The Mariners Have One Top Ten Position Player By WAR

It’s kinda crazy how inept the Mariners are on the non-pitching side of things.

The All Star Game rosters were announced over the weekend, and Logan Gilbert was the lone entry for the Mariners for a while, until Andres Munoz was later added due to … whatever. Guys opting out, guys being injured … whatever.

If you were expecting more than one or two Mariners to be on the American League roster, I’m afraid to tell you that there just weren’t a lot of options. Let’s face it, even for as good as the pitching has been, other teams have awesome pitchers too. I’ll admit, I’m a little biased towards Munoz; I think he’s been absolutely incredible, especially while fighting through nagging ailments. But, then again, the starting pitching has been the heart & soul of this team, and you can almost throw a dart at any of our five starters and find a great candidate.

Going by WAR, Logan Gilbert is the best on the team with 2.7 (that makes him 17th in baseball). Kirby is next at 2.0 (34th in baseball), followed by Munoz (1.7; 49th), Woo (1.4; 72nd), and Castillo (1.3; 84th). That just kinda goes to show you how mediocre Castillo has been, that Woo (in 11 fewer games) has been more valuable.

Anyway, that’s not why I’m getting on here today. I thought I would go through MLB stats by position and see where all the Mariners rank. I don’t know if there’s one singular way to rank them all; you can go by average or OPS or whatever. But, I went with WAR, because it’s easy, it’s on ESPN.com, and I don’t have to think very hard.

Long story short, Cal Raleigh is the aforementioned Only Mariner In The Top Ten At His Position By WAR. He’s 9th in baseball among catchers at 1.7. He’s second on the team, and if you were going to attempt to make an argument for a position player making the All Star Game, he’d be the only guy I’d even remotely listen to.

You wanna know where everyone else ranks?

Well, at first base, Ty France is looking just as cooked as we all feared he might be. He’s 29th in baseball with a 0.1 WAR. By comparison, former Mariner (and someone we easily could’ve retained, if we wanted to, for a reasonable cost to boot) Carlos Santana is 11th in WAR for the Twins (1.4). Also, not for nothing, but Mark Canha? The guy who’s seemingly rumored to be coveted by the Mariners at every trade deadline? He’s 28th in WAR among first basemen at 0.2. So … not the super upgrade you might think.

The less said about second base, the better. Know who’s the top-ranked Mariners second baseman? That would be Ryan Bliss, 25th in baseball (0.4). Know who’s the second-best Mariners second baseman? That would be Samad Taylor, who appeared in three games (and has otherwise been in Tacoma all year); he’s 43rd. You have to go all the way down to 56 before you run into Jorge Polanco (-0.4), so that’s neat.

At third base, making a somewhat respectable showing, we have Josh Rojas, who is 14th with a 1.8 WAR. Wanna know who the top-rated third baseman is at WAR? That would be the guy nobody wanted until LATE in Spring Training (aka, the guy the Mariners could’ve had, if they’d only spent the money), Matt Chapman, with a 3.6 WAR. 3 years, $54 million, for someone who would’ve been the best player on this team. Would’ve afforded you the option to move Rojas to second (when Polanco inevitably struggled), and probably would’ve given us more of a cushion in this A.L. West race. Awesome.

At short stop, I don’t even know what to do with this, because ESPN lists Dylan Moore here, who (I guess) is the 18th best short stop in baseball with a 1.7 WAR. J.P., having a very down year, is only 25th, with a 1.3 WAR. Know who’s right in the middle between those two? Jose Caballero (now on the Rays), with a 1.4 WAR.

In left field, the highest-rated Mariner is Luke Raley, who’s 21st with a 1.2 WAR. Know who’s rated one spot higher at 1.3 WAR? If you guessed Jarred Kelenic, you’d be correct.

Center field is where it really hurts, because this is where our supposedly-best player roams. Julio is only 14th with a 1.1 WAR, but also I don’t know how seriously I can take this list, because ESPN puts Teoscar Hernandez in this category. Anyway, he’s ranked 8th among “center fielders” with a 1.8 WAR.

In right field, you have to go all the way to 27th before you run into Dominic Canzone (0.4 WAR). You have to go all the way to 81st before you run into Mitch Haniger (-0.7 WAR), where you’ll find that there are only five right fielders worse than him in all of baseball.

Taking the outfield as a whole, the top three Mariners are Luke Raley (45th), Julio (48th), and … (drum roll) … Victor Robles (81st with a 0.6 WAR between the Mariners and Nationals). That’s the same Robles who we brought in last month, who’s appeared in only 17 games in a Mariners uniform (with all of 20 at-bats). His slash line with us is .350/.435/.600, leading me to wonder … should the Mariners be playing him more?!

To round things out, Mitch Garver is the 8th ranked DH, but according to ESPN, there are only 11 qualified designated hitters in baseball, and Garver has the worst WAR among DH’s who have a positive WAR (0.1). In other words, he doesn’t count for this thought experiment. Also, Shohei Ohtani has a 5.1 WAR exclusively as a DH, which is bonkers banana times.

Anyway, this roster is fucking depressing. Who’s ready for more baseball?! Because I know I sure as shit am NOT!

The Mariners’ Non-Julio Outfielders Scare The Bejesus Out Of Me

When I talk about the Mariners having holes (multiple), part of what I’m talking about is this. Look no further than the non-Julio components of the Mariners’ outfield.

As I’ve talked about, a Julio playing at an MVP level would compensate for a lot of struggling on this team. But, the fact that we can have this conversation of someone with his level of talent going above and beyond – and STILL only end up right around 83-88 wins – is really the problem with our roster construction as it’s presented today. With the pitching we have, and complementary hitters like Cal Raleigh and J.P. Crawford giving us their best, you’d think it wouldn’t be so hard to fill out this roster and go chase a championship. But, here we are.

I know I’ve been lamenting third base, and the Mariners’ need to go out and get a Matt Chapman to help Band Aid over the lack of offensive production on this roster, but that’s not our only problem area, or questionable position group, or whathaveyou.

As things stand right now, we’re looking at Mitch Haniger being our regular Right Fielder; can’t really say “everyday” there because he’s going to require built-in off-days in order to stay healthy (in addition to the off-days already part of the schedule). And that’s only until he inevitably lands on the IL; another reason we strip him of the “everyday” moniker.

In Left Field, we have some split of Luke Raley and Dominic Canzone, though you really can’t say it’s a proper platoon, because both hit left-handed. If you want to round things out, you could probably add Dylan Moore to the mix, for more of a right-handed presence, but we’ll see where he ultimately ends up helping out most, especially considering the aforementioned quagmire that is third base.

Let’s say it’s some combination of the four: Haniger and Moore from the right side, Raley and Canzone from the left. Who’s happy with that?!

I’m already on record as having my reservations about what Haniger has left in the tank, even when healthy. I’m willing to let that go, for now (pending the start of the regular season, because if he struggles to open the year, you better believe I’ll be yapping again) and just assume Haniger will be fine. He’ll be some semblance of what he was before. What was that? I’m not talking his very peak of 2018; rather, someone who’s a little streakier, can carry an offense at times, but can also get lost at the plate. When Haniger is going good, this team should win a lot of games. When Haniger is going bad, we’ll need someone to step up and pick up the slack.

Dylan Moore is Dylan Moore. VERY occasional power, low-to-terrible batting average, so-so on-base percentage, pretty good on the basepaths (though he’s in his 30’s now, so we’ll see what that means for his stolen bases), and competent defense. The more you’re needing to play Dylan Moore, the worse your chances of winning (because that means other guys aren’t producing, and so you’re forced to start someone who’s supposed to be a utility guy).

In a lot of ways, this season hinges on one of either Raley or Canzone being above replacement-level. Otherwise, expect left field to be yet another black hole.

If we got Luke Raley to replicate his 2023 season – even if it’s just the same 118-game span – I think I would take that in a heartbeat. I don’t expect him to play the full year, just because I don’t think he’ll be good enough, and will likely spend some time benched to work on some things, so getting around the same amount of games, with that production (19 homers, 23 doubles) would be a boon for the middle of our lineup. If we get that out of him, with Haniger being great sometimes, with Ty France hopefully improved, with Polanco and Garver doing their things, that’s a lineup that can do some damage! A lot of “ifs” there, though.

Canzone would need to take a considerable step up in his development. I would say his production in 2023 – admittedly in just 59 games – was sub-replacement-level. He had glimpses of power, but his batting average and on-base numbers took a nosedive. And he never gives you enough defense to be worth the crater he is at the plate.

But, the team obviously likes him enough to ship off Kelenic, and to only bring in a guy in Raley who’s probably a platoon partner for someone (be it in the outfield, or as a timeshare with Ty France if he continues to flatline). Canzone apparently had some nagging lower body injuries last year that hampered him. We’ll see. With experience, with good health, with a vote of confidence, maybe he starts to make good on his potential.

I can’t say I’m holding my breath, though. I think this non-Julio outfield has a chance to be an unwatchable disaster. And, with all the other question marks on this team, we most likely won’t go down as one of the worst Mariners offenses of all time, but it’ll be painful to have to suffer through. Just, brace yourselves now. I know with this being Spring Training, we all want to look on the bright side and hope for the best. But it’s okay to splash our faces with a cold dose of reality.

Should The Mariners Sign Matt Chapman?

You know what? I was 100% ready to come on here and say “No, don’t even bother with Chapman. Save your money, Mariners, and maybe look to make a deal sometime mid-season, once you know where you need the most help.”

But, I’ll be honest, I don’t really know much about Matt Chapman, other than what I’ve gleaned from the way people talk about him on the radio and on the Internet. When I hear about someone having personality defects in sports, I feel like that can go any number of directions, but it seems to me, if you’re hearing it from a media personality, then that means the particular athlete in question just doesn’t like talking to the media. Now, maybe where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and bringing a Matt Chapman into your clubhouse is a recipe for inviting cancer into your body. But, my guess is, if he’s doing well, and/or the team is doing well, I’m sure he’s a fine teammate. Winning and success tend to cover a lot of warts.

I also didn’t really know that much about Matt Chapman the ballplayer. I hear he’s a good defensive third baseman. Sounds like he’s got some pop in his bat, but maybe not so hot with the batting average, and will increase your team’s strikeout rate. He’s probably good enough with getting on base, but also his best days are almost certainly behind him.

After looking at his stat sheet, that’s more or less all true. What I was expecting was to see someone who absolutely cratered in 2023, but that’s far from the case. He’s been in the league since 2017, and other than the COVID-shortened season, he’s had at least a 3.2 WAR every year (and that rookie campaign of a 3.2 WAR was limited to 84 games). We’re talking about a guy who – at his very best – was an MVP-calibre player (7.6 and 7.8 WAR in 2018 and 2019 with the A’s). But, his last three years have been pretty damn good, with no less than a 3.5 WAR between Oakland and Toronto. Indeed, he actually had his third-best career WAR season last year with 4.4!

That’s all while averaging $12.5 million per year over the last two years. Considering he’s yet to sign and Spring Training has already started, I would say his value hasn’t skyrocketed. My guess is, you could probably get him on a similar deal today if you offered it to him. And $12.5 million for a 3.5-4.4 WAR guy is kind of a bargain in this day and age!

Now, compare that to a likely platoon of Luis Urias (who, it was announced today, had shoulder inflammation at the start of camp, and had to be shut down for a couple weeks) and Josh Rojas. They combined last year for a 0.3 WAR. Neither is all that good defensively. Their best seasons were both in 2022, when they were at 3.1 and 3.2 WAR respectively. But, considering they both played at least 119 games, it’s not like you can add those two numbers together and hope for a replication of that. Also, that was kind of an outlier year for Rojas; his next-highest WAR was 0.8. Urias had a 3.3 WAR in 2021, but again, I don’t know how likely that is to be replicated in 2024, given his injury history and his performance level in 2023.

What I fear people are thinking is that the Mariners are just one player away. I think we all can agree that the Mariners have a significant problem at third base. It would be a considerable upset if things pan out at that position; my guess is – at best – we’ll get replacement-level production (with a strong likelihood that we’ll be sub-replacement-level). So, when people dismiss Chapman, the thought process becomes, “Well, with our starting pitching, and a good bullpen, the Mariners can survive one black hole at third base.” But, that’s a faulty assumption.

You can’t go into this thing thinking there will only be ONE weak spot; there’s going to be multiple. Somebody’s going to get hurt; likely multiple somebodies, given the histories of some of these guys. Somebody’s going to have a down season – a season that’s not reflective of their recent past that we’re anticipating will continue – for reasons that will mystify. And, again, probably multiple somebodies will have down seasons, or at the very least go long stretches struggling to make an impact. So, signing Matt Chapman isn’t a case of the Mariners papering over their lone blemish; it’s filling one significant hole on a team that’s practically guaranteed to have more than one. It’s a means to try to mitigate some of the damage, and put a competitive product on the field.

The Mariners have done quite a bit this offseason, given their self-imposed constraints. But, overall, they haven’t done enough. This feels like a team that’s poised to beat up on crappy teams, but get bowled over by the good ones. What does that get you? Right around .500, maybe a little over, but ultimately a few games short of the playoffs.

What does Matt Chapman get you? 3-4 wins! That MIGHT just be the difference between a wild card berth, and being a game or two out. Of course, that assumes he does actually come down to Earth on his asking price. It’s hard for me to believe that Seattle would be an attractive place to try to boost your value on a prove-it type of deal. But, if there are no other suitors, he might want to go somewhere that would surely give him an everyday role, on a promising, up-and-coming team. How many open third baseman jobs are there REALLY? I’d venture to guess not many.