Achieving a winning record for the first time in four years, the Seattle Mariners finished the 2014 season one game out of playoff contention and have completed an offseason that suggests a continuation of such success.
Possessing a defense that ranked second in fielding percentage and a pitching staff that dominated opposing hitters by posting a league best .230 batting average against, the Mariners solidified themselves as a worthy candidate for an AL Wild Card spot. But their post-season dreams were squashed when they couldn’t find their bats late in the year.
Despite the offensive successes of Kyle Seager and Robinson Cano, the Mariners lineup struggled to find themselves at the plate. Fortunately, the Mariners front office made offseason dealings that attempt to remedy a collectively stagnant offense that ranked 27th in on base percentage.
The Mariners acquired the best power hitter of 2014 when they signed Nelson Cruz to a four year, $57 million deal. Hitting forty pitches over the fence last season, Cruz led the majors in homeruns while also finishing third in RBIs with 108. Granted, Cruz accomplished these feats while playing within the confines of Camden Yards, arguably the most batter-friendly ballpark in all of Major League Baseball. Transitioning to Safeco Field means that Cruz’s numbers will see a decline. But regardless of his statistical decline, Cruz’s power will provide a huge help to a struggling offense.
Through a trade in which the Mariners dealt relief pitcher Brandon Maurer to the San Diego Padres, the Mariners acquired outfielder Seth Smith. Smith isn’t overtly impressive, but should provide a compliment to the M’s new addition of power within the lineup, as he had a .367 OBP in last year’s stint with the Padres.
Earlier in the week the Mariners also signed second baseman and longtime Milwaukee Brewer Rickie Weeks to a one year deal worth $2 million. Bouncing back from an ugly 2013 season, Weeks improved his batting average last year by .065 and will compete for a spot in the outfield, as the position at second is clearly occupied.
Maurer and Michael Saunders have both departed, but overall the Mariners have managed to keep their core intact while adding a couple of key players and hoping for the return of another. Riddled with injury and illness Franklin Gutierrez missed all of last season and has played in only 81 games in the last three seasons. But a potential return is imminent as Gutierrez has been invited to spring training.
Projected rotation prior to spring training:
- Felix Hernandez
- Hisashi Iwakuma
- James Paxton
- Taijuan Walker
- JA Happ (acquired in Saunders trade)
Although Chris Young had a successful year, it doesn’t look as if the Mariners are going to re-sign the 35 year old starting pitcher, as they have Erasmo Ramirez and Taijuan Walker vying for the last spot in the rotation.
Facing position battles at starting pitcher and in the outfield, it’ll be interesting to see what transpires during spring training.