The Mariners Won the Offseason, Will It Translate On The Field? [2010 Seattle Mariners Preview]
Key Additions: Cliff Lee, Chone Figgins, Milton Bradley, Brandon League, Casey Kotchman, Ryan Garko, Eric Byrnes
Key Subtractions: Adrian Beltre, Russ Branyan, Kenji Johjima, Brandon Morrow, Carlos Silva
RF Ichiro Suzuki
3B Chone Figgins
CF Franklin Gutierrez
2B Jose Lopez
LF Milton Bradley
DH Ken Griffey, Jr.
1B Casey Kotchman
C Rob Johnson
SS Jack Wilson
RHP Felix Hernandez
LHP Cliff Lee
LHP Ryan Rowland-Smith
RHP Ian Snell
RHP Doug Fister
(LHP Erik Bedard should factor once/if healthy)
Closer: RHP David Aardsma
Defense, defense, defense. The Mariners road back to respectability was paved with a plan to improve the team’s defense, and it paid off in spades. The focal point of this improvement is center fielder Franklin Gutierrez, who was acquired for basically nothing from Cleveland. Depending on which advanced stat you use, Gutierrez saved somewhere between 25 and 31 runs last season, a staggering amount. The scouting reports agree with the numbers: Gutierrez is the best defensive outfield in the game today. The defensive acquisitions continued with Jack Wilson at last year’s deadline, and yet again with the offseason signing of Chone Figgins. Those three, plus Ichiro doing his usual work and above average gloves almost everywhere else, will equal another top notch defense in Seattle.
Felix Hernandez had the best season of his career in 2009, and would’ve been the Cy Young winner if it weren’t for Zack Greinke’s brilliance. This offseason, of course, the M’s acquired Cliff Lee to form the best 1-2 starting punch in baseball. Lee will likely test free agency after this year, so he’s likely a rental, but you can’t get a much better rental than that. It already paid dividends when King Felix signed a long-term extension. The team also resigned Erik Bedard to a cheap deal, giving them a low risk opportunity to see if Bedard can recover from a torn labrum to become something like what he once was.
The defense, pitching, and ballpark all contribute to the M’s being great at run prevention. The problem is the M’s haven’t figured out the run scoring part of the equation yet. Seattle ranked 14th in the AL in runs scored, and while there are some improvements, it’s still a weak spot. The big improvement will be Figgins, who will pair with Ichiro in providing baserunners at the top of the order. After that, it gets dicey. Gutierrez and Lopez are the designated run producer, but Gutierrez doesn’t have that kind of power (but is a fine hitter otherwise), while Lopez has the power but a career .303 OBP.
After that is a glut of flawed options at top offensive positions 1B/DH/LF. Milton Bradley is the best option, but he’s never been able to hit for power, stay healthy, and behave himself all at the same time. Everyone loves Ken Griffey Jr., but another .214/.324/.411 season won’t cut it. Kotchman is an attempt to patch something together at first, but he’s probably not any better than the departed Russ Branyan. Prospect Michael Saunders will probably get a shot at some point, and could be a better option than any of these guys.
Hernandez and Lee can be dominant in a short playoff series, but you need the other starters to get to the playoffs, and the back half of the rotation is a question mark. Ryan Rowland-Smith has talent, but hasn’t put it together yet. Ian Snell’s believed breakthrough season in Pittsburgh is now 3 years old, and it’s been all downhill since. The rest of the options are less than desirable, and of course, no one knows what Bedard will be capable of giving.
In just two years, the Mariners have recovered from a disaster to what most believe will be a contending team. Offense is still an issue, but with their combination of pitching and defense, good luck scoring on them. With the Angels having lost some key parts (including Figgins), the Rangers pitching still being a bit of a question mark, and the A’s looking a few years away, this is the year Seattle gets back to the playoffs, finishing with an 88-74 record to win the AL West.
What are you thoughts on the 2010 Seattle Mariners?