Tuesday, February 26, 2013

2013 Mariners Offseason Review and Season Preview

by Marshall Cherrington

After a 2012 season where the Mariners improved by seven wins from the past season, the Mariners will look to improve on that mark significantly. Fans have been disgruntled with the team for at least five years now and are looking for a change. Manager Eric Wedge and General Manager Jack Zduriencik have made significant strides to achieving their goal of success. They furthered that process during this offseason with some key signings and trades.

It was a busy offseason for the Mariners as they gained some key power bats that should help out as well as some veteran starters who could surprise some people. Although they weren't their first options, the mariners gained some valuable players. Jack Zduriencik pursued Josh Hamilton very hard only to lose out to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Apparently the team offered about $100 million to Hamilton, but he chose to take the Angels offer over the Mariners’ offer. The Mariners also struck-out on another free agent Nick Swisher, but is unknown how hard the Mariners went after him. Jack Zduriencik had agreed to a deal with Diamondback’s General Manager Kevin Towers for outfielder Justin Upton, but Upton rejected the trade with his no-trade clause. The two biggest acquisitions through the trade route were Kendrys Morales and Michael Morse. Both of these big guys will provide the Mariners with some much needed power in the middle of their lineup. Morales will most likely hit third with Morse hitting fourth. Morales was sixth in MVP voting in 2010, which shows some of the potential he has. However, he broke his leg in the 2011 season and had to rehab for the entire offseason. He started playing again in the late part of the 2012 season and even though he wasn't at 100%, he put up some great numbers which should look promising to Mariners fans. This will be Morse’s second stint with the Mariners as he played in the Mariners minor league system in the early part of his career. He really never got the opportunity to play every day in Seattle as there were already experienced players ahead of him so the Mariners traded him off to the Washington Nationals. After having several very successful campaigns in Washington, Morse returns to the Mariners as a “grown man.” He thinks that he didn't show Seattle fans his full potential in his first stint and will look to show them his great power in his second stint with the team. The Mariner’s made some other offseason moves for power bats, such as the signings of Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay, two veteran outfielders. With the plethora of outfielders that the team has, it will be important in spring training for each player to show his value to the team. It is expected Ibanez will make the team, however it is a different story with Jason Bay. Bay comes to the Mariners after never living up to his mega-million dollar deal with the Mets. He was an MVP candidate when he played for the Red Sox towards the early part of his career, but really never found success in New York. The Mariners are hoping this veteran can return to his form as a Red Sock and provide the team with some needed help at the plate. There is one snag, however. The Mariners have a pretty similar player to Bay; that player being Casper Wells. These two guys will battle it out all spring, which is a good thing, and fans should have confidence in Eric Wedge to make the right choice in which player to keep and which player to drop. The Mariners outfield, as well as lineup, should look much improved to what it was in the 2012 season.

Michael Morse could provide the Mariners with some much needed power. He could possibly be a 25+ HR guy...
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

When the Mariners traded Jason Vargas away for Kendrys Morales, they lost a guy who could just eat up innings. Vargas is the type of pitcher that every team needs and wants so the Mariners shopped him on the open market. With the loss of Vargas, they needed to find a player similar to the type of Vargas, a guy who could eat up innings. The Mariners think they have found that in Joe Saunders. After coming off a successful campaign with the Baltimore Orioles, the Mariners signed Joe Saunders to a one-year $7 million contract. This guy was a Mariners killer when he played for the Angels, as well as the Orioles, so the Mariners are glad he is on their team now. He will eat innings up, kind of like Vargas did, and will prove to be a solid option in the starting rotation behind Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. Speaking of Felix Hernandez, the Mariners’ ace signed a huge contract extension this offseason and it couldn't have happened to a better person. Felix was overjoyed at his press conference and stated that he will do everything he can to get the Mariners back to the playoffs. With the huge seven-year $175 million contract, Hernandez won’t miss any meals anytime soon. Iwakuma should provide some great pitching after a very solid 2012 campaign where he was second in ERA after the All-Star break, only trailing AL Cy Young winner David Price. There will be a fight for the 4th and 5th starting rotation spots, but many expect Erasmo Ramirez and Blake Beaven to win those spots. One or more of the big three, Danny Hultzen, James Paxton or Taijuan Walker, could be called up mid-season to add some skill to the pitching staff. Until then, the current rotation will be able to hold down the fort.

With the loss of Jason Vargas, Joe Saunders was a much needed addition.
AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

After a plethora of moves in the offseason, the Mariners are hoping to have a winning record this year. Fans will not be disappointed this season. The Mariners are a young team and now that they have added some solid veterans, the young guys should have some role models to look up to. Sure, there have been veterans on past Mariners teams, but this group is different. First off, all of these veterans speak English. In past years, Mariners leaders such as Ichiro and Miguel Olivo haven’t really played their role in the clubhouse. Veterans this year such as Jason Bay, Raul Ibanez, Jon Garland, Oliver Perez and Kelly Shoppach should provide that great clubhouse atmosphere that all the good teams need. Nobody in the past has expected the Mariners to be contenders, but there are whispers this year that the M’s could be on the fringe of contending. Many analysts have compared this year’s Mariner’s team to the Cinderella’s of last year such as the Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles. If the Mariners are contending by the All-Star break, look for Jack Zduriencik to make some bold moves to put the M’s further into playoff contention. However, that is only if the Mariners are contending. Even if the Mariners aren't contenders this year, which is likely to happen in a division with the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, they will most likely make huge progress as they are a young team. With experience comes knowledge, and with knowledge comes success. Hopefully that is true for the 2013 Seattle Mariners.

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