Early Season Mariners Musings: Solving the Bottom of the Order
By Trevor Pedro
President of Baseball Operations, Jerry Dipoto, has gone on record about the team's reluctance to use a full-time designated hitter. Over the past few years, we've seen Manager Scott Servais rotate players in the DH spot. Ty France, Eugenio Suarez, Mitch Haniger, and the list continues. The ageless wonder, Nelson Cruz, was the last full-time designated hitter to wear a Mariner uniform.
We're only ten games into the 2023 season, but the issues are plenty. The arms, especially relief pitching, aren't performing as well as last season. Keeping in mind this is before the Cubs series starts, the two key free agent signings, Teoscar Hernandez and Kolten Wong, have a combined .129/.237/.472 slash line. Tom Murphy is sporting an 0 for 13, and Sam Haggerty, Tommy La Stella, and Cooper Hummel are playing sporadically. So what does this all mean? The bottom of the Mariner's order is again a black hole.
Thankfully, Jarred Kelenic is turning the corner, and J.P. Crawford is taking the adjustments he made at Driveline this offseason and putting them to work in the batter's box. But it makes me question if this team might need to look for offense BEFORE the trade deadline, and BEFORE they get buried in the standings. One of the top priorities should be getting someone who can at least hit consistently at the bottom of the order. Tacoma has a few possible options, such as corner infielder Colin Moran. He's likely to be the first call-up if the team sours on La Stella. While that might be a good stop-gap, I'm suggesting an early season trade a la 2022 Carlos Santana.
Pouncing on an Untenable Situation in St. Louis
Keep an eye on the NL Central, as Chicago Cubs' outfielder, Ian Happ is a free agent at the end of the year. However, my eyes would be on another toolsy player, Tyler O'Neill. We recently wrote about a public scuffle between the former Gold Glover and his Manager Oli Marmol. Additionally, there were rumored reports of the Cards and Marlins discussing an O'Neill trade this past offseason. Not to mention, St. Louis seems to have an abundance of riches when it comes to outfield depth (Burleson, Carlson, Yepez, Nootbar, Walker, and O'Neill).
If the Cardinals' outfield depth chart and lineup construction continue, Dipoto could pounce at an early season trade with the Cards. This move would add a quality defender who can play all three outfield positions and provide a power-speed combination, bolstering the 7 thru 9 holes in the lineup. In addition, a trade for O'Neill could allow Hernandez to DH more and improve the overall outfield defense. Think about Kelenic, Julio Rodriguez, and O'Neill roaming the outfield grass, the range those three have, and the arms. Oh, the arms!
Again, it's still early, which means Hernandez, Wong, Murphy, and the bench pieces have time to figure it out. However, capitalizing on the Astro's slow start should be the priority, and finding ways to strengthen the lineup could be the key in the early going for the Mariners.