The joy is back
Superstar and face of the franchise, Julio Rodriguez, is having an interesting season. He's still on pace to accumulate 3+ WAR, which is impressive considering his high strikeout rate (26%) and late-inning struggles (.186). By launching two homers, this was the first time since last September against the NL Champion Atlanta Braves. Everyone knows Rodriguez is the engine that drives the Mariner offense.
Seeing him get two balls up in the air and punish them makes me wonder if a hot streak is incoming. The best thing about these events was the joy I saw as he rounded the bases. A joyful Julio is a game-changer for this team.
Your full-time DH is on the roster
I saw veteran Teoscar Hernández misplay two balls in right field, and it could've been more if it wasn't for Julio Rodriguez calling him off on a ball in the gap. One of those errors swung the momentum of the first game. Statcast has Hernandez in the 52nd percentile in outfielder jump. That won't get it done, especially at home, with plenty of space in the gaps.
Jerry Dipoto built this team on pitching and defense. I'd run Cade Marlowe, Rodriguez, and Taylor Trammell out there two to three games weekly. I'm intrigued to see Marlowe get an extended look in left field where he provides solid defense, speed on the basepaths, and some sneaky good pop.
This approach would accomplish two things. First, it would get Hernandez off his feet and focus solely on offense from the designated hitter spot. Second, the two 26-year-olds (Marlowe, Trammell) would get the at-bats they need instead of sitting on the bench.
The bench is razor thin
Manager Scott Servais made all the right moves in game one of this series, unloading the entire bench. The Twins brought a lefty specialist, Servais countered with the right-handed Jose Caballero. Flamethrower Griffin Jax was on the mound for the ninth inning and out came switch hitter Cal Raleigh who promptly singled. Down to their last out, Servais pulled Kolten Wong off the bench to hit for Caballero.
Yes, it's great to see the struggling Wong come through in the clutch, but why did it come down to that unlikely blast? Because Moore, Caballero, and Trammell combined to 0-3 with two strikeouts, two walks, and a lousy misplay in the field that cost the Mariners the game. Additionally, Mike Ford is slowly becoming a true three-outcome player (BB - HR - SO), which harkens to Dipoto's top priority to infuse the bench. That takes me to my following observation.
Trade deadline options
MLB insider Jon Morosi connected the Mariners to multiple middle infielders. Interestingly, a few have team options for 2024, but most are rental bats. Dipoto has always expressed his interest in adding talent for 2023 with an eye always on 2024. He is saying he'd prefer to acquire players with some control.
This team is in an odd spot. The veterans are riding roller-coaster seasons, and players you counted on to provide offense (France, Raleigh) are struggling. The current bench construction calls for some rental bats to round out this team. I recommend Dipoto making a run at Tim Anderson and Randal Grichuk to balance this lineup. Sometimes incremental improvements make a big difference, especially when there is little of a track record from three of the four guys on the bench (minus Tom Murphy).