For all intents and purposes it’s time to stop analyzing the 2012 Seattle Mariners team and start looking ahead to 2013. What does GM Jack Zduriencik have up his sleeve this off season?
The Mariners have spent some time hovering near the .500 mark this season and had youngsters get considerable playing time in 2012. But what Mariners fans really want to know, is if 2013 can be a turning point in the decade long rebuilding the M’s fans have endured?
This season was supposed to provide more answers than question marks for the Seattle Mariners. However, the 2012 roster has left fans with too many “if’s” going forward.
Two main questions revolve around players who figured to be cornerstones for the franchise, second baseman Dustin Ackley and first baseman Justin Smoak.
The latter is facing a bust label if he’s unable to rebound in 2013. Many fans already consider Smoak, the center piece of the Cliff Lee trade to be a bust. Smoak, got off to a solid start in 2011, before falling off in the second half of ’11 due to injuries and the death of his father.
Ackley on the other hand, has played well defensively this year, but he was drafted for his bat, which has seen a decline over his 2011 numbers. They both need to turn things around, especially with Brendan Ryan penciled in as a short term solution at shortstop until management determines that Nick Franklin is ready for the big club. The M’s can’t afford another year with one-third of their lineup hovering around the Mendoza line.
The outfield is faced with question marks as well.
Michael Saunders, Mike Carp, Casper Wells, Eric Thames, Trayvon Robinson, Carlos Peguero and others, have gotten prolonged looks with the Mariners this season. Franklin Gutierrez is a liability due to injuries and many fans wonder if he can be counted on.
None have truly impressed, although Saunders has improved over last year when he nearly played himself out of the organization. This outfield is still young and to be better in 2013 a couple players out of the fore-mentioned group needs to breakout.
Who will catch?
With Jesus Montero, John Jaso and Miguel Olivo currently behind the dish, questions revolve around who will be the Mariners backstop in 2013. Montero figures to continue to be plugged in at DH and first, while barring a trade/free agent signing or a breakout spring by first round pick Mike Zunino, Jaso figures to get the bulk of the time next year at catcher. The Seattle press and other Mariners bloggers have questioned whether or not Jaso has the durability to catch 150 plus games per year.
Filling out the rotation behind King Felix
Behind ace Felix Hernandez there remains to be some question marks. Jason Vargas has looked like a solid number two starter this season. Vargas, whose name was thrown around in a lot of trade rumors before the July 31 deadline, may be used in a trade package to further improve the team.
Although not disastrous, Blake Beaven’s season leaves some more to desire and will need to improve. The quickest and easiest way to shore up the rotation would be re-signing Hisashi Iwakuma.
Oliver Perez has been pretty good out of the ‘pen for Seattle this season and may warrant a look in spring training if he is still on the roster.
Many fans will be hoping for at least one of the “Big Three”–Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker–to make the major league roster.
My take is to leave the arms on the farm for some seasoning.
Where to improve an already solid bullpen?
This is one of the Mariners strengths. The M’s have some good young, power arms in the bullpen. Tom Wilhelmsen has been solid as the closer, converting 27 of 31 opportunities, to go along with a 2.32 ERA, limiting hitters to a .196 average, 1.09 WHIP and 79 K’s in 73.2 IP.
I always want to see something done to improve. But if the bullpen arms look the same in 2013 as they do now, I’ll be happy.