A lot of people liked the Seattle Mariners to win their first AL pennant last year. I was one of them. Seattle was a +550 co-favorite with Boston for the pennant when I previewed the M's last spring and had a wins total of 86.5. FanGraphs projected them to finish 88-74 and first in the AL West. I agreed and did believe they'd win the pennant.
Oops. Seattle finished 76-86, a decrease of 11 wins from 2014. This team hasn't made the playoffs since winning a record 116 games in 2001. That's the longest drought in the majors.
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Late last August when it became evident that the Mariners were going nowhere, the team fired General Manager Jack Zduriencik, exactly one year to the day he was praised by team president Kevin Mather and given a contract extension. He deserved to go as since Zduriencik's first season with the Mariners in 2009, the team has the fifth-worst record in baseball. About a month after Zduriencik's firing, the club replaced him with Jerry Dipoto. He was the Angels' general manager for 3½ years before resigning last July 1 following clashes with manager Mike Scioscia.
Dipoto's first job in Seattle was to decide on the future of Manager Lloyd McClendon, and he was canned. McClendon finished 163-161, joining Lou Piniella as the only managers in Mariners history to have a winning record. Dipoto chose former big-league catcher Scott Servais as his manager. He was also a former assistant GM with the Angels, so obviously Dipoto knows him well. Dipoto and Servais, the 17th manager in club history, also played together with the Colorado Rockies in 2000. Servais has no managerial experience, but that hardly seems to matter these days around baseball, especially if you are a former catcher.
Seattle opens the season next Monday at Texas.
Mariners 2016 Projected Lineup
Dipoto has been perhaps the busiest GM this offseason, turning over nearly half of the team's 40-man roster either through trades or free-agent additions or subtractions. The losses from the every-day lineup weren't much: infielder Brad Miller and first basemen/DHs Logan Morrison and Mark Trumbo.
One new addition will hit leadoff, and that's left fielder Nori Aoki. He's poor-man's version of former Mariners star Ichiro Suzuki, as Aoki hit .287 with 14 steals and a .353 on-base percentage last season. Dipoto traded Trumbo to free up money to sign Aoki.
Shortstop Ketel Marte is likely to hit second. He was a late-season call-up in 2015 and hit .283 with eight steals and 17 RBIs in 219 at-bats with an on-base percentage of .351. So you can see what Dipoto is going for here: guys who can get on base.
The 3-4-5 group is an excellent trio of second baseman Robinson Cano (.287, 21 HRs, 79 RBIs), DH Nelson Cruz (.302, 44 HRs, 93 RBIs) and third baseman Kyle Seager (.266, 26 HRs, 74 RBIs). Cano's numbers overall were a tad disappointing, but he really caught fire in the second half last season; some stomach issues plagued him in the first half. Cano had offseason surgery to repair a double hernia. I'm shocked Cruz hit that many homers -- second in MLB -- playing in pitcher-friendly Safeco Field half the time. I think that batting average was a bit of a fluke and don't see him nearing 40 dingers again. Maybe 35 if all goes well. Seager is Mr. Consistent has he has hit at least 22 homers in three straight seasons and played at least 159 games in each of those.
New addition Adam Lind will hit sixth and play first base. He was acquired from Milwaukee for pitching prospects and hit .277 with 20 homers and 87 RBIs in 2015. The lefty Lind kills right-handed pitching but struggles against southpaws. Right fielder Seth Smith (.248, 12 HRs, 42 RBIs), catcher Chris Iannetta (.188, 10 HRs, 34 RBIs) and center fielder Leonys Martin (.219, 14 steals) round out the lineup. The latter two are new additions, Iannetta a free agent and Martin acquired in trade from Texas. They aren't much offensively but both are good on defense.
Mariners 2016 Projected Rotation & Closer
Everyone was so high on Seattle entering last season largely because of its pitching. But that group disappointed with a combined 4.16 ERA, which was 22nd. The M's dealt one member of that rotation, lefty Roenis Elias, to Boston along with solid set-up man Carson Smith for starting lefty Wade Miley. He went 11-11 with a 4.46 ERA in his only season with the Red Sox.
Miley slots in as a No. 3 behind Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. King Felix won 18 games last year but actually wasn't quite as good as usual with a 3.53 ERA and "only" 191 strikeouts in 201.2 innings. His innings, strikeouts and ERA all represented at least seven-year worsts. Are all those innings catching up to him? Iwakuma (9-5, 3.54) was set to sign a free-agent deal with the Dodgers before they saw something in his physical they didn't like. Iwakuma pitched the first no-hitter of his career in August against Baltimore and was 4-2 with a 2.17 ERA over his final seven starts.
The rest of the rotation is Miley, inconsistent but ultra-talented youngster Taijuan Walker (11-8, 4.56) and Nathan Karns, who was 7-5 with a 3.67 ERA with Tampa Bay. Karns came over from the Rays for Miller, Morrison and reliever Danny Farquhar. Karns led American League rookies in innings pitched and strikeouts.
The closer should be Steve Cishek (2-6, 3.58 ERA, four saves). He parlayed a strong finish after a trade to the Cardinals into a two-year, $10 million contract with the Mariners. Not sure he will keep that job. The Mariners acquired reliever Joaquin Benoit from San Diego and he's a former closer.
Mariners Futures Odds
At BetOnline , Seattle is +2800 to win the World Series, +1200 for the AL pennant, +375 in the AL West and has an "over/under" wins total of 83, with the over a -125 favorite. Cruz is +2000 to lead the majors in homers and +5000 to win AL MVP. He has a homers total of 32.5. Cano is +4000 for MVP. Hernandez is +700 for AL Cy Young and has a wins total of 14.5.
Mariners 2016 Predictions
FanGraphs projects Seattle to finish 82-80 and second in the AL West, five games behind Houston. I like this rotation a lot as well as the middle of the lineup. Not a huge fan of the rest of the lineup or the bullpen. I'll go under the wins as that playoff drought continues. Go over Hernandez's wins and under Cruz's homers.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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