Seattle Mariners Musings for the Month of May

SEATTLE, WA - APRIL 30: Edwin Encarnacion #10 of the Seattle Mariners rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run off of relief pitcher Brandon Kintzler #20 of the Chicago Cubs during the seventh inning of a game at T-Mobile Park on April 30, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. The Cubs won 6-5. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - APRIL 30: Edwin Encarnacion #10 of the Seattle Mariners rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run off of relief pitcher Brandon Kintzler #20 of the Chicago Cubs during the seventh inning of a game at T-Mobile Park on April 30, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. The Cubs won 6-5. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images) /
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As the calendar turns to May the Mariners have found themselves in a bit of a slump. They are 18-15 overall, have gone 3-7 in their last 10, and are more often than not resembling the team everyone thought they would be during the offseason.

While the strong start was fun, the reality is starting to set in (even with that said though, if you would have told us in February that the Mariners would be 18-15 on May 2, we would have signed up for that in a second) for the team.

A month ago I wrote about my impressions from week one of the season so I thought it might be time to revisit some of those and discuss some looming decisions the Mariners will have to make in regards to some of those observations.

The first observation I made was that the Mariners lineup was deep and dangerous. This one still seems to hold true and help could be on the way. Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reported that Kyle Seager expects to be back when he’s eligible to come off the IL at the end of May. Seager’s return will give the Mariners another middle of the order type of bat if he can prove that last year was just a fluke. Where Seager will really help the team comes in the form of my second observation from a month ago.

The defense is shaky and has cost the team games. During this slump, the team, and its fans have suffered through some awesomely awful defense (how many fly balls can Major League outfielders drop?). While the defense was expected to be bad, this feels like an entirely different level. Too many routine plays are not being made.

The team has brought up Braden Bishop in order to allow Mallex Smith some time in Tacoma to find his swing and Bishop is known for his defensive prowess. Seager’s return at the end of the month will be a major upgrade defensively to Ryon Healy at third, but will that be enough to stop the Mariners from being one of the worst defensive teams in Major League History?

The key thing to remember is the Mariners don’t expect to win this year so they appear to be fine with sacrificing defense for development. The team could determine J.P. Crawford is ready and bring him up to play short while sliding Tim Beckham over to third until Seager returns, but if they felt Crawford was ready, wouldn’t they have done that already? They don’t want to rush Crawford. When they feel like he’s ready to come up, he’ll be here.

One of the last things I mentioned a month ago was that the bullpen was going to be an issue all year and that has remained true so far. Getting Anthony Swarzak back has helped a bit and Connor Sadzeck has been a nice addition, but this will still be a group that will take time figuring things out. Roles are still up in the air and will only continue to be as the bullpen figures to get some help in the near term with Sam Tuivailala getting set for a minor league rehab assignment.

The biggest obstacle facing the Mariners in May is the roster crunch they could find themselves in near the end of the month. Seager and crafty lefty Wade LeBlanc are both expected back by then and one would assume Tuivailala would join them as well. This will force the organization to make some tough decisions.

It seems likely that LeBlanc’s return would just signal that Erik Swanson will be heading back to Tacoma, things get interesting when looking at adding Tuivailala. Injuries could make the decision easy, but which bullpen arm would be the most likely to go?

From a result standpoint, one would argue Cory Gearrin could be on the hot seat, but he still has some guaranteed money coming to him. Would management be willing to determine it a sunk cost?

Things get really fun to think about Seager’s return. The roster, as it’s now constituted, doesn’t work with Seager coming back. There are way too many DH/1B types and clearly not enough room on the 25-man roster or at-bats for all of them.

Could General Manager Jerry DiPoto be eyeing a trade? Edwin Encarnacion has performed reasonably well, but is owed a ton of money and moving a big contract like that, even with the M’s eating a large chunk, could be difficult this early in the season. The most likely scenario? Healy gets sent to Tacoma until DiPoto can make a trade.

Next. Could the Mariners Hit Trade Market for Bullpen Help?. dark

At the very least, May is shaping up to be very interesting.

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