Nicholas Sarysz, Staff Writer
With the help of the Washington Nationals, the Seattle Mariners made Major League Baseball history this season in the most unfortunate fashion. The Nationals clinched their first ever trip to the World Series on Oct. 16, leaving the Mariners as the only team to never make an appearance. To make matters worse, the Mariners’ playoff drought has hit legal voting age, becoming the longest active drought in North American pro sports.
The Mariners finished their season at 68-94, placing them last in the American League West standings. High hopes were not something Mariner fans had coming into the season after General Manager Jerry Dipoto traded away former all-stars in Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz last December.
Seattle is no stranger to losing, as their abysmal starting rotation has floundered for years. If they ever want a chance to be competitive in the postseason, or even get there, they need to see a drastic change in their starting rotation. Without any big-name players, the Mariners are hindered in their ability to make acquisitions within the trade market. This, compounded with Seattle’s historic lack of success and harsh weather conditions, make it an undesirable place for free agents as well. In an unfavorable position, improving the team is going to be a troublesome task.
According to the sport’s official website, Jerry Dipoto does not look to make any major changes this offseason.
“We’re looking at our young group and wanting to let them run with it. That’s our team and we’re going to let them play and provide opportunity for the young guys and see where it takes us.”
This means the pitching rotation will revolve around starting pitchers Marco Gonzales, Yusei Kikuchi, and Justus Sheffield. Although this rotation was not one that provided any success for the Mariners last season, it does not hinder their payroll. The three pitchers cost the Mariners a combined $11.5 million next season. Dipito is currently projected to fill the rest of the starting lineup with former minor-league pitchers, Justin Dunn and potentially Logan Gilbert, per an official league source. With an average age of less than 25 between the entire starting rotation, success is something the Mariners are looking for long-term, as a drastic change that would put the team in win-now mode is nowhere in sight.
Although the Mariners’ young pitching rotation does not look to be lethal next season, their infield is intriguing. Led by returning veterans Dee Gordan and Kyle Seagar, the infield looks to have a strong defensive front. The young group includes first baseman Austin Nola, shortstop John Crawford, and catcher Omar Narváez. On the offensive side, the young core is led by 26 year old designated hitter Daniel Vogelbach, and the Mariners look to keep it that way in the upcoming season. Vogelbach had an overall on-base percentage of .341 and finished with 30 home runs.
The Mariners have a lot of young talent on their roster, meaning there can be some major improvements through a strong development process. The biggest flaw in General Manager Jerry Dipoto’s plan is that the offense is relying too heavily on a below average pitching rotation. There is no doubt that the Mariners have a possibility of accomplishing a winning record in the near future; however, it looks like post season baseball is still going to be out of reach for awhile.