The Mariners finished last season just one game short of a play-in against the Oakland A’s to make the playoffs. They were in the running for a playoff spot despite still being in third place in the AL West. Their primary goal going into this season is now to actually make the playoffs. They proved last year it was possible for them to compete and are now trying to bolster the lineup in the offseason.
While I haven’t been in support of what they have done so far this offseason, Nelson Cruz will make this team better and if they find a platoon partner for Justin Ruggiano I believe the lineup will be better than last season. Cruz needs to be on his game this season. An off year or injury plagued season this year could end up having his whole contract blow up in our faces.
There is more to look at in this situation. The competition within division should be something that benefits the Mariners. The A’s have lost several key players that made them such a threat. Players like Jeff Samardzija, Josh Donaldson, and Jon Lester are no longer with the team. The Mariners won the season series against the A’s going 10-9. The A’s are always competitive but at first glance I think they are a weaker team without these players.
The Astros are building a team that will be successful for a long time. They are still a few years away though. For the time being the Mariners should be able to handle them, although being a team with a lot of potential they could cause problems for a lot of teams they play. Same goes for the Rangers. Even though they were riddled with injuries last season I believe the Mariners are still better than a healthy Rangers team. But the Mariners did struggle against them last year.
This leaves the main competition for the Mariners within division, the Angels. The Angels will be good again. The Mariners played the Angels very well last season going 12-7 against the division champs. If they are able to be a thorn in their side again this year they could make a push for tops in the division.
The AL West will be a tough division to play in again this season. I believe it was arguably the best division last year. But a slightly weaker division with a slightly stronger Mariners could result in more wins and hopefully a playoff berth. While I believe they have improved the team for this year enough for that to happen, enough is never enough. Another move or two could solidify that prediction.