It’s another season, and more steps in the slow rebuilding process for the Seattle Mariners. They seem to be perpetually in rebuild mode, but they appear to be assembling the components to turn around a reputation for losing baseball.
The Action: Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik made a big move in January by trading pitching phenom Michael Pineda and prospect Jose Campos to the Yankees for slugging catcher Jesus Montero and righthander Hector Noesi. They also traded pitcher Josh Lueke to the Rays for catcher John Jaso; the club also inked righthander Aaron Heilman and lefthanded reliever George Sherrill. Carlos Guillen signed with the team he started with in 1998, but announced on Tuesday that he is retiring.
It’s A Lock: Montero’s bat is the most significant offensive component the Mariners have, although it’s possible he won’t be working as a catcher for very long; first base and DH are more likely destinations for him. Felix Hernandez is still the king of the mound at Safeco Field, and Brandon League will continue as the club’s closer.
Dustin Ackley has second base locked up, and will likely bat near or at the top of the order. Right fielder Ichiro Suzuki will drop to third, at least initially, in an attempt to shake up a lineup that has been among the league’s worst at scoring runs during the past three years.
Chone Figgins will take over from Ichiro in the leadoff spot, and is seeing time in the outfield and at shortstop. Third base will probably be his, but Guillen’s retirement means rookie Kyle Seager and Figgins could share time at that position.
Hedge Your Bets: There aren’t many sure things for manager Eric Wedge to work with. Besides King Felix and Jason Vargas, there are many maybes on the pitching staff. They include lefthanders Blake Beavan, Charlie Furbush, Danny Hultzen and James Paxton. From the right side are Japanese starter Hisashi Iwakuma, 19-year-old Taijuan Walker, Erasmo Ramirez and Noesi, who could win a spot on the staff with his four pitches and good control. Then there’s also Kevin Millwood and Oliver Perez, who have major-league experience.
CF Franklin Gutierrez will be sidelined a minimum of 4 to 6 weeks with a torn pectoral muscle; Canadian Michael Saunders, who has had some issues adjusting to the major leagues, will get another chance to prove himself in the outfield while Gutierrez recuperates. The club is also still waiting for switch-hitter Justin Smoak to fulfill his considerable promise at first base. Carlos Peguero has shown early power in spring training, but it’s uncertain if, and where, he will get regular playing time.
The Payoff: The M’s aren’t going anywhere this season, and the MLB futures betting reflects that. However, there are many decent pieces here; it will be up to those individuals to prove their worth.