70 stolen bases. Both will also get on base often, if Smith can follow up on his breakout season and Gordon can bounce back.
Beyond this some less experienced players will get more at bats than last year. If one of these players break out the Mariners would have a very deep lineup. Dan Vogelbach is the top candidate for this after hitting five homeruns in 26 at bats to start the season.
With a combination of bounce backs from veterans and breakouts from unproven talent, the best case scenario for the Mariners is one of the deepest lineups in the American League. They will likely end up somewhere in between this and the preseason expectations but as each match passes the best case is looking more likely.