Predicted Finish: 2nd Place
Subtractions: 3B Adrian Beltre (Red Sox) RHP Brandon Morrow (Blue Jays), 1B Chris Shelton (Astros), 1B Russell Branyan (Indians), INF Bill Hall (Red Sox), C Kenji Johjima (Japan), RHP Miguel Batista (Nationals), OF Tyson Gillies (Phillies), RHP Phillippe Aumont (Phillies) , RHP Carlos Silva (Cubs)
Jack Zduriencik holds the map and strategy as GM of the Seattle Mariners while Don Wakamatsu and Ken Griffey Jr. captain ship. Together, the two have brought Seattle respectability and meaningful summer baseball back to the Pacific Northwest. The Seattle Mariners baseball team has gone through a metamorphosis in the two years since Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong replaced one of the worst GM’s of all time: Bill ‘The Issue’ Bavasi. It’s a difficult ocean to navigate for the M’s as Cliff Lee will start the year on the disabled list putting more pressure on an erratic Ian Snell as the #2 in the order behind, Cy Young runner up, ‘King’ Felix Hernandez. The guys behind Hernandez and Snell include Aussie, Ryan Rowland-Smith, Doug ‘The Blister’ Fister, and another J.J. Putz trade chip from the Mets in Jason Vargas rounding out the rotation. The M’s need the volcanic, switch-hitting Bradley (who was ejected twice in spring training games) to replicate the .321, 22-homer season he had in Texas two years ago since he'll probably have to hit cleanup in Seattle's slugger-less order. Injury is a big concern with Milton Bradley who was pulled in the 4<sup>th</sup> inning of the final tune up game with a quad injury – April 3<sup>rd</sup>. Through Chone Figgins, hitting behind AL hits leader Ichiro Suzuki , the Mariners have the best 1-2 table setters in baseball. However, behind the two, the M's had only one player, Jose Lopez to hit 20 homers in '09. Jack Zduriencik brought in singles hitting Casey Kotchman to play first base (and apparently bat third). The Mariners will be depending on the fountain of youth to strike in Ken Griffey Jr., Eric Byrnes and Cactus League, sensation, Mike Sweeney. Byrnes is the single aforementioned Mariner that Wakamatsu would let play defense.
What the Mariners need to happen to order to win AL West:
The Mariners need some luck in 2010 and they need a late season rally as April is already looking like a .500 record would be a success. The Mariners need to lean on the strengths of the club, pitching and defense. This is a NL built team that can cover ground in the outfield and shorten a game quickly if they can get the lead and hand the ball to the bullpen. The bullpen is the strength of this club. David Aardsma, Mark Lowe, Brandon League, Sean White and Sean Kelly give the Mariners another terrific bullpen in 2010. Franklin Gutierrez needs to build on his breakout 2009 season. Gutierrez turns the magical age of 27 this year and may be the Mariners next All-Star in the outfield. Somehow an offensive catalyst needs to emerge from a fairly mediocre offensive lineup coming out of Spring ball. The team has a legit chance of catching the Rangers sometime in the late August swoon throughout Texas if they can stay competitive until Zduriencik is able to pull a miracle and land Adrian Gonzalez.
What the Mariners can’t have Happen:
They cannot afford for Cliff Lee to stay on the DL long from his abdominal strain. The M’s can ill afford injury to any part of their starting lineup. Most notably: Milton Bradley, Jose Lopez, Ichiro Suzuki, and Chone Figgens. The offensive depth drops off considerably after these guys on the depth chart. They can’t fall behind Texas or Anaheim too quickly as this team looks built to hang in there until July and then make adjustments as necessary.
What will likely happen:
It’s reasonable to believe this team is still a year away. A lot of pressure is being heaped on Milton Bradley when in effect he needs only perform better than the dreadful Carlos Silva. At the very least the team will save expenses in the cafeteria line. Jose Lopez may find an adjustment from second base to that of third a little more difficult once the lights come on. It’s hard to dismiss runs that Adrian Beltre prevented at 3B last year. The city of Seattle may never see a better defensive third baseman after Beltre. The starting rotation is suddenly looking susceptible as Ian Snell, Jason Vargas and Doug Fister are all yet proven in the league and none looked impressive in the Cactus League.
Player to Watch:
Adam Moore. The fortunate departure by Kenji Johjima to depart the Mariners for Japan freed up his $8 million salary to spend elsewhere. In his place steps an immediate upgrade in Adam Moore. Moore, will likely be the opening day catcher and he carries with him some potential offensive swat to his game. If Moore is able to adjust from Tacoma to Seattle as his Spring training would indicate, he’ll be an important factor in the following...
What may just happen… (If the stars aligned in Seattle):
Cliff Lee comes off the DL before May 1<sup>st</sup> and slides into the #2 slot quickly regaining form and dominates the AL West. Milton Bradley finds his inner peace in laid back Seattle. He embraces a newly found Zen in a coffee shop during the day and hits like it’s 2008 at night. He avoids the DL through naturopathic healing shops in Freemont and goes the route of a Ricky Williams rather than Ron Artest. Erik Bedard comes off the DL in late June and follows a recovery from Tommy John surgery as Chris Carpenter did for the Cardinals. North Carolina product and #2 overall pick last year, Dustin Ackley is hitting the tar off the ball in AA and joins the team sometime in September providing a late season spark and an offensive boost. Jack Zduriencik will sense that the Rangers and Angels can be caught in early July and thus make a blockbuster trade raiding the minor leagues to land 1B Adrian Gonzalez to provide some pop in the middle of the lineup and utilize the left handed power bat dimensions of Safeco Field. If this all happens, the Mariners will catch fire in September behind the rotation of Felix Hernandez, Cliff Lee, Erik Bedard and Ryan Rowland-Smith. Ken Griffey Jr is carried off the field by his teammates in the winning moments after the World Series and earns the ring all baseball fans would all feel good about. The Mariners win the pennant. The Mariners win the World Series and even the Butler Bulldogs are soon forgotten. Go M’s!