The Mariners Traded For Jorge Polanco

Going to Minnesota, we have reliever Justin Topa, starter What’sHisButtFromTheGiants Anthony DeSclafani, outfield prospect Gabriel Gonzalez, and pitching prospect Darren Bowen.

Going to Seattle, we have Jorge Polanco, a 30 year old starting infielder (pegged to be our everyday second baseman) with one year left on his contract (and a club option for 2025).

DeSclafani is no big loss. I’m honestly relieved that I don’t have to watch him pitch for the Mariners. Seems like a guy better suited to be a back-of-the-rotation starter and NOT a long reliever like the M’s were going to use him as. I’m going to go out on a limb and say neither prospect will amount to much at the Major League level (because if either one of them do, then this trade absolutely murders the Mariners).

I would say the part that hurts the most is losing Justin Topa, who is going into the first of three arbitration years, and is earning just a million and a quarter dollars this season. He figured to be our third-best reliever behind Brash and Munoz, but I would argue – on the whole – he was more consistent and less blowup-prone than anyone in the pen in 2023. The Mariners were already in need of a pick-me-up or two out of the bullpen (as we’ve talked about ad nauseam, they’ve yet to even replace Paul Sewald, and now we’re talking about replacing Topa too), and now that job is even more important.

Quite frankly, the Mariners’ stance on this – that they can pick up any ol’ scrub off the scrap heap and turn them into ace relievers – is bordering on irresponsible hubris. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Mariners’ biggest weakness in 2024 IS the bullpen (and we all know how little I think of the starting lineup, so that’s really saying something).

All that being said, it doesn’t feel like the worst deal I’ve ever seen. The money pretty much evens out (I think it was reported the M’s are sending money to the Twins to make it so). They get a couple of scratch-off lottery tickets to provide some longterm hope, and they get a valuable reliever to add to what I’m told is a strength for them. Plus, you know, the starter could be okay for them in that division (where the hitting is less fearsome than it is in the West). In turn, the Mariners get a VAST improvement over the likes of Josh Rojas, Dylan Moore, Sam Haggerty, et al, when it comes to plugging one of their infield holes.

We already knew going into the season that second and third base would suck for this team. Now, what this deal presupposes is … maybe only one of those spots will suck?

I’m willing to go out on that limb that Jorge Polanco will be a valuable hitter for this team when he’s healthy. One guy I’ve never met on Formerly Twitter telling me so is good enough for me! But, there’s that caveat again, right? Polanco hasn’t played a full season since 2021. The last two years, it’s been knee and ankle injuries. Something like five or six stints on the IL. Sure as shit reminds me of one Mitch Haniger; how could it not? It was pretty much the first point bandied about in the analysis of this deal for the M’s.

If I choose to see the positive in this, it’s nice to see us fill a hole with a bona fide Major Leaguer, and not just another Quad-A nobody. If I choose to see the negative in this, then it’s just another coin flip with the usual questions we have when we bring in ANY new hitter:

  • Can he stay healthy?
  • Can he hit in Seattle, or will his bat be swallowed up in the marine layer?
  • Can he withstand the pressure of playing for a new team?
  • Will he enjoy living here, which is presumably very far away from wherever he considers home?
  • How close is he to falling off of an age-related production cliff?

You can plug those questions in about ANY of the guys we brought in this offseason – Mitch Garver, Luke Raley, Mitch Haniger, Luis Urias, Seby Zavala – as well as any of the guys we’ve brought in over the last few years, and get a wide variety of answers. Inevitably, some will hack it okay, some will become total garbage. And it’s not necessarily always the ones you think. I keep coming back to guys like Jesse Winker and Kolten Wong; we were supposed to be getting – at the very least – solid veterans who could give you professional at bats. What we got, was nothing.

As with all of this offseason’s moves, I’m not holding my breath. Quite frankly, I’m not moving off of my F grade for the Mariners; I still don’t think we’re any better than we were a year ago. If I’m being generous, the Polanco deal has the potential to now put this offense over the top compared to 2023. But, a shaky bullpen was made all the shakier with the loss of Topa. And now our rotation depth – which was razor thin before – is totally evaporated. Unless our top five starters manage to stay healthy for the full year – on top of key guys like Polanco and Haniger for our lineup – there’s a good chance we’re worse across the board. Hence the failing grade.

I will say that – as with all the other trades this offseason – I mostly felt relief that we didn’t actually trade any of our young starters. But, that still isn’t going to move the needle enough for me to vastly change my outlook on this offseason.

Just once, I’d like to see the Mariners make a move that is universally lauded, rather than coming with a thousand caveats. Something tells me it ain’t gonna happen.

What Is The Mariners’ Lineup Looking Like For 2024?

For the record, it’s impossible to try to predict how ANYONE in baseball is going to perform from year to year. There’s injuries, there’s regression, there’s age, there’s personal life matters that creep in; those are all elements that can negatively affect players. On the flipside, maybe they go to Driveline and work on their swing. Maybe they learn a new pitch. Maybe they get in “the best shape of their lives”.

Who expected J.P. Crawford or Jarred Kelenic to take their respective steps forward last year? Who expected Suarez to come to Seattle and be a hit? On the flipside, who expected Winker to come here and be a total bust? Who saw the Ty France nosedive coming? Who expected to get absolutely nothing out of Kolten Wong, A.J. Pollock, Adam Frazier, and the like? Oh wait, maybe don’t bring up those last three guys.

So, I’m willing to admit that I’m probably going to be dead wrong about a lot of these guys, one way or the other. But, for fun, let’s take a look at who we’re likely to see as our 13 position players, and how they fit in a potential lineup.

The “everyday” guys seem to be something like this:

  • Left Field – Luke Raley
  • Center Field – Julio Rodriguez
  • Right Field – Mitch Haniger
  • Third Base – Luis Urias
  • Short Stop – J.P. Crawford
  • Second Base – Josh Rojas
  • First Base – Ty France
  • Catcher – Cal Raleigh
  • Designated Hitter – Mitch Garver

The bench guys – who figure to see a good amount of platoon time – include:

  • UTIL – Dylan Moore
  • OF – Dominic Canzone
  • Catcher – Seby Zavala

The final guy is someone between Sam Haggerty, Taylor Trammell, Cade Marlowe, Zach DeLoach, or Jonatan Clase (I’m assuming one of them will have a torrid Spring Training and force his way onto the team for a couple weeks, until it’s clear his spring was an aberration).

I’ll tell you right now, that lineup is ROUGH to look at. Here’s an order, for reference:

  1. J.P. Crawford (SS)
  2. Julio Rodriguez (CF)
  3. Cal Raleigh (C)
  4. Mitch Garver (DH)
  5. Luke Raley (LF)
  6. Mitch Haniger (RF)
  7. Ty France (1B)
  8. Josh Rojas (2B)
  9. Luis Urias (3B)

As a tried and true Mariners fan, I can only allow myself to feel good about the top three guys. Everyone else has a wild range of outcomes going from Absolute Worst to Better Than Expected.

Garver should be fine, but would it shock anyone to see a middling slugger come to Seattle and hit for Warning Track Power? Raley has less of a Major League track record, so he gets a little less confidence from me. Haniger, obviously, is going to get hurt within the first two months of the season, missing more time than he’ll play for. France is working out at Driveline, so there’s hope that he follows in J.P. Crawford’s footsteps, but I’ll believe it when I see it; I’m heading into 2024 expecting nothing from France. Rojas is Just A Guy, and will almost certainly lose playing time to Dylan Moore, among others. Urias is also Just A Guy, and will almost certainly lose playing time to Dylan Moore, among others.

How many Dylan Moores do we have on the team, anyway?

I would say there’s better than a 50/50 chance that the bottom third of the lineup is as bad as it’s ever been, with probably better than a 35% chance that 5 out of our 9 hitters – on the whole – are underperforming and actively costing us ballgames.

And that’s, again, AFTER the bulk of our moves in trades and free agency. That’s ostensibly supposed to be an “improvement” over 2023. Odds are, the Mariners will be a significantly WORSE hitting and scoring team in 2024.

We pretty much decided to punt second and third base. We swapped Kelenic for Raley, which is kind of a wash. We swapped Teoscar Hernandez for Haniger, which feels like a downgrade when you consider the time Haniger is going to miss (with the very real possibility that Haniger is just cooked as a professional ballplayer). The only actual upgrade is at DH, but it’s hard to give them credit for that when they effectively punted DH last year. Getting something – when we were so consistently getting nothing – is pretty easy to do when you actually find a warm body to put there.

And don’t even try to start with me on suggesting improvement out of guys like J.P., Julio, or Cal. They are what they are, until I see otherwise. But, I am by no means banking on them being anything more than what I’ve seen. Same goes for Canzone, or any of the other Quad-A guys we’ve got on the 40-man roster that we’re forced to keep on the 26-man roster because they’re out of options. Again, I’ll believe it when I see it, and I don’t expect to see much of anything.

So, yeah, pretty bleak! Hope we find some improvement in our bullpen! Hope our starters are able to carry this team on their backs the whole year! How many 1-0 losses do we have to look forward to?

What We Can Be Happy About With This 2023 Mariners Season

I get it: being out of the playoffs is pretty irritating. This isn’t what we expected coming into the season; we were supposed to be a team on the rise and a team taking a step forward, after finally breaking the playoff drought in 2022. We had the core nucleus, we had the pitching, we just needed guys to play to expectations and we should’ve been all right. Did we do enough to get over the hump and become a division winner? No. We had a chance! Houston came down to Earth a little bit – which is something we definitely needed to happen for that to come to fruition – but we never expected Texas to be as good as they were, and that wrench ultimately ended our season.

Now, we have to move on. We have to look forward to next year. With a little bit of time to sit in our resentment, and reflect on what’s been done and what’s been said, now it’s time to rationally look back at what went right. We know what went wrong. The bottom of the order and the bench stunk. Many guys didn’t play to expectations. But, there were some positives as well, and we can’t just ignore them because we’re mad at the end result.

This organization isn’t going to blow everything up. The front office is staying intact. The manager and coaches are all being retained. There are guys under contract who likely aren’t going anywhere, and players with club control who still figure into our future plans. Unfortunately, we’re in a similar situation as the end of the 2022 season: needing to fill in around the margins. We didn’t get it right last offseason; we must get it right this offseason.

First and foremost, how do you not love what we got from J.P. Crawford? He came into 2023 as a legitimate fringe player. His 2022 season was arguably the worst of his Mariners career. He had terrible Spring Training numbers. He started out the year batting 9th, as everyone was calling on this team to upgrade at the short stop position. 2023 was as Make Or Break as it gets. And, to his credit, he put in the work last offseason at Driveline, he picked himself up, and he had the very best season of his career. He was a 5.0 WAR player; that’s leaps and bounds better than he’s ever been. He got his batting average back up to where it’s been in the past, he increased his on-base percentage quite a bit, and he slugged off the charts at .438. He hit 19 homers; 10 more than he’s hit in any other year! His 54 extra base hits were a career high. He pretty quickly found himself at the top of the batting order and never relinquished it, which I find most encouraging. That means he didn’t suffer a lot of prolonged, aggravating slumps. He was a guy we could always count on; for most of the year, he was the ONLY guy we could count on.

That’s a tremendous foundation on which to start. Short stop is secure for the foreseeable future. His defense seemed to bounce back a bit, he’s probably the best leader we could hope for among this player group, and where do you need to be strongest on a baseball field? Up the middle.

Which brings us to Julio. I can’t say it was a better season than 2022, but I do believe he took a step forward. Julio had a rough April in 2022, before going on a tear. In 2023, he REALLY struggled through June. Sophomore Slump was being bandied about. I think we all believed he’d pull out of it at some point, but I wasn’t sure he could get anywhere near where he was as a rookie.

Then, in July, he started picking it up. And that August, MY GOD. .429/.474/.724 slash line for the entire month; he was otherworldly! All of a sudden, he DID start to get back to where we all expected. But, then he cooled again in September. His slugging was still there, but everything else severely diminished. His WAR was 5.3 – tops on the team – but his entire slash line was a little bit worse compared to 2022. He had more doubles, homers, and stolen bases, but he also played in 23 more games.

All in all, I’m not worried about Julio. I think 2023 was a great learning experience for the young superstar. But, it wasn’t a wasted year for him, either. He didn’t have a learning experience while taking an extreme step back; he was still the best and most important player on this team, and I expect him to take these first two years and move forward as one of the best players in all of baseball.

Finishing with the Up The Middle motif, we have Cal Raleigh. Thank Christ for Cal Raleigh! This was his first full year. His first full year as the unquestioned #1 at catcher. And his first year where he wasn’t in jeopardy of being sent down to Tacoma to work on some things. He improved his batting average and on-base percentage, while taking a quiet step back in slugging. He had career highs in homers and doubles, but again, played in 145 games (compared to 119 in 2022). Where he REALLY took a step forward was with his defense; he was throwing dudes out left and right, really shutting down the run game of opposing offenses (in spite of the fact that this pitching staff isn’t always the greatest at holding runners).

I wouldn’t say Cal is a finished product either, though I don’t know if I would expect him to hit considerably above his .232 batting average. What matters is, like J.P., he didn’t suffer crazy lulls. He was pretty consistent all year. And, if you’re going to give me 30 homers from a catcher, I’m going to take that every time! Going forward, we don’t have to worry about Cal; he’s the guy. He’s going to be here for a good, long while. Hopefully, we can sign him to a long term extension sooner rather than later, because I think he’s going to be worth every penny. The concern lies in who his backup is going to be. Tom Murphy is a tremendous backup – when healthy – but he’s proven that we can’t count on him in that regard. We don’t want to blow Cal out with overuse, even though he’s a stud and wants to be out there every single day.

There’s a steep drop-off from there, as far as everyday players are concerned. I don’t want to get too into the weeds with Teoscar Hernandez – because I don’t know where he’s going to be next year – but I thought he did okay. He gave us almost what he showed he was in Toronto in 2022. Worse slash line, WAY too many strikeouts, but he was a 2.1 WAR player and that’s not nothing. He hit 26 homers and 29 doubles, while playing in 160 of 162 games. Yes, he had an abysmal start to his Mariners career, but he got it going as the season went along (and also enjoyed a torrid August), showing you what he’s capable of. I get the feeling it took him some time to figure out how to hit in this ballpark, but to his credit, he figured it out. He wasn’t a total waste of space like Jesse Winker and some of these other guys we’ve brought in. His overall numbers and production were pretty much what I would’ve expected out of a healthy Mitch Haniger, though I will say the defense was often a problem.

That’s all I got for the offense. On to the pitching.

Castillo, Gilbert, Kirby, excellent work, no notes! They had wonderful seasons. All 190+ innings pitched, all sub-4 ERAs, all with 179+ strikeouts, all with WHIPs 1.10 or lower. All 3.1 WAR pitchers or above. They obviously didn’t win as many games as we’d like (between 13-14), but that’s a reflection of the team as a whole. All had 18+ quality starts (out of 31-33 starts). It’s as ideal of a Top 3 in a starting rotation as you could hope for: all young, under contract/club control for years to come, and all elite in their own ways. On top of which, it was just Logan’s third Major League season, and Kirby’s second. The training wheels are off for all of these guys; we get to head into 2024 knowing that 3/5 of our rotation is not just set, but among the best in all of baseball. They continue to get better! They continue to introduce new pitches and find new ways to get batters out! Hell, I welcome the further influx of George Kirby knuckleballs! Bring it all on!

Now, were they all totally consistent all year long? No. Castillo and Kirby really came up short in that final week and a half. There were enough instances this season where their lines really left me scratching my head. But, that’s pretty nit-picky. On the whole, all three of these guys were tremendous, and I’m happy to go forward with them.

Sticking with the rotation, how do you not like what we got from Bryce Miller and Bryan Woo as rookies? They very much WERE under strict pitch counts and innings limits. They weren’t perfect, but they had ERAs of 4.32 and 4.21 respectively. They had K/9 rates of 8.2 and 9.5, which slots them quite nicely with our Top 3 listed above. Going into 2024, a rotation of just those five guys looks – on paper – to be outstanding!

We don’t know exactly what they are yet, though. They’re still very raw, very young, very inexperienced. I don’t know that they have a great command of their secondary/off-speed pitches. They were both fucking bananas against righties, but really had their struggles against lefties, and that has to get fixed if they expect to stay in the Major Leagues for the long haul.

  • Miller vs. Righties: 7.20 K/BB, .200/.234/.315, in 282 PA
  • Miller vs. Lefties: 2.94 K/BB, .303/.358/.558, in 255 PA
  • Woo vs. Righties: 7.25 K/BB, .179/.226/.268, in 191 PA
  • Woo vs. Lefties: 1.52 K/BB, .283/.389/.540, in 180 PA

That’s too stark of a difference. It’s a little Matt Brash-y. Excellent numbers for a reliever, but not so hot if you want to hack it as a starter.

With Marco Gonzales coming back for one more go-around – assuming we can’t find a trade partner for him – and with Robbie Ray still on the books for a tremendous amount of money (though, I was dismayed to hear he likely won’t be back until midseason, which means he probably won’t be back to normal until 2025), I think there’s a general sense among the fanbase that one of Miller or Woo won’t be here next year. That one will be traded to help bolster other areas of need. It makes sense, though it’s unfortunate. I can’t help but feel like it’s a case of We Can’t Have Nice Things. Just when we lock down the rotation as solidly as possible, we have to bust it up – YET AGAIN – to help out our feeble offense. I was surprised to hear that Woo is more liked than Miller, as far as the scouts and analytical people are concerned. That’s interesting, considering Miller passed the eye test a little bit more. He’s a little further along in his development, has more innings under his belt, and doesn’t have the injury history of Woo. But, whatever, I guess. Both guys looked awesome, and I hope we’re able to find a way to keep ’em around.

I can only go as far as Matt Brash, Justin Topa, and Andres Munoz with the bullpen. We had other nice-ish pieces – Gabe Speier, Tayler Saucedo, Isaiah Campbell all got an extended run, and looked decent as back-end of the bullpen kind of guys – Eduard Bazardo had good-looking stuff, Ty Adcock got a cup of coffee and looked decent, Prelander Berroa got a tiny cup of espresso and looked like a guy with tremendous upside, but I don’t know how much you can count on ANY of those guys. Especially when you consider, in 2022, we had the likes of Diego Castillo (who spent most of 2023 in Tacoma), Matt Festa (who had solid numbers in Tacoma, but isn’t even in the organization anymore), Penn Murfee (who got hurt, and isn’t expected to be healthy in time to start 2024), not to mention Paul Sewald (who famously was traded at the deadline). There’s so much flux with any bullpen, year to year, that it’s kind of pointless to project. If we get anything out of any of these lower tier guys in 2024, it’ll be gravy. I’m expecting nothing; I’m not even expecting they’ll be on the team.

You have to say Matt Brash was the best reliever on the team, especially after Sewald went to Arizona. There’s a lot to like here. 107 strikeouts was fifth on the team, behind our top four starters. 13.6 K/9 led the team. 3.06 ERA was very respectable. I wouldn’t say he gave us quite what we were expecting, but I think that’s because we were expecting the moon and the stars. Every report about his offseason was about how he might have the best slider of all time, in baseball history. Shit like that. As your #3 reliever behind Sewald and Munoz coming in? I think I expected something like a sub-1 ERA and maybe no more than 1 or 2 blown saves. Instead, you know, he was on the hook for 5 blown saves, and he got dinged with 4 losses. He had a somewhat rocky first couple months, but then improved over the rest of the season, and became the pitcher we all thought he’d be. He was the most reliable reliever we had by season’s end. And I think he improved enough – and worked on his pitch mix enough – to get even better in 2024.

Justin Topa came out of nowhere, as an older pre-arb player – to totally blow away expectations. Before 2023, he had played in no more than 7 games in any given season with the Brewers; this year he was in 75. He had an 8.0 K/9 rate, and had the best WAR of any Mariners reliever with 1.6 (over Brash’s 1.3). He wasn’t perfect – none of these guys were – but he was maybe the most consistently-good reliever we had, with no prolonged slumps. Every once in a while he didn’t have it, but you could say that about anyone; Topa didn’t cost us very many games, and was an incredible asset overall.

Andres Munoz, at least for me, barely qualifies for the theme of this post. But, he’s under contract through 2028 and isn’t going anywhere. He was fine. He wasn’t what he was in 2022, but an early-season injury took him out of commission for a good chunk of games. For as amazing as his stuff is, he was a little too inconsistent for me. As one of five regular relievers with 10+ K/9 (12.3), it’s clear his arm talent is pretty rare. But, his walk rate spiked, his K/BB rate dropped considerably (6.4 in 2022, 3.0 in 2023), and his splits vs. lefties and righties flip-flopped. He was better against lefties than righties in 2022; though still amazing against righties. But, while he was still strong against righties in 2023, he took a big dive against lefties, for whatever reason.

Ultimately, I’m not too worried. Though, I will say it’s concerning that he got hurt again. Remember, he missed all of 2020 and most of 2021 coming back from injury. He might just be a guy – with the way he throws – that he’s going to break down sooner than you’d hope. The M’s will want to take a good, hard look at this bullpen, and have more contingencies in place, so we’re not forced to rely on guys like Trent Thornton, Dominic Leone, Luke Weaver, and Juan Then types.

So, when you hear about the Mariners talking up their core guys, these are who they’re talking about. It’s a fine core! I like all these guys. But, it’s not all sunshine and lollipops. There are guys who had really BAD 2023 seasons that need to be called out; we’ll get into that next time.

The Mariners Maintained Their Rotation Strength

I like to call it The Law Of Steve. It goes like this: is there something I really want? Is that something related to one of my favorite sports teams? Well, then one of two things is going to happen: either I’m not going to get that thing (for reasons), or I am going to get that thing, but it’s going to blow up in my face like you wouldn’t believe.

I tend to come on here a lot and bitch about the nice things we don’t get to have, as Mariners fans, as Seahawks fans, as Husky fans. It’s my lot in life. It’s my boulder I’m pushing up a mountain. It’s not as common for me to actually get something that I want, but I know when that happens, there’s some sort of sports god out there with a monkey’s paw ready for me to wish I had never even had an opinion on anything.

Oh, the Seahawks won a Super Bowl? Well guess what: next year they’re going to lose it in the most agonizing way possible, thoroughly upending their would-be dynasty!

Oh, the mid-90’s Supersonics finally got over the hump and are a legitimate championship team? Well guess what: they have to face the best team ever to that point and lose in six games!

Oh, the 2001 Mariners set the all-time wins record? Well guess what: they’re still going to blow it to the Yankees and fail to reach the World Series!

What I wanted from the Mariners at the trade deadline was to be sellers. Ship off Teoscar Hernandez, Ty France, maybe even Eugenio Suarez. Right or wrong, I just don’t believe those guys are going to be around the next time the Mariners qualify for the playoffs. I didn’t get what I wanted; what else is new?

The second-most thing I wanted was for the Mariners to not trade away their Major League starting pitchers for a hitter. And somehow, some way, my wish was granted.

Everyone always says you should trade from a position of strength to fill your weak spots. It’s just a no-brainer; you have too many great pitchers, or great whatevers, so you pluck someone and send him off for whatever it is you’re lacking. As a lifelong sports fan, I’m here to tell you: strengths don’t stay strong for long.

The sports gods find a way to wither away any team’s strengths, with injuries, with negative regression, with good ol’ fashioned bad luck.

So, I’m of the other mindset: hold onto your strengths as long as you can. Get as strong as possible at one specific thing, and ride that elitism as far as it will take you, filling in the cracks wherever you can by way of free agency, or trading away prospects (in the case of baseball) or draft picks (in the case of other sports).

The Mariners’ unquestioned strength is their starting rotation. Castillo is an Ace. Kirby and Gilbert are mostly excellent. Miller and Woo are up-and-comers, but still haven’t proven anything yet. There are a couple other guys in the high minors who are next on the list. And, of course, we still have Marco Gonzales for one more year (assuming we don’t find a trade partner for him this offseason), and Robbie Ray for 1-3 more years (depending on his player opt-out option after 2024).

Obviously, 2023 is a special situation. We have two injured starters, and we were forced to DFA Chris Flexen because he stunk. If we traded Kirby or Gilbert, sure we’d probably get back a massive haul, but we’d also have to fill in that spot in our rotation with some rando (a definite downgrade). On top of that, there’s a ticking clock on Miller and Woo considering they’re rookies and we’re trying to spare their usage. If we traded Miller or Woo, the haul in return would be less, and we’d still need a replacement rando to fill in. All for, presumably, an everyday position player or two who may or may not actually be good, because people come to Seattle all the time – highly-rated, sure-thing people like Jesse Winker – and are defeated by the park size and marine layer.

In short, if we traded one of those starters, we’d be worse off now, AND we’d be worse off in the future.

BUT. We forgot about The Law Of Steve.

I got what I wanted. That monkey’s paw just curled a finger. So, what’s going to happen now is that one of those guys (maybe Logan Gilbert, the more likely of the trade candidates) is going to get hurt. Or just start an unbelievable run of sucking. Bryce Miller has had back-to-back shaky outings with reduced velocity on his fastball; is this the first sign that he was actually meant to be a reliever all along? Did our window close on his trade value? Bryan Woo was very up-and-down in the month of July; is he destined to be in this rotation long term?

It makes me harken back to the Big Three (or Big Four, depending on your opinion of Brandon Maurer). You know what I wanted more than anything? To see a Mariners rotation with Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, and Danny Hultzen (and, sure Maurer, why not?). What happened? Well, we hung onto those guys for a while (well beyond their peak trade value), Maurer was converted to a reliever before being traded. Hultzen never cracked the Bigs until he was out of the organiztion. And Walker and Paxton had varying levels of health and effectiveness.

In short, I got what I wanted, but not REALLY. They were here, but they didn’t pan out the way I wanted them to. And then they were gone.

So, how will I be let down here? There are limitless possibilities! I can’t wait to be proven wrong once again.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong For The 2023 Mariners Hitters?!

I’m on record as saying the Mariners will be going back to the playoffs in 2023. Granted, they’re most likely not going to win the A.L. West – the Astros just have too great of a talent disparity over us – but on paper, and with the eye test, the Mariners seem like the best wild card team of the bunch. Barring a calamity of injuries, we should find ourselves back where we belong. I would also argue – again, barring injuries to our most key players – that we’re in a better position to make a deep playoff run, even if we don’t necessarily have the horses to win 100 games in the regular season.

But, we must never forget that these are the Seattle Mariners. All we know is failure. All but five of our 40-some-odd seasons of existence have ended without a post-season berth. There’s never been a World Series appearance, meaning the five best seasons have also ended in defeat. And, anecdotally, it seems like whenever our expectations are at their highest, the M’s find a way to crumple under the pressure.

I’ve been teasing this post for a little while now, but it’s time to get into it. Yes, there’s more optimism for this group of players than I can remember in the last 20 years combined. But, there’s also legitimate arguments to be made for every single one of these players to underperform. I won’t touch on the entire 40-man roster, but we’ll hit on a good portion of guys.

Julio Rodriguez – He’s already been anointed as one of the next great superstars of the game of baseball – with a contract to match – so you’d think if there was anyone safe from the Mariners curse, it’d be Julio. But, freakier shit has happened. It’s only his second year in the bigs, and he’s already had to endure ups and downs. What’s to say he doesn’t get off to another slow start, and things start to snowball?

Cal Raleigh – This one seems a little more legitimate, to me at least. He had a great year last year, but it’s extremely reliant on his power numbers. He was also worked quite a bit – particularly down the stretch – and is coming off of a thumb injury that limited him severely. We know he’s not going to be a guy who hits for average, and he’s practically a liability on the basepaths with his lack of speed. So, if the power numbers take a dive, he could be Rob Johnson-esque!

Ty France – I would call France our most reliable hitter, by a pretty significant margin. The caveat there, of course, is when he’s healthy. While he’s tough as hell, the last two seasons have seen him swoon for long stretches whenever he’s forced to gut out minor injuries (“minor” of course; I’m sure they’d be painful as hell to normal people). He’s also among the league leaders in getting hit by pitches, and isn’t afraid to make physical contact when trying to make a play in the field. So, you have to wonder how his body is going to last, or if it’ll break down prematurely. He seems like the kind of player who will shine bright for a short period of time, but will fall off a cliff when it comes time to sign a bigtime free agent contract. If he suffers a major injury and has to spend a long chunk of time on the IL, that could be disastrous for us. What might be worse is if he suffers some minor injuries early and often, and opts to play through them with negative results.

Eugenio Suarez – You can easily see the variety of possibilities for Suarez in 2023. Just look at his previous two seasons. 30 points of batting average seemingly makes all the difference in the world between him being a sub-replacement player vs. a 4-win player on a playoff team. What can go wrong with Suarez? Simple BABIP luck.

Teoscar Hernandez & Kolten Wong – This one’s also easy: neither of these guys have played the majority of their games in T-Mobile Park. Hernandez isn’t strictly a power guy, but a significant portion of his value is his ability to hit for extra bases and knock runners in. If he succumbs to the marine layer, it’s going to be a long and brutal season (see: Jesse Winker). Since Wong isn’t really a power guy, you’d think he might be a safer fit, but we’ve seen plenty of slap hitters falter in Seattle (see: Adam Frazier, Chone Figgins, etc.). He’s also 32 years old and on the tail-end of his Major League career.

J.P. Crawford – His on-base ability is pretty well established at this point, and his defense is very solid. But, there’s never been much power to speak of, and we seem to be banking a lot of his future success on changes to his swing from this past offseason. He certainly needed to switch things up, after a prolonged slump in the second half of 2022; getting his bat through the zone quicker will be a must. But, what if it doesn’t take? What if he reverts to old habits? We might be regretting not going after a high-priced short stop replacement, if that’s the case.

Jarred Kelenic & A.J. Pollock – I’ve already talked about these guys enough. Kelenic has yet to do anything for an extended period of the regular season. And Pollock seems like he’s Just A Guy. It would be a HUGE upset victory if both of these guys pan out; we’re just hoping for a little competence out of one of them.

Dylan Moore & Sam Haggerty – The great utility duo. I think they’re both coming off of injuries, which isn’t super encouraging. Moore is also slated to have a pretty major role on this team, since we don’t actually have a DH. There’s little-to-no power to speak of, so if their batting averages struggle, they’re going to be a huge liability.

Tom Murphy – I can’t even remember the last time he was healthy for a full season. Maybe never? I also don’t know what we have in reserve, but it doesn’t seem pretty. The worst-case scenario is Cal Raleigh turning back into a pumpkin, Tom Murphy getting hurt, and having to slog through with Cooper Hummel.

The Mariners Need Teoscar Hernandez To Be Great

Writing about an individual before the season has even started is the ultimate kiss of death for the weak-willed motherfucker.

If you wanted to put the 2022 Mariners in a nutshell, you’d say that they got to where they were because of their pitching, but ultimately failed to go any further because of their hitting. A 1-0 loss in 18 innings to end our playoff run isn’t a perfect microcosm of that team, but it’ll get the job done.

After this most recent offseason, I think it’s safe to say the 2023 Mariners will go as far as their pitching will take them, and ultimately fail to go any further because of their hitting. That’s not a reason for dismay, necessarily, because an argument can be made that their pitching is set to be even better this year, while there’s always a chance for the hitting to also be improved.

To put it politely, there’s a lot of room for variance among the bottom third of the lineup. But, I think we’re all banking on the upper two-thirds to be as advertised. Julio Rodriguez is going to play like a superstar. Ty France is going to be steady while he’s healthy, and he’s going to slowly break down over the course of the season as he leads the league in being hit by pitches. Eugenio Suarez is going to lead the team in homers and strikeouts. Cal Raleigh is going to be one of the most valuable catchers in the game. And Kolten Wong is going to bring veteran at-bats to every game he plays in. Even if the bottom third stinks, it’s going to give us occasional bouts of competence (at the very least), and when you wrap it all up, that should make the Mariners – with the pitching we’ve accumulated – playoff participants for the second year in a row.

There’s a real wild card here who could make all the difference. For once, I’m not talking about the impending breakout season of Jarred Kelenic. No, this time I’m talking about our lone major hitting addition this past offseason: Teoscar Hernandez.

Last year, we were saddled with far too many games featuring a massively-underperforming Jesse Winker, and a wildly-disappointing Abraham Toro, with precious too-few games from Mitch Haniger. That’s just a lot of turmoil for an outfield (Toro obviously played a lot of second base as well, but he was also a utility outfielder at times), which we had hoped was going to be one of our biggest strengths. Hernandez will hopefully stabilize things a little bit.

He’s a two-time Silver Slugger who’s averaged over 20 homers in every non-COVID season the last five years. Easily his best season came in 2021 when he hit a career high 32 homers, while slashing .296/.346/.524. That’s the ceiling. At least, for now.

He’s also in his age 30 season, heading into the final year of his contract. He just lost an Arbitration case with the Mariners, meaning he’s only getting $14 million instead of the $16 million that he wanted. With the way free agents are racking up the dough with these contracts nowadays, he’s in line for a massive payday after this season. So, he has all the motivation in the world to overcome the marine layer in Seattle and play his absolute best ball of his life.

And, frankly, the Mariners need it.

Our margin for error is razor thin, when it comes to competing with the Astros for the division. We need everything to break right, up to and including Teoscar and/or Julio playing like the MVP of the American League. But, given how injury luck can strike, along with the natural variance of the game of baseball, it also wouldn’t shock me if the Mariners weren’t quite locks to even make a wild card spot. Getting the most out of Hernandez would go a long way toward ensuring we don’t come up a game or two short at the end.

The worst case scenario for all involved is for Hernandez to hit the IL for a significant portion of the season. That’s going to – depending on the injury – drastically reduce his value in free agency, while at the same time severely hamper our ability to compete this season.

The best case scenario for all involved is for Hernandez to jack 40+ homers, hit around .280, and knock in 90+ RBI, followed by some other team overpaying for his services next offseason (or, if the Mariners do sign him to an extension, then he turns into a young Nelson Cruz in his prime).

With Teoscar in that group of guys at the top of the lineup, crushing the ball like he’s never crushed it before, we could really do some damage this year! There’s nothing more fearsome than a talented player in contract year. If you can factor that in with more DH days for Ty (to rest his body), with more familiarity by Suarez when it comes to facing A.L. pitching, and with a skyrocketing career trajectory by Julio, there’s no telling how far this team can go. It’s not necessarily about winning the division (though, that would be most delightful), it’s about getting hot come playoff time and riding our pitching to a World Series championship.

What Impact Did Robinson Cano Have On The Seattle Mariners?

Did you know that 2023 is the final year of the 10-year, $240 million contract that Robinson Cano signed with the Mariners in December of 2013? Furthermore, did you know that we’re still on the hook for another $3.75 million, even though he hasn’t played for us since 2018? I mean, it’s a far cry from the $20.25 million the Mets have to cough up for someone who likely won’t even crack a Major League roster this year, but that’s neither here nor there.

As you can read here right after it was announced, I was doing somersaults and backflips trying to talk myself into the Mariners turning around the ship. Check out the weirdly prescient crack about Cano’s bat being legally pronounced dead in 2021 (when he was actually suspended the entire year for steroids). But, I still contend that if they’d listened to me – spending money on the proper complementary veterans, and trading Taijuan Walker for David Price – maybe the 2014 Mariners would’ve broken the playoff drought.

For the TL;DR crowd, in short we were all excited the Mariners were finally spending money on a bigtime free agent, while at the same time understanding that there was no way Cano would be worth $24 million per season at the tail end of the contract.

Robbie Cano is an interesting figure in Seattle sports history. I don’t see him as someone who was particularly well-liked by fans, but he’s also not someone who’s loathed. He made the majority of his money in Seattle, but he’ll forever be associated with the New York Yankees (where he had the bulk of his success). That being said, it’s not like he dropped off the face of the earth when he came here. His numbers – while not quite as elite as they were in the Bronx – were still relatively on par with his prior production (especially when you consider he had to battle our marine layer in half his games). Predictably, his five years in Seattle were his best years of this deal; it wasn’t until after he went back to New York (this time with the Mets) where he fell off.

In that respect, Cano’s tenure here is kind of miraculous! We got the absolute best we could’ve possibly hoped for out of him (including his 2016 season where he hit a career-high 39 homers), then we got out from under his deal with a relatively low penalty (Edwin Diaz and just under $14 million in total, thanks to the 2020 COVID-shortened season, and his 2021 suspension), while still holding onto the lottery ticket that is Jarred Kelenic (who could be a valuable starter/platoon outfielder as early as this season). Granted, Cano was never able to lead us back to the playoffs, but I’m hard pressed to blame any one guy for that result (maybe Jack Zduriencik).

So, what’s Cano’s legacy here? I think that’s complicated. We got to see a Hall of Fame-calibre talent play every day for five years … but he probably cheated his way out of Hall of Fame contention thanks to his multiple steroid suspensions. You can choose to appreciate him for his abilities on the field, but at the same time it’s hard to ignore the behind-the-scenes rumors of him not trying hard, not getting along with segments of the team, and generally projecting an annoyingly laissez-faire attitude that may or may not have rubbed off on the younger players around him. It’s hard to build a culture of accountability when you’ve got such a significant presence undermining you at every turn. But, a lot of that stuff is conjecture; none of us can speak with any certainty to how he was as a teammate.

The bottom line is: the Mariners never won with Robinson Cano. Not enough to make the playoffs anyway. There were a couple years where we contended into September, but nothing really worth getting worked up about. His legacy ultimately boils down to being on the last Mariners teams before this current rebuild (which started the year after he was traded away), that ultimately led to our being a Wild Card team in 2022. And you can’t really even attribute THAT to getting rid of him, because none of the players we received in that package did anything to get us there (unless you count Justin Dunn, who we eventually flipped with other prospects in a separate deal to the Reds, netting us Eugenio Suarez and Jesse Winker; but that’s kinda grasping at straws).

My lasting memory of Robinson Cano in a Mariners uniform is one of half measures. We would eventually go on to sign Nelson Cruz, but not until the 2015 season, where they both played together in the lineup side-by-side for four years. But, Cruz VASTLY outshined Cano as far as contract value – decidedly earning the entirety of his money – while also allowing us to get out from under him a year too early (rather than a year too late). There’s nothing but positive vibes coming from our collective memories of Cruz. Other than that, though, the Mariners never quite spent enough or did enough to get over the hump. That era of Mariners baseball was good-not-great, and ultimately led to the decision to blow the whole thing up and start over from scratch.

It’s been much more hopeful ever since. Under Jerry Dipoto, the Mariners have drafted better, developed better, and forged a unified front with the field management. We’re no longer churning through managers every two years; Scott Servais has set the tone and the players have responded. At all levels, you can feel the difference. It’s a whole new culture with the Mariners’ organization. In that respect, Cano represents the last death knell of the previous culture. The losing culture. The bloated, ineffectual, rudderless culture. Hopefully lost to the sands of time, never to be thought of again.

Can The Mariners Overtake The Astros In 2023?

As we get closer to the start of Spring Training – which commences in a couple weeks – it’s looking less and less likely that the Mariners will make a big, impactful move to improve this year’s team. Although, to be fair, the Winker/Suarez deal came down in mid-March last year, so it’s not impossible for something huge to come down the pike. Nevertheless, we can only render judgments on things as we know them today.

And today, we have a team that added Teoscar Hernandez, Kolten Wong, Trevor Gott, and A.J. Pollock; they lost Mitch Haniger (Giants), Kyle Lewis (Diamondbacks), Jesse Winker (Brewers), Abraham Toro (Brewers), Adam Frazier (Orioles), Carlos Santana (Pirates), and Erik Swanson (Blue Jays), among others. Feels like a wash to me. We’re REALLY banking a lot of our hopes and dreams on Hernandez and Wong coming to Seattle and continuing their relatively high-quality play. I get why we made these moves – Haniger is an injury waiting to happen, Winker and Toro were busts here, Frazier and Santana might be over the hill – but I can see a world where Winker bounces back when fully healthy, and where Haniger manages to keep his body right and not succumb to some more atrocious injury luck.

The justification for not spending a lot in free agency, or taking a lot of money on in trades, is due to our extending Julio Rodriguez and Luis Castillo in the middle of last year. Somehow, those two get lumped into our Hot Stove tally sheet by the Mariners, mostly to play down the complaints that the M’s are fucking tightwads, but that’s neither here nor there. They are who they are.

I’m not as up in arms as a lot of fans are. For the most part, I think the Mariners are building the right way. I’m already on record as saying I hate these big-money deals for outside free agents (the Robinson Cano conundrum). And I understand the farm system took a hit in the rankings – thanks to guys graduating to the Majors, and other guys getting traded away in the Castillo deal – so there’s not a ton of value left to jettison. It’s smart to not completely gut our minors just to bring in one more guy, especially if we’re not necessarily One More Guy away from winning a World Series. What I take issue with is the fact that there were mid-tier free agents out there who we could’ve signed to mid-level free agent deals – knowing we needed at least one more outfielder, as well as someone to rotate at DH – and we opted for A.J. Pollock. I think that’s going to burn us; I hope I’m wrong.

At some point, we have to move forward with the team we’ve been given. Which brings us to the question at hand: can the Mariners overtake the Astros in 2023?

This question assumes, of course, that the Mariners and Astros are the two best teams in the A.L. West, and by “overtaking the Astros”, it means the Mariners will win the division. For the sake of argument, then, let’s just further assume there’s no huge surprise team among the Angels, Rangers, or Athletics (who I would expect to finish in that order at the bottom of the division, though there’s always the chance the Rangers make a leap).

I’ll start with this: I haven’t kept great tabs on the Astros’ wheelings and dealings this offseason. I’m just taking it for granted they’re going to be at least as good as they were in 2022. Meaning: they’re probably good enough to win over 100 games. Last year, the Astros won 106 games, and were 16 games better than the Mariners. So, that’s the gap I’m talking about. Can we make up 16 games on them?

Well, for one thing, since we only play them 13 times – down from the usual 19 – there are fewer opportunities to gain ground in head-to-head play. But, as we’ve seen pretty much since the Astros joined the American League, that actually means there are fewer opportunities for them to beat our brains in. In my mind, that can only be a good thing for the M’s.

There are two, MAYBE three major things that I’m pointing to as reasons for optimism. The big two being: Luis Castillo and Julio Rodriguez. As much as I loathe including them as part of our overall spending this offseason, I do think there’s a legitimate argument to be made in favor of the Mariners picking up some wins in 2023.

Recall we traded for Castillo on July 30th last year; this year, we get him for the full season! (I should point out that this post also has to assume that everyone I write about stays healthy all year, or at least the vast majority of the games, for all teams involved; of course, the M’s could overtake the Astros if their top five guys all go down with ACL tears). Castillo was a 1 WAR player for the Mariners over the final two months; he counted 3.1 WAR for the Reds. What difference will he make at the top of our rotation every 5-6 days (depending how deep of a rotation we opt to go with to start out) for a full six months? I think that’s pretty significant.

Also recall that Julio Rodriguez was effectively worthless in the month of April last year, as he was getting his footing at the Major League level. Now he’s an All Star who should play at a very high level from Day 1. Having that experience last year can only boost him that much more in year two (let’s hope there’s no Sophomore Slump!). You can also say something similar about Cal Raleigh; he was officially demoted to Tacoma for a short spell before injury thrust him back to Seattle, where he FINALLY turned it around. I’m a little more concerned about his effectiveness this year; he’s still pretty boom or bust at the plate. But, let’s just say he SHOULD be as good as he was in the second half last year, and if we get that for a full season, it’ll be a nice lift for this offense in the months of April and May.

Finally, as a little bonus, I’ll just quickly add that the training wheels are officially off of Logan Gilbert, and the experience he’s had through two seasons will hopefully propel him towards one of those upper rotation slots. If he’s not a second ace on this team, I would expect him to be at least an effective #2. His career trajectory to date has been remarkable, and there’s still room for him to get better. We’re just getting into George Kirby’s second season, where it’s expected the training wheels are very much still on (considering he pitched a lot more as a rookie than the team expected going into last year). But, his ceiling looks to be even higher than Gilbert’s, so as long as these guys don’t have any major setbacks, you’re talking about one of the best rotations in all of baseball, starting on Day 1.

Is that enough? The bullpen will have to continue being lights out. The offense will have to continue being timely with their hitting and cluster luck. If everything goes according to plan, and we don’t run into a bunch of guys having career-worst seasons, I think there’s an okay chance. Maybe a 66.67% chance the Astros win the division, with a 33.33% chance the Mariners prevail. That’s not amazing, but considering it’s usually a 99.99% chance the Astros dominate, I’ll take it.

Why Jarred Kelenic Being Penciled In As A Starter Is Potentially A Good Thing

We as fans like to think we know everything. We’re entitled pricks! It’s fine; we pay their fucking salaries, the least they can do is put up with our bullshit.

Anyway, sometimes it’s good to take a step back and acknowledge that teams generally know more than we do. Or, at the very least, they HAVE knowledge that we don’t. At the beginning of the year, the Seahawks started multiple rookie cornerbacks over veterans who had looked pretty good the previous season. We thought they were crazy, but lo and behold, Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant had pretty solid-to-elite rookie years!

The Mariners know good and well where they are set and where they struggled a year ago. They know what their holes are. At this point in the offseason, they’ve swapped out Teoscar Hernandez for Mitch Haniger in right field. They shed Jesse Winker from left and gave Kyle Lewis a fresh start with another organization who can better afford to keep him on their 40-man. What they didn’t do is … ANYTHING to fill the void in left field, to say nothing of what’s going to happen with the DH spot. We’ve got Dylan Moore, we’ve got Sam Haggerty, and we brought in a right-handed platoon bat in A.J. Pollock for the 25% of the time we face left-handed starters.

Meaning that unless another big deal is coming down the pike in the next month, we’re looking at a healthy dose of Jarred Kelenic.

I find that very intriguing. I just got done telling you how the Mariners know good and well where they struggled a year ago, and one of the most prominent struggle spots was, indeed, Kelenic. So, why would a team that just broke through into the playoffs for the first time in two decades – a team with even higher expectations for 2023 – go into a season essentially guaranteeing a guy like Kelenic the opportunity to start in left? Make no mistake, Moore and Haggerty are insurance policies. But, Kelenic will be given every opportunity to succeed, because he has the highest upside of anyone on this team not named Julio Rodriguez.

On the one hand, this move could blow up in their faces. Kelenic could start this season like he’s started every season in the bigs, sucking HARD at the plate. He could go up and down to and from Tacoma a few times. He could play himself right out of the organization with his value the lowest it’s ever been.

But, I don’t think they believe that’s what’s going to happen. Granted, what organization in its right mind would start a guy they expect to fail? He would have to make significant strides in his development to be the kind of player we need in left. We’ve had ample opportunities to address this void, both in trades and free agents. We have enough prospects to make that spot at least league average; there were deals that could’ve been made. Instead, the Mariners seem content to roll with Kelenic. And that in and of itself gives me hope.

If it backfires, I guess there’s still the trade deadline. But, that’s a pretty huge blunder. So, let’s hope what they’re saying is on point: Kelenic is still VERY young, and there’s plenty of time for him to reach his full potential.

Who Is A.J. Pollock?

Well, he’s a new Mariners outfielder, having just signed a 1-year, $7 million deal with incentives that can bring it to $10 million. I don’t know what those incentives are yet, but I’m guessing they’ll be relatively attainable if he just does what he’s supposed to do.

According to … statistics, he apparently crushes left-handed pitching. If we just go by last year, he was a monster against lefties, and he was pretty mediocre against righties. It should also be noted that almost exactly 1/4 of his plate appearances came against lefties, which pretty much checks out. There are lots more right handed pitchers in baseball than lefties. So, 1/4 of the time, he’s elite. 3/4 of the time he’s somewhere between 2022 Jesse Winker and Jarred Kelenic.

I think those comparisons are relevant to my overall feeling about this signing, because I remember everyone with fingers and an Internet connection telling me that Winker’s greatest attribute was his ability to mash right-handed pitching. Even if he struggled against lefties, you could platoon him and be fine. What happened? Well, for starters, the Season From Hell happened. But, he also weirdly hit much better against lefties and struggled (compared to his previous norms) against righties. I’m not saying it’s going to flip-flop with Pollock the way it did with Winker (that might actually make it a genius move, if true), but I’m just saying beware of making assumptions about guys who have had successful track records.

A.J. Pollock is 35 years old. Sure, he had a 3.1 WAR season in 2021, but last year it was 0.4 (largely due to those platoon splits). He hasn’t been an All Star since 2015 (his Major League debut was in 2012). Last year was also his first in the American League, after being a career National Leaguer; that matters, and everyone pretends it doesn’t. It’s also my understanding that he’s been injury prone of late, which is what happens to most guys in baseball in their mid-30s.

I will say this: the price isn’t outrageous (what IS outrageous is the fact that this is the highest-paid position player free agent we’ve signed in the Jerry Dipoto era; that feels insane to me, even if I’m not the biggest fan of overpaying for free agents based on past success that’s never likely to be replicated). You pay $7 million for a part-time outfielder with some upside still left in the tank. You pay for his leadership, you pay for his production to just remain level with what it’s been in the last couple years, and you cross your fingers that he stays healthy.

But, this move only SORT OF works if he does just that: plays to an expected level, or better. However, you’re still going into the season with the expectation that he’s going to have a platoon partner. How often does THAT work out? How often do both guys pull their weight?

You might like your chances if switch-hitting Sam Haggerty was his partner, except Swaggerty has even MORE stark platoon splits, and his are also in favor of going against lefties. You might settle for a Dylan Moore partnership, but we all know what Dylan Moore is at this point, so don’t make me pull the Dennis Green video again. Also, don’t even try to talk to me about Taylor Trammell or Cade Marlowe, because those are non-entities. Can a guy named Cade succeed at anything?

The expected move – at this point, barring future moves – is to pair him with Jarred Kelenic. And yeah, I get it. He’s awful against lefties. He’s significantly better against righties. But, that’s just compared to how bad he is against lefties. In reality, Kelenic is terrible against EVERYONE. Now, obviously, no one’s sitting here looking to give up on a 23 year old who was once projected to be a crown jewel in our organizational prospect rebuilding effort. But, we’ve seen a decent sample size out of him; over the last two years, it kind of adds up to one full season. Therein, you’re looking at: .168/.251/.338. You saw him look solid towards the end of his 2021 season, only to regress HARD at the start of 2022. He, again, improved towards the end of last year (ever-so-slightly), but fool me twice, you know?

This is a Mariners team coming off of their first playoff appearance in two decades. There are … expectations. We’ve seen a number of lateral moves towards our 2023 roster (Teoscar Hernandez for Mitch Haniger in right, Kolten Wong for Adam Frazier at second, some addition by subtraction in getting rid of Winker and Abraham Toro), but I don’t know if any of these are going to vastly move the needle when it comes to actual wins on the field. A.J. Pollock feels very in line with those other guys; you kind of expect him to play well, but it also wouldn’t shock you in the slightest for him to faceplant as soon as he puts on a Mariners uniform (that goes for Hernandez and Wong as well).

You don’t expect Pollock to only appear in a quarter of these games; he’s not going to be limited exclusively to facing lefties. As long as he’s healthy and productive, he should start against EVERY lefty, and enough righties to put him in a 50/50 timeshare. I think that’s the best-case scenario for him. If he’s thrust into a full-time starting role, I’m guessing we’ll see drastically diminishing returns. But, even at a 50/50-ish split, that’s putting A LOT of trust into Jarred Kelenic figuring it out in his third Major League season, when he’s looked absolutely lost at the plate for 99% of his time in the bigs thus far. For a team that’s expecting a return trip to the playoffs? A team that would ideally like to compete with the Astros for the division title? I don’t think that’s smart.

But, then again, I don’t have a lot of answers here. I’m a guy who doesn’t want to hand over the keys to 50% of the left field job to Jarred Kelenic, but I’m also a guy who doesn’t want to give up on him either. I guess I’d like him to be a guy who goes into this season as a backup outfielder, who slowly builds up his confidence at the plate over sporadic playing time, until he commands starting time through his achievements. Otherwise, this would be the third year in a row where he’s essentially handed a starting job in this lineup, without actually having to prove he’s capable in regular season, Major League baseball games. What has he done to EARN it, other than be good in the minors, and have one hot Spring Training?

I dunno. The Mariners aren’t done, and won’t be set until we get closer to April. I’m still half-expecting a big move between now and Spring Training. But, so far, I’m not exactly bursting with enthusiasm for the moves to date. I guess I’m just waiting to find out who’s set to disappoint us in the 2023 season. It’s not always the people you expect!

Gun to my head, though, I’m expecting A.J. Pollock to disappoint.