Status: Starting a rebuild
The Mariners won 89 games last season and were still eight games back of the second wildcard spot. In an American League struggling with inequality, Seattle opted to tear the roster down.
Well, where do we start? Jerry Dipoto has been the most active executive in baseball this offseason and it’s not all that close.
Jean Segura swapped American League West for National League East along with Juan Nicasio and James Pazos. Dipoto received J.P. Crawford and Carlos Santana in return, who was subsequently sent to Cleveland in a three-team trade, which saw Edwin Encarnacion become a Mariner.
Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz joined the Mets. Seattle took on Anthony Swarzak and Jay Bruce’s overpaid contracts but boosted their farm with the arrivals of Jarred Kelenic, Justin Dunn and Gerson Bautista. Bautista and Dunn could contribute this season.
James Paxton was sent to the Yankees with Justus Sheffield going the other way. Sheffield will slot straight into Seattle’s rotation. Erik Swanson and Dom Thompson-Williams also joined the Mariners in the deal.
Reliever Alex Colome departed with Seattle landing Omar Narvaez in return, who will fill Mike Zunino’s void. Zunino was traded to the Rays along with Guillermo Heredia and Michael Plassmeyer. Seattle got Mallex Smith and Jake Fraley from Tampa Bay – Smith will start in centre field, providing good defence and allowing Dee Gordon to return to second.
Dipoto was busy on the free agent market too. The prized Yusei Kikuchi signed on a long-term deal, joining Sheffield, Mike Leake and Marco Gonzales in the rotation. Zac Rosscup, Cory Gearrin and Hunter Strickland were all free agent additions – the bullpen should be solid despite Diaz’s departure. Tim Beckham will provide infield depth.
What to watch
Kyle Seager was terrible last season, but projections tend to like his chances of a bounceback in 2019. He needs a leap from his 84 wRC+ to have any value to Seattle, considering the money left on his contract. That’s not a massive issue, though, as Dipoto is not looking to rip this roster to its barebones. Seager could be a member of the next good Mariners team, but his performances this year will tell us if 2018 was the beginning of decline or a blip.
Of all of Dipoto’s trades, the highlight arrival was Sheffield, who went straight in as Seattle’s top prospect. He could be a two or three starter, though control has been a concern. We need to see a year of Sheffield in the Majors before we can properly evaluate the Paxton deal.
Mitch Haniger looked an obvious trade candidate when Dipoto started moving players. Instead, the 28-year-old infield remains in Seattle after a 6.1 bWAR breakout last season. He’s unlikely to get traded, but 2019 is the year we find out how good Haniger really is.
A lot depends on what Dipoto does during the season. The roster could look very different by August – he could have traded all of his projected 25-man by the time you finish reading this.
Seattle are going to be a lot worse than last year, but they probably aren’t in that group of really terrible American League teams. There’s enough upside on the roster for the Mariners to be a .500 team, though they will probably fall somewhere between that and PECOTA’s 72-win projection.