Projecting the Mariners 2018 Opening Day Roster

PEORIA, AZ - FEBRUARY 21: Robinson Cano
PEORIA, AZ - FEBRUARY 21: Robinson Cano /

The season is quickly approaching and the Mariners roster is starting to piece itself together. Who will be the 25 baseball men to do baseball things for the Mariners later this month?

Certainty is not a word often used to describe Jerry Dipoto’s rosters. Going into the 2018 season, however, the Mariners don’t have many question marks. The roster will be uniquely constructed, but many players have already secured their spot.

Jerry Dipoto joined the ROOT Sports broadcast during last night’s 7-3 loss to the Oakland Athletics. In his interview, Dipoto provided a few clues for how the team’s initial 25-man roster will shake out.

With a generous amount of off-days in April, Dipoto says the team will not require a fifth starting pitcher until April 14th. Consequently, Dipoto confirmed that the Mariners will break camp with only four starters. Barring injury, those starters will be James Paxton, Felix Hernandez, Mike Leake, and Marco Gonzales.

Dipoto further added that, much like last season, the Mariners will carry eight relief pitchers. Despite getting a late start to their Springs, Nick Vincent and David Phelps should be among the eight. James Pazos and Marc Rzepczynski will likely reprise their roles as lefty specialists. The bullpen will also include veteran newcomer Juan Nicasio, who will set up closer Edwin Diaz.

That leaves two more open spots, perhaps for the long-relief and/or situational types. While Chasen Bradford and Dan Altavilla appear to be the clear front-runners, let’s take a look at some other options:

Ariel Miranda

An idea that has floated around since last Spring is bringing on Ariel Miranda as a reliever. Miranda could later serve as the fifth starter the M’s will require, but also provide long-relief early on to keep fresh arms deep in the bullpen.

Nick Rumbelow

Rumbelow seemingly had a roster spot on lock with how highly Jerry Dipoto spoke of him, but injuries have plagued him early on in Spring Training. If the severity of his injury is minor and he can recover soon, Rumbelow could re-enter the conversation.

Sam Moll

Moll has flown well under the radar but is having a really nice Cactus League campaign. In four scoreless appearances thus far, Moll looks sharp mechanically and could very well be a dark horse contender for a bullpen spot.

In the end, though, Altavilla and Bradford seem like the best options for this bullpen moving forward. Altavilla seems to be a man on a mission after a disappointing 2017, and Bradford is a proven commodity with the ability to get outs. Because of the infamous Mariners misfortune with injuries, however, alternate options had to be mentioned in preparation for worst case scenario.

Breaking with a total of twelve pitchers also confirms there will be four position players on the bench. Dipoto hinted last night that the “extra” man could be a left-handed hitting first baseman. Is that… no… that’s Daniel Vogelbach’s music!

Our staff has made the case for both Vogelbach as well as Rule 5 draft pick Mike Ford to make the 25-man roster. At that time, it appeared newly-acquired Ryon Healy would miss Opening Day with a hand injury. Now, Healy is reportedly on track to take the field March 29th.

That said, Vogelbach has really separated himself from the pack and, with the extra spot open, would be a welcome addition to the initial roster. So far, Vogelbach is 7-for-15 with four extra-base hits including two doubles last night.

Mike Ford, on the other hand, has struggled both offensively and defensively. With Ford likely not in the Mariners’ immediate future plans, he will revert back to the Yankees but could be reacquired in a trade and sent to Tacoma.

The thing that has hung Vogelbach up from being a consistent member of a Major League clubhouse is his defense. If that is still a major concern of the Mariners’ personnel, they may look elsewhere for their extra position player. Here are a couple realistic options:

Taylor Motter

Currently in a battle for the utility role with Andrew Romine, Motter has performed adequately this Spring. However, Romine has been very impressive with his versatility and plate presence, thus seemingly pushing Motter out the door. The other half of the “Flow Bros.” with Ben Gamel could find himself benefiting from Gamel’s oblique injury and serve as an outfield utility man, while Romine would take on infield utility duties.

Gordon Beckham

The veteran infielder is having a fantastic Spring at the plate, and is faring well defensively to boot. Dipoto would probably want to stash Beckham in Tacoma, however, as he is not a part of the 40-man roster. Still, if Beckham continues to perform the way he has, the Mariners might just have to make room for him.

Ian Miller

Our recent interviewee has hit at every level in the Mariners’ farm system and looks poised to make his MLB debut at some point in 2018. Why not immediately? With Mitch Haniger and Guillermo Heredia ailing, and a 44-year-old Ichiro expected to play four-to-five times a week, the M’s need a young, reliable outfielder. Miller would provide fresh legs to give the team a dangerous threat on the base paths coming off the bench. Speed kills, and having more of it sure would be nice.

Personally, I prefer Miller. I’m impressed with Vogelbach, but the outfield isn’t in great shape at the moment. Vogelbach, however, seems like the more likely choice and that’s fine. He’s doing well and deserves a shot to show what he can do at the Major League level.

As for the rest of the bench players, we know Heredia and Romine are basically guaranteed spots. Mike Marjama seems to be the backup catcher with little-to-no competition for the role, but there is still time for David Freitas to potentially challenge.

With all that information, it’s time to make an educated guess as to how this roster will be built. For now, take this as a potential “part one” as things could change and require a significant overhaul.

Starting Pitchers (4): James Paxton, Felix Hernandez, Mike Leake, Marco Gonzales

Relief Pitchers (8): James Pazos, Marc Rzepczynski, Chasen Bradford, Dan Altavilla, David Phelps, Nick Vincent, Juan Nicasio, Edwin Diaz

Catchers (2): Mike Zunino, Mike Marjama

Infielders (6): Ryon Healy, Daniel Vogelbach, Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager, Jean Segura, Andrew Romine

Outfielders (5): Nelson Cruz, Dee Gordon, Mitch Haniger, Ichiro Suzuki, Guillermo Heredia

Next: Signing Ichiro Isn't The End OF the World

Is this a playoff-caliber roster? Probably not. Definitely not. Can it make the Mariners competitive at the trade deadline, though? Sure.