Mariners find selves in re­build mode af­ter bevy of de­par­tures

Houston Chronicle - - PRO BASEBALL - By Tim Booth

SEAT­TLE — The run­ning joke is that when the Seat­tle Mariners ar­rive for the first day of spring train­ing, ev­ery­one will need to wear “Hi, my name is” nametags. It might not be a bad idea for man­ager Scott Ser­vais to con­sider.

“I’m very ex­cited to go to spring train­ing, to get with this group, and hit the re­set but­ton a lit­tle bit on our club­house and what we’ve got go­ing,” Ser­vais said.

Seat­tle be­gins spring train­ing in a full re­build mode — al­though “step-back” or “re­set” have been the fa­vored terms in­side the front of­fice. In­stead of be­ing a club con­tend­ing for a wild-card berth and likely hov­er­ing in the 85- to 90-win range, the Mariners em­braced the need to get younger, re­lieve them­selves of some hefty con­tracts, and pro­vide fi­nan­cial flex­i­bil­ity for the time when their top prospects are reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tors.

The Mariners should not be a ter­ri­ble team. They aren’t tank­ing. But they be­gin spring with a ros­ter they hope won’t be the same by mid­sea­son. In Seat­tle’s per­fect sce­nario, the hand­ful of es­tab­lished vet­er­ans in the lineup will play well enough early that they can be moved for more prospects.

The hope re­mains that the prospects they’ve ac­quired will be ready to con­trib­ute by the se­cond half of the 2020 sea­son, with some de­but­ing this year. Much of spring train­ing will in­volve see­ing how a hand­ful of them stack up al­ready.

Other things to watch as the Mariners start re­port­ing on Mon­day, ahead of the early sea­son opener in Ja­pan on March 20 against Oak­land:

New look: Gone are Robin­son Cano, Nel­son Cruz, Jean Se­gura, Mike Zunino, Ben Gamel and Guillermo Here­dia, and with them a lot of the of­fen­sive pro­duc­tion from re­cent sea­sons. Yet the drop-off shouldn’t be sig­nif­i­cant at the plate. Seat­tle added speed in out­fielder Mallex Smith and short­stop J.P. Craw­ford. They got a po­ten­tial big bat in out­fielder Domingo San­tana and likely im­proved of­fen­sively be­hind the plate with Omar Nar­vaez. If third base­man Kyle Sea­ger can re­bound from a ter­ri­ble 2018, Seat­tle will be sim­i­lar of­fen­sively to what it was a year ago.

They’re set: The ro­ta­tion could be good enough to keep the Mariners com­pet­i­tive. Marco Gon­za­les, Mike Leake and new­comer Yu­sei Kikuchi will be the head­lin­ers, al­though Seat­tle will limit Kikuchi’s in­nings dur­ing spring and through the reg­u­lar sea­son. Wade LeBlanc will have a spot af­ter a solid 2018, which begs a ques­tion about Fe­lix Her­nan­dez. The for­mer All-Star had the worst sea­son of his ca­reer in 2018 with a 5.55 ERA and 27 home runs al­lowed, but Seat­tle in­sists he’ll be in the ro­ta­tion en­ter­ing the fi­nal sea­son of his cur­rent con­tract.

They’re not: With Ed­win Diaz de­parted, the bullpen is the big­gest ques­tion mark. There are no jobs pre­de­ter­mined out­side of per­haps Hunter Strick­land’s hav­ing the in­side track on the closer spot.

Rook­ies to watch: Pitcher Jus­tus Sh­effield and Justin Dunn, in­field­ers Shed Long and Evan White, and top prospect Julio Ro­driguez, 18, will get long looks this spring.

Chris­tian Petersen / Getty Im­ages

Seat­tle could use a bounce-back year from third base­man Kyle Sea­ger.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.