I am sure every Mariners fan has a feeling about how Jerry Dipoto’s retooling is going so far. Those who are marginal fans think Dipoto has done a terrible job. They are looking at the wins and losses of 2019 thinking the Mariners need to get rid of him.
Those of us who have been baseball fans since before the Mariners came into existence do understand what is going on. It doesn’t mean this year is any easier on us than any other fans. We realize the Mariners had to make changes if they were ever going to make the playoffs on a regular basis.
Last year, the Mariners were 89-73. However, they were 14 games behind the first-place Houston Astros and eight games behind Oakland A’s. The Mariners had an old team along with large contracts. They also had one of the worst farm systems in the sport. Dipoto decided the Mariners needed to get younger, shed big contracts, and improve the farm system.
A year later, the Mariners have a younger team, got rid of big contracts, and have a lot better farm system.
Right now, it is hard to tell whether the Mariners will win any more games next season. However, the Mariners will have more players on the roster who may be there in 2021, the year Dipoto hopes they will compete for the playoffs.
The Mariners starting rotation in 2020 should start with Marco Gonzales, Yusei Kikuchi, Justus Sheffield, and Justin Dunn. Last year’s number one draft pick Logan Gilbert will likely be in the rotation at some point as well, potentially at the beginning of the season.
Gonzales, who has 16 wins right now, might turn out to be a better starter or decrease next year. After one year in the USA, I expect Kikuchi will be a better pitcher. He has shown signs of why Dipoto brought him to the Mariners from Japan. Sheffield, Dunn, and Gilbert have the talent, but the lack of experience makes it anyone’s guess how many wins they can accumulate next year.
Seattle’s bullpen has the most question when it comes to retooling. Sam Tuivailala, whom the Mariners acquired last year from the St.Louis Cardinals, missed half of this season. He looks to be the guy the Mariners will build the bullpen around.
The Mariners brought on board several reclamation projects this year including Austin Adams, Anthony Bass, Brandon Brennan, Matt Magill, and Matt Wisler. All five of the pitchers may have a chance to be part of the bullpen next year. Adams and Brennan spent time on the injured list but they were having success before being injured.
Dan Altavilla made his debut with the Mariners on August 27, 2016. He showed a lot of promise pitching in 15 games for the remainder of 2016 with an ERA of 0.73. In 2017, he pitched in 41 games for the Mariners as well as spending time at triple-A Tacoma.
In 2018 and 2019 he spent a lot of time on the injured list. If Altavilla can finally stay healthy and meet his talent he can be a major reliever for the Mariners in the 8th or 9th inning.
The Mariners have three relievers who spent a good amount of time at Double-A Arkansas in Zach Grotz, Reggie McClain, and Art Warren. All three have a chance to begin next season in the Mariner bullpen or at least starting out in Triple-A Tacoma.
Taylor Guilbeau, who the Mariners acquired from the Washington Nationals at the trade deadline, is the lone left-handed specialist in the bullpen. Jerry Dipoto likely look at acquiring another lefty during the off-season.
At catcher, the Mariners drafted Cal Raleigh in the 3rd round in 2018. He has moved up quickly, ending the season at Double-A Arkansas. He is the Mariners catcher of the future. Both Omar Narvaez and Tom Murphy have had an excellent season so their value has increased where another team may look to acquire one of them. If the Mariners do retain Narvaez after retooling, he will likely be at another position because of his bat and the play of Raleigh.
At first base, the Mariners have 2017 first-round draft pick Evan White waiting in the wings. Defensively, he can play in the majors already. The question is, do the Mariners believe he can hit as well. Whether he begins the season in Seattle or not, he will be called up before 2020 concludes.
Before White arrives we could see several players at first base including Omar Narvaez and Austin Nola. If the Mariners keep Domingo Santana, he could play some first base, along with outfield, and designated hitter.
Although Daniel Vogelbach is popular with the fans, can he really hit major league pitching on a regular basis? Will he be able to continue hitting home runs? The Mariners will probably bring Vogelbach to spring training unless another team will give them a prospect or two.
Current 2nd baseman Dee Gordon the Mariners could trade him during the off-season or by the trading deadline. Shed Long may inherit the position; depending on how he hits against lefties Long may only start against righties. In this case, the Mariners may platoon at second. The right-handed counterpart might be Dylan Moore this after a season of being the Mariners utility player.
Right now, the SS job belongs to JP Crawford, who is doing an excellent job since coming up in May. He has played good defense with an occasional lapse on routine plays. He has spent most of the season hitting second in the batting order when healthy.
Donny Walton, who spent the season at Double-A Arkansas, was rewarded with a callup in September, may start the season at Triple-A. They would want him to play every day and be available if Crawford were hurt for an extended time.
The Seattle Mariners have Kyle Seager at third. The amount and length of his contract may keep other teams wanting to acquire him. The last year of his contract, 2022, is an option year unless another team acquires him then it becomes a player option.
At this point, the Mariners don’t have anyone in their farm system ready to move up to the big leagues. I have heard Domingo Santana taking some grounders at third without throwing the ball because of his elbow. If the Mariners keep him, they could decide to put Santana at third base.
Now with the rosters expanding to 26 next season, it will allow each team to have an additional player on the bench. The team can add another infielder or outfielder or someone can play both.
As long as he gets healthy, Mitch Haniger should be in the outfield picture unless the Mariners decided to deal him. He should be back in his position of right field.
So far, Kyle Lewis has looked great since being promoted from Double-A. He probably is a regular in the outfield. He can play any of the three outfield positions. If Mitch Haniger is playing regularly in right field than, Lewis will be in left or center depending on the other outfielders available.
Mallex Smith has shown he isn’t ideal to be playing in the center field except on occasion. If the Mariners decide to keep him, he will probably be playing left field most of the time. So the starting outfield going into next season right now looks like Mallex Smith in left, Lewis in center and Haniger in right. Also, Jake Fraley could find his way into the outfield picture as well. This may allow the Mariners to trade Smith too.
If Shed Long isn’t starting regularly in the infield, he may see some time in the outfield as well. The same may go for Dylan Moore or Tim Lopes.
The Mariners have Keon Broxton, who they acquired on waivers from Baltimore on July 27. He likely is the best defensive center fielder on the team, but he only has three hits in 40 at-bats. In September he has appeared in only six games with four as a defensive replacement. He will be eligible for arbitration for the next two years.
Another outfield option could be Braden Bishop. He missed a couple of months of the season because of a lacerated spleen, however, return after rehab assignments on September 1. In a very limited play for the Mariners, he is hitting only .102. In Tacoma, he played in 43 games where he hit .276 with eight home runs.
Without any changes during the off-season, which we all know won’t happen because of Jerry Dipoto’s history, he 13 position players I see coming to Seattle next season will be: catchers Omar Narvaez, Tom Murphy, first baseman/DH Dan Vogelbach, Austin Nola first base/ infield/outfield, catcher, Dee Gordon second base, Kyle Seager third base, shortstop JP Crawford, outfielders Mallex Smith, Mitch Haniger, Kyle Lewis, outfielder/dh Domingo Santana, Dylan Moore utility, and Shed Long infielder/outfielder.
For Jake Fraley or Braden Bishop to start the season in Seattle instead of Tacoma, the Mariners would have to trade Mallex Smith, Domingo Santana, Daniel Vogelbach, and/or Dee Gordon. Dylan Moore makes the team because he can play shortstop. The only other option would be if Donny Walton were able to make the jump from Double-A to Seattle.
The thirteen pitchers making the opening day roster would be Marco Gonzales, Yusei Kikuchi, Justus Sheffield, Justin Dunn, Austin Adams, Dan Altavilla, Brandon Brennan, Sam Tuivailala, Erik Watson, Taylor Guilbeau, Zach Grotz, Matt Magill, and Reggie McClain.