Winning Windows: Seattle MarinersBy Radar Rob | Updated on November 26th, 2020
The Mariners were able to come close to reaching the playoffs with their core of Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Felix Hernandez, James Paxton, Kyle Seager and more. However, the rising cost of their players and the inability to break through and beat out the Astros and Athletics within the AL West has forced a rebuild. This Dipoto rebuild has produced many highly touted prospects set to make their debuts within the next couple of years. In this 2020-2021 offseason, the Mariners have been the subject of some pretty high profile trade candidates and free agents. If the continued development of their younger players maintain their rates of growth and performance, then the Mariners should sit tight, hold the line, and allow their young core to fully develop and become the next Seattle super team. 2023 seems like the year where the Mariners become serious World Series contenders. They will have tons of payroll space as well, with Kyle Seager reaching free agency, and the likely denial of Yusei Kikuchi's club option after the 2021 season. They will be in on all the major, big-money free agents in the 2022 and 2023 offseasons.
Winning Window: 2023 onward, until their young core gets too expensive
Last World Series Appearance: Never
Next World Series Appearance Prediction: 2024
Catcher: Tom Murphy has three years left of control ('21-'23), but with the catching market in the MLB resembling a game of musical chairs, an offensively-minded catcher like Murphy is a heavily desired commodity, and the M's should cash in if Murphy is able to repeat his solid 2019 season. Cal Raleigh, who hit 29 home runs in the mid-upper levels minors in 2019, will be the guy the M's turn to. It looks like he had a solid instructional league showing in 2020. I have Torrens as Raleigh's backup catcher, but I wouldn't be totally surprised if the roles were reversed as Torrens has had some interesting minor league seasons in the offensive category as well.
First Base: Evan White is going to be manning this position for the Mariners for quite a while. Although he struggled mightily with the bat in 2020, he already won his first (of many) Gold Glove Award. He has the pedigree, and track record that leads me to be believe that the bat will emerge. Perhaps he is not a middle-of-the-order hitter at the end of the day, like what we are used to seeing with first basemen, but with the other potent bats in this lineup, White can be a solid contributor in the bottom third of this lineup.
Second Base: Dylan Moore broke out as one of the top three hitters for the Mariners in 2020. I was a really surprised when the Mariners signed him to a MLB deal for the 2019 season without having played in the big leagues yet, but I now see what I'm assuming the front office saw in Moore at that time. He fits best at second base, especially with the M's stacked outfield, and my lack of confidence in Shed Long's long-term outlook. Jose Caballero is a name that isn't talked about that could become a factor at this position come 2023 and could potentially move Moore to a super-utility type of player off the bench.
Third Base: I really like Ty France. He sticks out a bit in this lineup being a former 34th round pick, but the dude can hit. Frankly, I was disappointed to see him get traded from San Diego, since he attended San Diego State, and was a good DH candidate, or at least a right-handed compliment for Eric Hosmer. On the contrary, the Mariners desire for France re-affirms his ability to hit, as he did throughout the 2020 campaign, posting a 132 wRC+ between the Padres and the M's. By 2023, Austin Shenton can work his way into the mix at this position if he continues to hit in the upper levels of the minors, but two-years away right now, I'm going with France.
Shortstop: J.P. Crawford has four years of control left ('21-'24) and to be honest, while I love Crawford's glove and athleticism, I have serious doubts that the bat will be productive and consistent enough on a team that's legitimate playoff contender. This assumption is compounded by the 2021-2022 offseason mega-class of possibly available shortstops, including Francisco Lindor, Trevor Story, Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, and Javier Baez. The Mariners WILL have tons of money to spend and this seems like the best position to do that. Above, I have the M's signing Story to a five year deal in that offseason. I think it's unlikely that Noelvi Marte will be ready come 2023, but if blocked by a big shortstop signing, Marte could move over to second or third if he either grows out of shortstop or needs to be in the lineup more than Moore or France.
Left Field: Although Kyle Lewis played a fine center field in 2020, and has said in a documentary on the awesome Seattle Mariners' YouTube channel, that he feels more comfortable in center than in left, I believe Lewis will be the one to hold down left field. I guess it depends on how good of a center field Kelenic can play, and how Lewis' knee is holding up after a prolonged knee issues in the minors. Regardless Lewis' bat should play despite tailing off a great deal towards the end of his 2020 ROY season. If he works on consistency, and keeps the knee healthy, I see no reason why the Mariners would need to replace him.
Center Field: Jarred Kelenic is cocky, loud, and a competitive player who is going to be an absolute beast. The swing is soooo sweet. He's already highly regarded in the draft rankings of dynasty fantasy baseball leagues, so it's not like he is some kind of hidden secret. I think he will make his debut in the middle of the 2021 season. It's possible that Kelenic skips Triple-A entirely like Evan White, but I'm generally not a fan of those moves; I think it stunts development, and doesn't do the M's any favors in terms of service time manipulation.
Right Field: Julio Rodriguez will be the best player on this team when it's all said and done. On a qualitative level, he has the great face, name, and personality that screams 'superstar' to me. He logged incredible exit velo's during the instructional league. The Mariners' front office should already be having internal discussions about the long-term deal they should sign Rodriguez to, similar to an Acuna-type deal ideally. Mitch Haniger currently holds down right field, but I think if Haniger can return to form, the M's should cash in and strengthen other holes on the team.
Designated Hitter: There is nobody currently in the Mariners system that's an obvious DH candidate. The position could be used on a rotational basis to get guys off their feet, but this an incredibly young and athletic team, so I believe the Mariners should look outside the organization. Ideally a power lefty bat would fit here well considering the team looks be mostly right-handed. Joey Gallo could be a fit if the average doesn't drop off a cliff, and strikeout percentage remains tolerable. This could be a great spot for an older veteran leader like Michael Brantley or even Jose Abreu. I also like Eric Filia's career BB-K rate, but he lacks the power to make the impact a DH typically makes.
Bench: As the fourth outfielder, I have Taylor Trammell, but he has struggled recently, and could yield this spot to any of Jake Fraley, Braden Bishop, or Dom Thompson-WIlliams. On the contrary if Trammell breaks out and regains his elite outlook, he could be used as trade bait. As the utility infielder, I have Shed Long, who could be a left-handed compliment for both France and Moore. Sam Haggerty and Tim Lopes may also be around to fill that slot. Then as a super-utility type, I have Donnie (now Donovan) Walton who has been consistently good in the minors. Lastly, as previously mentioned, Luis Torrens will be backing up Raleigh. The M's could also sign a better defensive catcher in this spot since Torrens posted a negative bWAR for defense in 2020.
Starting Rotation: First off, I am well aware that with this group of arms: Logan Gilbert, Emerson Hancock, and George Kirby could definitely surpass Marco Gonzales and Justus Sheffield as the real top-of-the-rotation options. What we have here a very inexpensive, talented group of former first-rounders that runs deep one through five. Now, Hancock reaching the rotation to start the 2023 is optimistic, and of course, this is assuming he dominates in the minors. If he doesn't pan out or isn't ready in time the M's could look to a one-year deal with a free agent pitcher (maybe Trevor Bauer if he does the one-year deal thing?) or they can turn towards their depth in Margevicius. It's also possible the potential returns from the Tom Murphy and Mitch Haniger trades will produce a pitcher ahead of Hancock in development, and can contribute at a high level sooner.
Bullpen: Predicting a bullpen with no player contracts that extend into the 2023 season is a total crapshoot. I think Justin Dunn will ultimately end up as a reliever, just as I did when he was still a Mets prospect knowing that he was a closer for Boston College. Hopefully, Andres Munoz has a successful return from Tommy John surgery and get back to throwing 102 mph fastballs. I really like the profiles of Joey Gerber, Sam Delaplane, and Matt Festa; I think they all stick around in the bullpen, Delaplane especially can fulfill a setup-type role. As for Aaron Fletcher, Anthony Misiewicz, and Nick Margevicius, I am truthfully unsure where they end up in regards to not only the bullpen, but the organization as a whole. There's so many intriguing minor league arms to pick from. It's also more than likely that the Mariners will sign some high-profile reliever(s) to handle the closing and set-up duties.
I also considered Yohan Ramirez, the 2020 rule-5 draft pick that had a solid ERA, but a really high walk rate at 8.7. I like Washington-native Ian Hamilton, who the club picked up, but hurt his shoulder in a car accident, so I want to see Hamilton return to form before I bet on him. I'm a fan of the numbers and makeup that Wyatt Mills and Jack Anderson bring to the table, they each have put up decent numbers in their minor league careers. Then failed starters Ljay Newsome and Erik Swanson could become effective relievers and names to consider in the future.