Seattle started the 2019 season with a 13-2 record. They still managed to finish at 68-94, rooted to the bottom of the American League West, extending their playoff drought to 18 seasons. That will become 19 in 2020 (PECOTA projects 95 losses).
Yoshihisa Hirano joins an okay bullpen, Patrick Wisdom provides infield depth and Kendall Graveman adds to a not-great-not-woeful rotation. Wade LeBlanc, Felix Hernandez, Ryon Healy and Arodys Vizcaino have all departed.
Trying out offence
J.P. Crawford showed signs of offensive promise last season, though his end-of-year numbers were still poor. He’ll get plenty of reps in 2020. Jake Fraley and Kyle Lewis will get time in the outfield – there are spots up for grabs as the Mariners try players out who could help their next good team.
Shed Long‘s projections aren’t pretty, but he will get opportunities at second. Seattle have avoided cluttering their team with veterans unlike some other rebuilders. They aren’t blessed with the greatest collection of young talent, but 2020 can be a year to learn about what they’ve got. Maybe Fraley, Lewis or Long breakout and stick in the team long-term.
Seager and Haniger, if healthy, pull this Mariners offence to a higher level than many others around MLB. Seager bounced back last year – some rebuilding teams don’t have any hitters projected to be as good as this duo.
Marco Gonzales is the personification of a solid starter. He was a smidgen above league average last year, and gave the Mariners plenty of innings. That’s exactly what rebuilding teams need. Gonzales might have a bit of trade value if he can replicate his 3.99 ERA from 2019. With plenty of club control, though, I’d expect the Mariners to keep hold of him through this year at the very least.
Justus Sheffield, despite a disappointing MLB career to date, still has nice upside. Yusei Kikuchi was a real let down last year, posting a FIP of 5.71. There’s hope that can be considered a down-year, but how he starts this campaign could be a good indicator for his fate in the Majors. Graveman is coming off injury and is an unknown quantity.
Seattle’s games aren’t going to last forever like the Orioles. They have the arms to get 27 outs.
The relief corps isn’t littered with big names, but their depth in triple-A gives them flexibility to move their pitchers around. A strong year from any of their MLB bullpen will likely result in a trade – they’ve got the hurlers in the minors to make up for any deal. Austin Adams, who has several years of control, could attract interest with his enormous strikeout numbers.
The Mariners have started their rebuild solidly. Their farm will be boosted with the sixth overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft. Jarred Kelenic leads a system that was ranked the fourth-best in baseball by Bleacher Report at the end of 2019.
A Haniger trade remains improbable. Finding a trade partner for Seager would require a lot of his salary to be covered and the prospect return is unlikely to be spectacular. The trading for prospects phase has largely been done. Seattle are entering the period for patience, waiting for players to develop and giving time to young talent.
A last-placed finish is nothing to be worried about, and there’s a chance they could finish fourth if the Texas Rangers struggle.