2018 Mariners Are Fun, But Not Contenders…Yet
The Seattle Mariners are off to an excellent start. Their 9-5 record is their best start since 2009. They are one of a handful of teams who have yet to lose a series. Despite this, Mariners fans should temper their expectations.
Let’s this straight right off the bat. This Mariners team is fun. There is no denying it. They can beat you with power. They can beat you with speed. The outfield features 3 centerfielders (except when Ichiro starts), and the pitching staff has been better than most thought.
However, fun does not always equal good, or in this case, good enough. Mariners fans should be excited about this start. There is no chance I would try to convince you otherwise. But as much as we want to ignore the warts on this team, they are still here.
The starting staff is still riddled with questions. Felix Hernandez has been encouraging, but 3 starts in 2018 should not erase the memory of 2016 and 2017. Forgive me for being a pessimist, but I’ll need to see a few more good starts from Hernandez before I fully buy in.
James Paxton still hasn’t made it through a full season healthy, and until he does, we should assume he won’t in 2018. Marco Gonzales has been disappointing thus far after a terrific Spring Training. We have yet to see a start from Erasmo Ramirez.
In addition to the rotation, the Mariners bullpen has been a little concerning, particularly the left-handed options. Juan Nicasio has been underwhelming, and eventually, Edwin Diaz will blow a save or two. And of course, the Mariners depth is nothing to get excited about.
I mention all of these factors not to be a downer, but rather to point out what shouldn’t be ignored: the Mariners still need help. Fortunately, GM Jerry Dipoto has never been too shy about attacking the trade market.
For the Mariners to truly contend, they still need to find a middle of the rotation starter, a back-end bullpen arm, and some depth to help protect from injuries. Notice I say find and not trade. Why make this distinction?
The Mariners might have these players in their organization, particularly when it comes to the bullpen. They certainly have a bevy of talented bullpen arms in their farm system. Guys like Art Warren, Wyatt Mills, Mathew Festa and Darin Gillies could all see time in the big leagues in 2018.
Finding the starter will be the most difficult item to add. It is too early to look at specific trade targets. Very few teams will be willing to sell this early in the season, and the Mariners are certainly not ready to buy anything of consequence on April 17th.
If the Mariners can find 1 #4 type of starter out of the Ariel Miranda, Andrew Moore, Max Povse, Rob Whalen, and Erasmo Ramirez group, it could benefit them greatly.
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Until we know the answers to these questions, Mariners fans should remain realistic about the ceiling of this team. However, this does not mean they should not sit back and embrace this team for what it is. After all, being entertaining is half the battle. The other half is winning. Not just sometimes, but on a regular basis.