The Mariners Are About To Have A Little Bit Of A Roster Crunch

File this under: Good Problem To Have.

You always like to hear people talking about the Mariners having too many good players and not enough roster spots to keep them all. Usually, there are plenty of roster spots for all the mediocre we’ve brought in.

Now, to be fair, there’s still a lot of mediocre. Don’t let the 14-game winning streak fool you; there are still improvements that need to be made. But, regardless, there are about to be some tough decisions (unless injuries happen, which would essentially make our decisions for us).

Kyle Lewis is slated to return today. I won’t know for sure what the corresponding move is slated to be until this afternoon (unless I’m lucky enough to see something come through on Twitter while I write this), but my hunch is that we’ve seen the last of Justin Upton. I’ll be honest, until I looked last night, I forgot he was still on the team. I would say he’s been greatly overshadowed by the addition of Carlos Santana, though there’s been at least a time or two where Upton aided significantly in the Mariners winning some games. But, overall, his numbers are just nonexistent.

Going forward, though, Mitch Haniger is starting his rehab assignment this weekend. According to what I’ve read on Twitter (I think Dipoto was on the Mike Salk program talking about this), Haniger will hopefully return to the Mariners in about three weeks. That, of course, puts us beyond the Trade Deadline – so I’m assuming plenty of moves will be made in that span – but it’ll be interesting to see whose roster spot Haniger ends up taking.

The first question on my mind is: does the return of Haniger and Lewis mean the Mariners won’t be looking to add an outfielder over the next week and a half? Even with Haniger and Lewis being part-time outfielders for a bit – until they get more acclimated (though, I don’t think Lewis will ever be a full-time outfielder again, with his chronic knee issues) – there’s still obviously Julio and Winker, not to mention all the reserve outfielders we’ve got (Frazier, Moore, Haggerty, Toro).

I have to imagine – unless we end up trading Lewis and/or Haniger – the outfield is probably set as is.

There was also apparently talk on the Dipoto interview that Ty France might slide over and play some second base. That would allow Santana to play at first (when he’s not DHing), and give this team the option to DH one of those four outfielders. I don’t know how much I love that idea (though, I’m sure it would be far from an everyday thing), but if it gets all of our best bats in the lineup, maybe we can make it work. I would recommend NOT doing that on days when Marco Gonzales is pitching; save the France At Second experiment for when we have more of a strikeout guy on the mound.

There would be a further roster crunch in this scenario as well, if the Mariners end up trading for an improved second baseman. As it is – barring further injuries – it would seem to me Adam Frazier’s role on this team is going to diminish considerably. It would reduce to pretty much off the team if we trade for a quality replacement. So, maybe the Mariners are going to be on the hunt for a taker for Frazier, regardless of what we get in return.

I don’t think this is true at all, but it almost seems like the Mariners are going to stick with the offense we’ve got. Dipoto did mention that our highest priority is probably going to be adding to the pitching staff, which I agree with. But, you’re asking a lot of that pitching staff to have to continue carrying this team through the end of the season, without any improvements on offense whatsoever.

Ultimately, I’m left wondering what the future is for Toro. He’s still under control for four more years after 2022. From what I’m told, the Mariners really believe in his bat, but I can’t fathom what they’re basing that on. His track record has been underwhelming – except for a month or so after the trade to bring him in last year – and he doesn’t seem to be getting any better with increased playing time this year. He doesn’t hit for power, he sure as shit doesn’t hit for average, and his on-base percentage isn’t at all impressive. His biggest asset seems to be his team control, his inexpensiveness, and his ability to play multiple positions.

But, you know who else has all of that, and has actually produced at the plate? Sam Haggerty. You know who ELSE has all of that, and is still better than Toro (even if he’s no great shakes)? Dylan Moore.

What it’s almost certainly going to boil down to is who has minor league options left. If we can still send Toro down to Tacoma without running him through waivers, then I think that’s the ideal option for everyone involved. But, if Toro is out of options, then it’s clear you’re sending someone down who is vastly superior, which this offense can’t afford (unless, again, we trade for a significant upgrade).

A lot of this could be moot by the time we’re done with all the trades in the next week. But, put me firmly in the camp who’s over Toro, and would rather see his roster spot go to someone who has actually produced, and not someone who simply has potential.

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