Most Seattle Mariners fans knew that Kyle Seager wouldn’t be wearing a Mariners uniform next year, but not many predicted that he wouldn’t be wearing any uniform at all. On December 29th, Seager announced that he would be retiring from Major League Baseball after a 10-year career in Seattle.
While Kyle Seager wasn’t expected to return to Seattle, his retirement still officially signals a new era of Mariners baseball.
Kyle Seager has been a primary household name among Mariners fans for the last 10 years (especially in the few seasons since Felix Hernandez‘s final season in Seattle in 2019), so whether fans like it or not, it’s time for them to get acquainted with the next generation of (hopeful) Seattle legends.
With Seager out, Mitch Haniger, Ty France, and J.P. Crawford are now going to be depended upon more than ever to be the Mariners’ featured position players. That group finished as the top three Mariners position players in bWAR (WAR as calculated by Baseball Reference) in 2021, and the expectation for them is to continue to lead the charge in 2022. Haniger will likely take over as the everyday cleanup hitter and primary run producer, while Crawford and France will remain near the top of the order and relied upon to continue playing Gold Glove-caliber defense.
Haniger is only under contract for one more year, as is new acquisition Adam Frazier, so it’s possible they will not be a major part of the Mariners’ future after a couple of hopefully strong contributions in 2022. Kyle Lewis appeared to be the next face of the franchise after his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2020, but significant injuries have reduced the idea of Lewis being a star in Seattle to mere conjecture.
Fortunately for Seattle, France and Crawford are not the only long-term fixtures that will be depended upon to drive the next era of Mariners baseball: Julio Rodriguez, Jarred Kelenic, and Logan Gilbert are all current and former top prospects that show all the makings of year-after-year All-Star performances.
Yes, Kelenic and Gilbert got off to miserable starts in 2021, but any committed fan noticed significant improvements in each of their play over the course of the season; Kelenic demonstrated much-improved plate discipline and clutch hitting during the Mariners’ postseason chase, and Gilbert looked like a legitimate ace in four of his final six starts. As for Rodriguez – he’s a 21-year-old with a career .331 BA in the minors and is the #2 overall prospect in all of baseball.
With reigning A.L. Cy Young winner Robbie Ray inking a 5-year contract with Seattle this offseason, Marco Gonzales absolutely dominating in the second half of 2021, and the Mariners’ bullpen still completely intact after posting the 3rd best bullpen ERA in the A.L., the team’s pitching is finally appearing to be a strong point after years of mediocrity.
It’s official: no more hoping for Kyle Seager to come through with a clutch home run in the late innings to propel the Mariners to an unexpected victory; we’re about to see a new era of team baseball in Seattle that executes in all phases of the game.