With the full free agent class now known after non-tender day arrived and departed Wednesday, let’s put together a list of free agents that make sense for the Seattle Mariners.

But first, here’s what you won’t see below.

You won’t see the names of DJ LeMahieu or Trevor Bauer, for example. Nor will George Springer‘s name show up, or the likes of Marcus Semien or Liam Hendriks. It’s not that the Mariners shouldn’t have some level of interest in those players, but fit, cost, and other resources are critical this offseason to avoid roster conflicts, redundant skill sets, and misdirected roster spots and payroll allotment.

Reminder: Not every acquisition GM Jerry Dipoto and the Mariners make this winter need to be via free agency. Trades can, and likely will, remain part of the process. This list is about free agents only, and are listed in no particular order.

Starting Pitchers

Jake Odorizzi, RHP
He missed time with a blister issue this past season but was very good in 2019 and has posted five average or better seasons over the last six full years. He’s as good a fit for a club looking for a mid-rotation level arm as there is.

Jose Quintana, LHP
The lefty didn’t pitch much in 2020 — 11 innings, one start — but he was solid in 31 starts in 2019 and hasn’t lost much off the heater. Last season was the first year since his rookie campaign Quintana didn’t get to 170 innings.

Rick Porcello, RHP
After a bad start, Porcello was solid in 2020 making all 12 starts and getting through 59 innings. He’s reliable and while the upside isn’t exciting, stabilizing the rotation is Dipoto’s goal this winter.

Jon Lester, LHP
The Tacoma native will be 37 in January and is coming off a sub par, 12-start 2020 campaign, but a rested, re-charged version of Lester has a chance to bounce back to 2019 form when he made 31 starts and was a little better than league average. A six-man rotation may be ideal for Lester, who saw his velocity fall under 90 mph and his strikeout rate dip under 16%.

Taijuan Walker, RHP
Walker was solid for Seattle and Toronto last season, and most of the pre-surgery velocity was back (93.5 mph average fastball). His newish slider, overhand curveball, and splitter all were inconsistent, but flashed as legitimate weapons. It’s a decent bet for Walker to go 150-innngs or more over a full season. He fits a lot of club’s needs.

Anthony DeSclafani, RHP
The 30-year-old right-hander was above-average four straight seasons until a dip to average in 2019. He was downright bad in 33 2/3 innings this past season and he’s managed 125 innings or more just twice in five full years — he missed all of 2017 with a sprained UCL — but he did toss up 166 2/3 innings over 31 starts in 2019 and his stuff suggests mid-rotation production remains in the arm.

Matt Shoemaker, RHP
The 34-year-old returned from ACL surgery in 2019 to cover 28 2/3 innings over six starts in 2020. He’s never been a big stuff guy, but he gets the most out of a 91-93 mph fastball and three offspeed pitches, including an above-average splitter, all of which play up thanks to solid-average command. Shoemaker is more a No. 4 or 5 with some durability concerns over a full season, but he’s interesting on a one-year deal nonetheless.

Carlos Rodon, LHP
Rodon can’t be counted on to pour out 175 innings in 2021, but the former No. 3 overall pick (2014) showed signs in 2020 of regained arm strength, and the changeup flashed. He’ll be two years removed from UCL surgery in May and that’s often when the snap returns in TJ recipients.

Michael Wacha, RHP
Wacha’s upside at this point might be 140-inning No. 4 starter, but he’s just 29, still touched 96 mph with the four-seamer and is due for a bounce-back with his changeup.

Relief Pitchers

Archie Bradley, RHP
Bradley’s arsenal fared well in 2020, including a plus changeup that produced a 39% whiff rate. He’s 93-96 with the heat, the curveball still is a weapon and it all adds up to middle-innings value.

Mark Melancon, RHP
Melancon has fought through a few injuries to remain productive and consistent in the late innings. He’ll be 36 in March, has closing experience, and there are few signs he’s fading fast. His cutter-curveball combo is fun, though the cutter was beaten to a pulp in 2019 and 2020, suggesting maybe he should go back to incorporating the four-seamer.

Joakim Soria, RHP
Soria had a terrific 22-game season in 2020, producing a 2.97 FIP and a WPA that projects out to be his best since 2015. He’s a legit four-pitch reliever with a fastball 91-94 mph, 77-80 mph slider, a slow curveball and occasional firm changeup. He’s 36, but should be good on a one-year deal.

Pedro Baez, RHP
Baez served in the middle innings for the World Champion Dodgers and had mediocre-at-best season, but he’s been better in years’ past. He’s a three-pitch arm — fastball up to 97 mph, above-average slider, fringe-average changeup. With a rebound in command, Baez is again a valuable middle innings option.

Alex Colome, RHP
Colome, 32 on New Year’s Eve, had an odd 2020, putting up his second-best WPA and FIP of his career while posting his worst strikeout rate (17.8%). Colome hovers around 95 mph and the cutter remains a plus pitch, suggesting a rebound in the bat-missing department may be in order.

Brad Peacock, RHP
Peacock is a versatile arm with the ability to spot start and cover multiple innings out of the bullpen. He had arthroscopic shoulder surgery in October, but expects to be ready for spring training. When he’s right, Peacock sits 91-94 mph with a two-seamer, complemented by an above-average slider, average curveball and useful changeup.

Justin Wilson, LHP
Wilson likely is out of the Mariners’ reach as one of the more consistent left-handed relievers in baseball. He’s 33 now, but coming off another strong year, and sat 94-97 with a solid-average cutter. But if he wants to close, Seattle may be able to offer that and gain a leg up on other suitors.

Greg Holland, RHP
The 35-year-old sat 92-95, threw 51% sliders and 11% curveballs in 2020 — and it worked. How long he can effectively throw 60% breaking balls and stay off the IL. But if he can, he’s a solid middle reliever with some high-leverage ability.

Jeremy Jeffress, RHP
Jeffress has had two puzzling seasons. Make that… eight… Jeffress has had eight puzzling seasons. He’s 94-98 with the fastball and at different times his splitter and curveball are plus to plus-plus. His control and command are below-average, however, and the offspeed stuff tends to bounce back and forth and rarely overlaps with the other on the positive end of the spectrum. Still, he’s an interesting piece for Seattle as one of several bounce-back candidates.

Keone Kela, RHP
Kela’s forearm injury ended his 2020 after just three appearances. Now, if it was really a forearm and not an injury that leads to Tommy John, Kela has value for 2021 and beyond. He’s 95-98 with the fastball and his curveball may be among the elites in the relief world.jeffre

Jake McGee, LHP
McGee struggled badly for three of his four years in Denver and rebounded with a 1.67 FIP and 41.8% strikeout rate with the Dodgers this past season. He had reverse splits in the shortened season that were even wider than his career, but he had command of a 97-3 fastball-slider ratio. He’s 34, but still throws 95 mph and has earned some guaranteed money.

Steve Cishek, RHP
Cishek is 34 and two years removed from a decent performance, but he’s still throwing 90-92 with an above-average slider. He uncharacteristically had problems versus right-handed batters in 2020 but was oddly tough on lefties — probably a small-sample anomaly. If used to knife through righty-heavy sections of the opponents lineup, Cishek has a role in the middle innings.

Hector Rondon RHP
The 32-year-old has struggled the past two seasons, missing fewer bats (18.7%, 23.7%, down from 29%, 29.1%, and 26.8% the previous three, and his control has gone backwards at the same time. The rigth-hander’s velocity remains big at 95 mph or better on the fastball, suggesting maybe his issues are delivery related.

Nate Jones, RHP
Jones still throws hard — 96.2 mph average two-seam fastball in 2020 and has a useful changeup. But his slider has fallen flat the last three years and if a team can help him get it back they’ll find a very good middle-innings reliever with some high-leverage ability.

Kohl Stewart, RHP
Stewart was the No. 4 overall pick in 2013 and made his MLB debut in 2018 , posting a 3.92 FIP in 36 2/3 innings. He was knocked around in nine appearances in 2019 and did not appear in a big-league game this past season. When healthy, the right-hander is 91-95 mph with a sinker and offers a slider and curveball. He owns a changeup, but doesn’t throw it enough — it’s well below average — but there could be some upside to Stewart in a full-time relief role.

Bats

Adam Eaton, OF
Eaton is 32 this week and has had a full share of injuries over his nine-year career. He didn’t hit in 41 games last season — .226/.285/.384 — breaking a six-season streak of a .360 or better on-base percentage and .400 or better slugging percentage. He’s average in a corner outfield spot, struggles versus left-handed pitching but even in 2020 he hit righties well.

Tyler Naquin, OF
Naquin has two average or better seasons at the plate — his 2016 rookie year and 2019 — and is fine in a corner outfield spot. He struggles against left-handers but has a career .281/.329/.454 mark versus right-handed arms.

Ben Gamel, OF
Gamel has reverse splits over the course of his career — 107 wRC+ versus lefties, 92 versus righties — but has always appeared to be stuck between trying to hit 25 homers and hitting for average. He’s worked himself into at least a fringe-average left fielder.

Nomar Mazara, OF
Mazara, 26 in April, hasn’t broken through with the bat to the levels many expected — and he was awful in 2020 (.228/.295/.294) — but he’s too young to give up on, especially considering he was passable 2016-2019 batting .263/.320/.423 with three 20-homer campaigns. He’s at least average in right field and there still may be a breakout in the offing.

Brian Goodwin, OF
At 30, Goodwin can still run and despite struggling overall in 2020, can still be relied upon to post league-average offense if deployed properly. Oh, and he’s a good defender.

David Dahl, OF
Dahl was a budding star when injuries started to pile up on his resume. He has plus power and hit tools, runs well and profiles as a plus glove in a corner and average in center. Seattle doesn’t have a place for him, necessarily, imagine starting 2021 with a healthy Dahl in left field and hitting the deadline with a surplus that has a career .286/.334/.494 slash line entering the season.

Albert Almora Jr. OF
Almora is a capable centerfielder, but after putting up two-plus average offensive seasons to start his career, the former No. 6 overall pick (2012) has scuffled with the bat — .236/.271/.381 in 2019, .167/.265/.200 in 28 games in 2020.  There’s little power in his game but he’s just 27 in April and still has solid bat-to-ball skills.

Kyle Schwarber, DH/OF
Schwarber, 27, isn’t a good defender but he has been surprisingly been playable as long as his bat is working. It didn’t work at all in 2020 (.188/.308/.393), but he did hit 11 homers and boasts a career .230/.336/.480 slash, including two 30-homer seasons. He’s really more of a DH, though Seattle’s best chance to get Ty France in the lineup is that same DH spot.

Brock Holt, UT
Holt struggled in 37 games in 2020, but has been a very capable bench option, posting a .337 career OBP in parts on 9 seasons. He also handled lefties as well as righties, and can play all five infield positions plus the outfield.

Jonathan Villar, UT
Villar had an awful 2020 in 52 games split between Miami and Toronto (.232/.301/.292), but owns a .259/.327/.400 career slash and posted a 107 wRC+ in 2019. His batted ball data tells us he struggled mightily putting the fat part of the bat on the ball — as much as any hitter in baseball. But it was just 207 plate appearances. He can handle shortstop, second base, third base, and has dabbled in the outfield. He’s a switch hitter with success from both sides and will be 30 in May.

Hanser Alberto, UT
Playable at second and third with a touch of outfield experience, clubs could do worse than Alberto as their 25th or 26th man. He doesn’t walk (career 2.6%), but he also doesn’t strike out, has a bit of pop and the last two seasons batted .305 and .283.  He’s a right-handed hitter and may be redundant to Tim Lopes, but he’s also more accomplished at the plate.

Robbie Grossman, OF
Grossman, a switch hitter, boasts a left-handed bat which fits well into the picture for Seattle in 2020, as a strong-side platoon with Phillip Ervin as the Mariners look to cover time prior to the arrival of Jarred Kelenic in left field. The issue here is getting Grossman interested since the writing is wall he’ll lose PT once the club’s top prospect gets the nod — and that may be very, very early in the 2021 season.…

There’s no real point to this — you’ve been warned — but here’s why this now exists:

It’s December and most owners are liars.

That’s it, that’s the reason. There’s so much time to dig, think, research, because there’s no news to lament, no rumors to kill. Just hours upon hours to scour the org rosters of 30 teams and their affiliates. And that’s what I did, looking for misfit talents, players running out of time in one organization, blocked or drowned prospects, and potentially expendable veterans.

There’s one from each of the 29 other teams in Major League Baseball. Some aren’t very exciting. Some are simply sensible and nothing more. But there are a few of intrigue, I’d say. All of them make sense, however. But this isn’t fantasy baseball, we’re not drafting a team from the other 29. This also isn’t about finding a trade package to acquire said player, so don’t ask.

Here we go.


Arizona Diamondbacks: Stefan Crichton, RHP

Crichton has been solid for Arizona the past two seasons with a 93-95 mph sinker and plus curveball. He’s rather ordinary as a middle reliever, but an accomplished one two years shy of arbitration status.


Atlanta Braves: Patrick Weigel, RHP

The Braves are looking to add incremental wins to their 26- and-40 man rosters, suggesting a minor league reliever is at least in play. He’s 93-97 with a slider that flashes above-average and a useful changeup. He’s on the Braves’ 40-man, but could be more valuable as a trade chip and roster spot.


Baltimore Orioles: Anthony Santander, OF

Baltimore remains in rebuild mode and might not be out of it for another year or two at least, so a player such as Santander is a possible trade chip. He’s not arbitration eligible until after next season, but could interest clubs this winter as a switch-hitting corner outfielder with average or better power. He’s significantly better as a lefty stick, and Seattle wants one of those — and need another outfield option, preferably one that hits left-handed, so …


Boston Red Sox: Chih-Jung Liu, RHP

Who knows what the Red Sox are going to do, but my guess is they’re going to spend enough to keep another awful season off the board, and that may also mean a few prospect-driven trade packages sent out to acquire more arms. Liu is 21 and a few years from the majors. He’s a bit undersized at 6-feet and 193 pounds, but he’s up to 96 mph and has a potentially-plus splitter and slider.


Chicago Cubs: Duane Underwood Jr., RHP

The Cubs may very well hit the rebuild button and if that’s the case anything is possible, including trading Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, and Anthony Rizzo. Underwood is a bit of an under-the-radar relief arm that may be ready to pop, despite ERAs and FIPs that tell a different story. He’s run xFIPS in the mid-3s two years running and is a legit three-pitch reliever who has thrown more strikes since he walked 18.8% of the batters he faced in 2018.


Chicago White Sox: Matthew Thompson, RHP

Thompson was a second-round pick in 2019 and has all the makings of an athletic mid-rotation arm with some upside. He’s just 20 and a few years away, and the White Sox opened a winning window in 2020 suggesting prospects such as Thompson are in play in exchange for big-league help.


Cincinnati Reds: Tyler Mahle, RHP

Stuff was finally met with quality performance in 2020 as Mahle posted a 3.88 FIP in 47 2/3 innings of work. He’s 93-96 with the fastball and the improvement of his upper-80s cutter-slider and curveball made a big difference. He’s just 26, is hitting arbitration for the first time this winter and could be a nice trade piece for the Reds as they try to add more focused impact to their postseason efforts.


Cleveland Indians: Carlos Carrasco, RHP

Carrasco could be part of a retool approach by the club this winter, one that likely includes trading shortstop Francisco Lindor. The right-hander is owed $47 million over the next four years, which is a bargain, despite Carrasco turning 34 early in 2021.


Colorado Rockies: Jon Gray, RHP

My favorite potential target for Seattle, the 29-year-old Gray has gone backwards since he posted a 3.18 FIP in 2017 over 20 starts. He’s still 93-97 with three useful secondaries led by a plus slider that prior to 2020 was one of the best in baseball. He has one year of control left at a third-year arbitration price, and the Rockies are looking to shave payroll.


Detroit Tigers: Daniel Norris, LHP

As the Tigers’ young arm push Norris to the bullpen, his value seems to be higher outside of Detroit. But even as a reliever, the lefty has a lot to offer, and he’s a free agent after 2021.


Houston Astros: Lance McCullers Jr., RHP

The Astros are a mess; Justin Verlander is out most or all of 2021, George Springer and Michael Brantley are free agents, Carlos Correa is a year from the open market, as is defacto ace Zack Greinke, so the future beyond 2021 is bleak on paper. McCullers is also a year from free agency, now deep into pricey arbitration status and might be worth more to the Astros in trade — to fill multiple holes and create a bit more payroll flexibility. Houston should be cutting bait on 2021, but even if they don’t, moving McCullers make sense.


Kansas City Royals: Scott Barlow, RHP

It looks like the Royals are trying to take a step forward in 2021, but the time to move Barlow is now — he’s been a consistent middle reliever and is now arbitration eligible — and could help KC land help elsewhere.


Los Angeles Angels: Jose Soriano, RHP

The Angels’ system is bottom third of the league but they’re more concerned about the big-league roster and an arm like Soriano could net the Halos a big-league reliever.


Los Angeles Dodgers: Dylan Floro, RHP

Floro is hitting arbitration this winter, and while the Dodgers aren’t afraid to spend seven figures on a reliever, Floro also could be a nice additional piece to a larger trade that lands the Dodgers an everyday outfielder or left-side infielder. He’s more of a middle reliever now, but the fastball-changeup combo is plus.


Miami Marlins: James Hoyt, RHP

Hoyt is 34 but will not be arbitration-eligible until after 2021, so the motivation for Miami to trade him isn’t high. But if the Marlins are looking to take a meaningful step forward with their 26-man roster, Hoyt could be available in a package. He’s always missed bats despite below-average velocity, and could be perceived an undervalued relief arm.


Milwaukee Brewers: Corey Ray, OF

Ray was the No. 5 pick in the same draft Kyle Lewis went No. 11 to the Mariners. He’s had multiple injuries along the way, and has yet to produce with any consistency. He’s 26 now and on the 40-man, but if the Brewers plan to win in 2021, Ray’s roster spot may not be stable.


Minnesota Twins: Nick Gordon, 2B

Yep, Dee’s brother. The arm and range fit shortstop fine and eventually he should hit for enough average to reach the majors, but like his older brother brings little power to the table. Nick is an average runner, so he has to get on base a lot to warrant everyday treatment, and he’s fallen out of favor in Minnesota simply due to other talents passing him by.


New York Mets: Steven Matz, LHP

The Mets are going to spend and trade big, and at least some of that is going to be about the rotation, which needs more probability and fewer hope-and-pray approaches. Matz’s stuff suggests he’s still capable of No. 3 starter production, but lack of availability and command problems have prevented that since 2016. He’s a pricey arbitration case that could be on the block.

New York Yankees: Anthony Volpe, 2B/SS

Volpe was on the Mariners radar in the 2019 draft, but he didn’t get to the club after Round 1. He’s a few years away from the majors so he’s not the next Yankees shortstop, but could easily be prime trade bait as the Bombers add to their roster moving forward.


Oakland Athletics: Jeremy Eierman, SS

With Marcus Semien a free agent, the A’s shortstop situation is unclear, but Eierman is down the depth chart a bit after Logan Davidson and Robert Puason. At this point, Eierman is more of a potential utility infielder, but needs work on the hit tool. Similar to Dylan Moore prior to the 2019 season.


Philadelphia Phillies: Hector Neris, RHP

Philly declined Neris’ option but now have a decision to make via the arbitration process. The right-hander was good in 2020 sans the 4% rise in walk rate but misses bats with 93-96 mph fastball and plus splitter.


Pittsburgh Pirates: Chad Kuhl, RHP

Kuhl, 28, has better raw stuff than his performance suggests — 92-96 mph sinker with three average or better offspeed pitches — but is well into arbitration now and the Pirates are years away. Just the kind of project the Mariners like.


St. Louis Cardinals: Dexter Fowler, LF

Fowler hasn’t hit much the last three years, but draws walks and as a left-handed bat is playable. His contract is a bit of an issue (owed $15.5 million for 2021), but such an issue could be mitigated via negotiations, and the deal expires after next season.


San Diego Padres: Justin Lange, RHP

The Padres are in win-now mode which makes just about any prospect potentially available. Lange has yet to make his pro debut, of course, but the arm strength suggests a high floor and ceiling.


San Francisco Giants: Trevor Gott, RHP

Gott struggled in 2020 after a strong 2019, and it appears the struggles were very much about his elbow problems. If healthy, he’s potentially an undervalued middle reliever, and one Jerry Dipoto has acquired before.


Tampa Bay Rays: Greg Jones, SS

With Willy Adames, Wander Franco, and Vidal Brujan ahead of him, Jones isn’t in the Rays’ picture just yet, but he’s the most likely misfit considering Tampa doesn’t typically trade top prospects, and more rarely move pitching prospects.


Texas Rangers: Jose Leclerc, RHP

Leclerc will miss bats. He’ll also miss the strike zone. He’s signed to a multi-year deal with two club options that could take him through the 2024 season.


Toronto Blue Jays: Estiven Machado, SS

Machado is down the org depth chart quite a ways in terms of middle infielders, but might be the most likely of the group to stick at shortstop. There’s more hit than power, but the range is above-average to plus, making arm strength the only real concern for a future on the left side.


Washington Nationals: Sammy Infante, SS

Infante, 19, has all the raw tools to not only stick at shortstop but develop average power and perhaps build a valuable enough package to play regularly. He’s currently third among middle-infield prospects in the Nationals’ system, lined up behind Trea Turner on the org depth chart at shortstop.…

*Players mentioned in this episode are Adam Eaton, Austin Adams, Brad Miller, Braden Bishop, Brandon Brennan, Cesar Hernandez, Charlie Morton, Corey Kluber, Donovan Walton, Drew Smyly, Dylan Moore, Emerson Hancock, Erik Swanson, Garrett Richards, George Kirby, Jake Fraley, Jake Odorizzi, James Paxton, Jarred Kelenic, Joc Pederson, Joe Rizzo, Jonathan Villar, Jose Marmolejos, Juan Then, Jurickson Profar, Justus Sheffield, Kevin Gausman, Enrique Hernandez, Kole Calhoun, Kolten Wong, Kyle Seager, Logan Gilbert, Marco Gonzales, Marcus Stroman, Marwin Gonzalez, Rich Hill, Robbie Ray, Sam Delaplane, Shed Long Jr., Taijuan Walker, Taylor Trammell, Tommy La Stella, Trevor Bauer, Wyatt Mills, and Yusei Kikuchi.

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Sticky

This year was going to be different for Seattle Mariners starter Yusei Kikuchi. At least that’s what we thought heading into the regular season. Revamped mechanics, increased fastball velocity, and a new pitch fueled expectations he’d rebound from a frustrating rookie season. Instead, Kikuchi remained an enigma.

Why Kikuchi continued to be a mystery after two MLB campaigns is perplexing. Before arriving in the Emerald City, the talented 29-year-old performed well during eight seasons in Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB). That said, past successes are irrelevant at this point. How he performs in 2021 will determine his long-term future with Seattle. You see, an expensive decision awaits Kikuchi and the Mariners after next season.

Money Matters

Kikuchi, who receives $16.5 million next year, has a unique set of contract clauses. Per Baseball Prospectus, the Mariners must determine within three days after the 2021 World Series whether to exercise their option on Kikuchi. Normally, options cover one year. However, his includes four years through the 2025 season. It’s a take it or leave it deal for the team – nothing or all four years valued at $66 million.

But there’s more.

If Seattle declines its option, Kikuchi has until five days after the Fall Classic to exercise a player option for 2022 paying him $14.5 million dollars. If both parties decline their respective options, he becomes a free agent.

With so much resting on how Kikuchi performs next year, let’s dig into his 2020 stats and attempt to determine why such a talented arm under-performed expectations for a second consecutive season.

Strides Were Made, But…

It’s not as if Kikuchi’s numbers were horrible. Other than ERA and walk rate, his stat line actually showed considerable improvement.

Encouraging numbers aside, anyone watching Kikuchi’s nine starts know they were an assortment of underwhelming outings with a few strong performances mixed in. After a difficult season debut, he rebounded with a 6-inning, 9-strikeout outing. Then came his next two starts – a combined 10.1 innings, nine earned runs, eight strikeouts, and five walks.

Hence, the term “enigma.”

At this point, fan frustration with Kikuchi is understandable. Some may see a 5-plus ERA for a second consecutive season and wonder how such an inconsistent performer became the second highest paid Mariner behind Kyle Seager and the most expensive free agent signing during the 5-year tenure of GM Jerry Dipoto.

Difficulties With RISP

Kikuchi’s splits indicate a significant reduction in positive outcomes with men on base (MOB). More specifically, runners in scoring position (RISP). It’s worth noting avoiding damage with RISP is problematic for any pitcher. The MLB-average ERA for this situation was 12.22. Still, Kikuchi’s 22.41 ERA was the highest among 87 pitchers facing at least 45 hitters with RISP.

Obviously, Kikuchi’s dreadful numbers with RISP are worth exploring, particularly when you consider those 47 plate appearances represented 22.6-percent of the total batters he faced in 2020. However, assessing him solely with conventional stats, like ERA, would be unwise.

His High ERA Is Deceptive

ERA isn’t an ideal measurement of a pitcher’s performance or talent since defense and ultimately the official scorekeeper can affect it in a good or bad way. Let’s review a pair of instances when questionable glove work and scorekeeping negatively affected Kikuchi’s ERA.

The first play in the following video is a ball put in play by Houston’s Alex Bregman, which drove in José Altuve from first base. Bregman received credit for a double and an RBI, although left fielder Tim Lopes probably should’ve caught the ball for the third out of the inning.

After the Bregman double, we see another questionable two-bagger leading to an earned run. This time, Arizona’s Eduardo Escobar hits a fly ball with an 82.3-MPH exit velocity to Mariners right fielder Phillip Ervin, who misplays it allowing Josh Rojas to advance from second to third base with Escobar taking second base. Next, notorious Mariners killer Kole Calhoun drives in Rojas with a sacrifice fly increasing Kikuchi’s ERA.

The play sequence in Arizona was particularly disappointing. Kikuchi induced poor contact, which is normally a good thing. But the results were unfavorable.

Expected Stats Looked Better

Considering the misleading nature of ERA, let’s use an expected stat to assess Kikuchi. These advanced metrics tell us what should’ve happened to batted balls based on exit velocity and launch angle. More importantly, they remove the influence of defense (good or bad) and the scorekeeper from the equation.

For example, the expected batting average (xAVG) of Bregman’s batted ball was .200 – Escobar’s was even lower (.020). Yet, the box score says both players hit a double that improved their AVG, OBP, SLG, and wOBA.

Okay, let’s compare Kikuchi’s wOBA to his expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA). Doing so may help us better understand his difficulties with RISP.

As expected, Kikuchi’s wOBA with RISP was dreadful. But take a look at his xwOBA, which remained stable regardless of base runner situation.

The large positive delta between Kikuchi’s wOBA and xwOBA signals he didn’t fare as well as anticipated. In fact, his wOBA-xwOBA difference with RISP was one of the largest in the majors in 2020. Only Adrian Houser (.114) of the Brewers and Rick Porcello (.096) of the Mets were ahead of Kikuchi.

Note: Unless otherwise stated, comps refer to the 96 pitchers throwing 750-plus pitches as a starter in 2020.

Bad Luck?

Before discussing Kikuchi further, let’s quickly cover Statcast’s six categories of contact quality. Three favor hitters: Barrels, Solid Contact, and Flares/Burners. Pitchers prefer the others, which are types of poor contact: Weak, Under, and Topped.

Barrels are the most lethal batted balls. They generally have an exit velocity of at least 98-MPH and a launch angle between 26-30 degrees. The vast majority of home runs are barrels.

Solid contact just misses the launch angle/exit velocity range of barrels, but produces excellent results also. Just over 12-percent of homers hit in 2020 were off solid contact.

The last favorable category for hitters – flares and burners – occurs when the hitter misses the launch angle or exit velocity necessary for barrels or solid contact. Nevertheless, hitters reach base at a high rate on flares/burners.

Statcast defines “weak” contact as balls with an exit velocity under 60-MPH. “Topped” balls typically lead to unproductive grounders. Balls hit “under” create fly balls with predominantly poor results, although 132 home runs fell into this category this year.

Now, let’s apply this knowledge to Kikuchi.

A review of opponents’ success with RISP when facing Kikuchi reveals his numbers resemble MLB norms with the exception of two types of poor contact – Under and Topped. The following compares his combined stats for these two categories to MLB averages.

Despite inducing significantly more poor contact than the MLB norm, Kikuchi’s wOBA was dramatically higher. Only Oakland’s Sean Manaea (.168) had a higher wOBA-xwOBA delta.

Kikuchi’s high .323 wOBA on poor contact feels like bad luck that would’ve normalized over a full season. For evidence, consider 2019. The highest wOBA with RISP among pitchers throwing 2,000-plus pitches last year was Jorge López (.227). And Kikuchi? He had a .165 wOBA.

I’m not suggesting Kikuchi’s uneven 2020 is simply a byproduct of misfortune. However, it’s reasonable to expect he would’ve enjoyed much more success on poor contact over the span of a normal 162-game season. Having said that, there is another factor worthy of scrutiny when he’s facing RISP – free passes.

He Didn’t Always Attack The Zone

Kikuchi’s 17-percent walk rate with RISP was fifth highest in the majors behind Cincinnati’s Sonny Gray (20.8), Pittsburgh’s J.T. Brubaker (20.5) and Chad Kuhl (17.1), and San Francisco’s Johnny Cueto (17.7). Since this is much higher than Kikuchi’s 10.3-percent walk rate for the season, I examined his willingness to throw strikes depending on baserunner situations.

The following provides the percentage of pitches Kikuchi threw within Statcast’s Game Day (GD) strike zone during the situations we’ve been discussing. It’s important to remember pitches within the GD strike zone are occasionally balls. Why? Umpiring, catcher framing, and ahem…umpiring.

This year, 29 starters threw at least 50-percent of their total pitches within the GD zone – Kikuchi was one of them. So were fellow Mariners Marco Gonzales (53.7) and Justus Sheffield (50) and former teammate Taijuan Walker. Other notable names in this group: Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish, Julio Urías, Kyle Hendricks, Tyler Glasnow, Lance Lynn, Dinelson Lamet, Luis Castillo, and Lucas Giolito. All are good pitchers.

With a runner on first base only, Kikuchi seemed particularly aggressive. Only Urías (69.2-percent) threw strikes more often than Kikuchi did (63.3). With RISP, over half (17) of our group remained at at-or-above 50-percent. Conversely, Kikuchi’s 43-percent strike rate was the lowest.

Not every pitcher must throw a high percentage of their pitches in the zone to succeed. AL Cy Young Award winner Shane Bieber threw just 40.5-percent of his pitches within the GD zone, which ranked last in our original group of 96. Still, Kikuchi threw over half of his pitches in the strike zone in all situations except with RISP. Unless avoiding the strike zone was by design, this seems relevant.

Strike One Was Elusive

A potential area Kikuchi may need to address next season is throwing strike one. The first pitch to 49.5-percent of the 194 batters he faced this year was a ball. Among 133 starters facing at least 150 hitters, only rookies Cristian Javier (53.3) of Houston and Kris Bubic (52.0) of the Royals offered a 0-0 ball at a higher rate than Kikuchi. For context, Gonzales was best on the Mariners with 35-percent.

But there’s more.

It turns out Kikuchi threw a ball during 45.3-percent of all no-strike counts (0-0, 1-0, 2-0, 3-0), which was highest in the majors. Not a preferred result considering pitchers are generally more successful when ahead in the count.

Here’s a not-so-fun fact. Eight of the 20 walks Kikuchi issued this year happened with RISP – half of them on a 3-0 count with RISP. For the season, he surrendered six total walks on a 3-0 count. Yes, it’s a small sample size. However, losing a hitter on a 3-0 count six times in nine games seems excessive. It turns out it was. Last year, he allowed five walks on a 3-0 count in 32 starts.

Fastball Command Was Sketchy

Every pitcher throws “waste” pitches, offerings well outside the strike zone. Some pitchers produce multiple swings and misses on wasted pitches – not Kikuchi. He induced just one swing and miss from 69 wasted pitches.

The vast majority (68.1-percent) of Kikuchi’s wasted pitches fell into Statcast’s “fastball” category – the four-seam fastball, two-seam fastball, cut fastball, and sinker. That’s the highest rate among 123 starters throwing 50-plus waste pitches. This sketchy fastball command was apparent during the no-strike counts we just discussed.

It turns out 24.6-percent of Kikuchi’s wasted pitches were four-seamers thrown during no-strike counts. That’s the second highest rate recorded by any starter other than 22-year-old Cardinals rookie Johan Oviedo (33.3-percent). This seems suboptimal.

Austin Nola Seemed To Help

We know a catcher’s framing skills influence ball and strike calls. Moreover, their blocking ability factors into a pitcher’s willingness to throw pitches likely to break into the dirt, especially with a runner on third base. With this in mind, I wanted to see whether Kikuchi performed differently based on the receiver behind the plate.

It appears Kikuchi performed best with Austin Nola. The former LSU Tiger caught three of the lefty’s first five starts in 2020 before the Mariners traded him to the Padres in late August. Kikuchi’s walk and strikeout rates were noticeably better with Nola behind the plate compared to Seattle’s other three backstops this year – Luis Torrens, Joseph Odom, and Joe Hudson.

Still, Kikuchi’s xwOBA was good when Torrens was his battery-mate. With Odom, he was just below league-average, which isn’t bad. Hudson caught him just once, so let’s just set that outing aside.

Is it possible Kikuchi was more comfortable with Nola as his catcher? Sure, but it’s important that we don’t lose sight of the fact 2020 was a small nine-start sample. He was fine with Torrens with the exception of the change in walk and strikeout rates. Perhaps a full Spring Training of the duo working together elevates their success as a battery.

Finally

If Dipoto is serious about the Mariners contending next season, the team will need a consistently effective Yusei Kikuchi. After all, the team probably won’t acquire premium starting pitching this offseason. Moreover, expecting one of the organization’s talented young arms to step into such a crucial role, as a rookie, would be a bridge too far.

Assuming Kikuchi’s 2021 results more closely resemble his 2020 expected stats, he can elevate Seattle’s rotation. Imagine an effective and productive top-3 consisting of Gonzales, Sheffield, and Kikuchi. They would be a formidable match for AL West rivals.

Kikuchi has the talent to make such a scenario reality. Better success on poor contact is inevitable. However, he’ll need to throw more first-pitch strikes, improve his fastball command, and remain aggressive in the strike zone with RISP. All he has to do is execute – easier said than done.

If Kikuchi improves on these elements, the Mariners’ decision on his contract becomes far more complex. Dipoto would probably say he’d prefer that kind of tough call. Then again, another season of inconsistency from the enigmatic southpaw makes the team’s choice a no-brainer.

My Oh My……

*Players mentioned in this episode are Austin Nola, Brad Hand, Cal Raleigh, Corey Seager, Dee Strange-Gordon, Domingo Tapia, Dylan Moore, George Kirby, Jarred Kelenic, Joe Musgrove, Julio Rodriguez, Kolten Wong, Kyle Lewis, Kyle Seager, Logan Gilbert, Luis Torrens, Mike Trout, Sam Haggerty, Taylor Guilbeau, Tim Lopes, Yoshihisa Hirano, and Zach Eflin.

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Whether it’s conventional stats or advanced metrics, numbers matter in baseball. For this reason, I cherry-picked a few Seattle Mariners stats to discuss.

The numbers you’ll see won’t paint a complete picture, but they may help shape expectations for the Hot Stove season and the 2021 Mariners. At the very least, these stats should foster a conversation about baseball, which is always fun.


60

Regular season games played by all but two teams. Considering there’s an ongoing pandemic, that’s an impressive feat. I was highly skeptical about MLB pulling it off. But they did and I happily admit being wrong.

Something to consider when discussing 2020. The season was a small sample size and we should remember this moving forward. After all, a player’s or team’s stats from any 60-game span within a normal 162-game schedule may not be representative of the final product.


.428

The combined winning percentage of the Astros, Angels, and Rangers. Perhaps the underwhelming performances of Seattle’s division rivals compelled Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto to say he believes his team could compete for the postseason in 2021.


27-33

The Mariners’ record this year. The team struggled early going 8-19 through August 20 and appeared destined to contend for the number-one overall pick in the 2021 draft. Yet, manager Scott Servais and his squad rebounded with a 19-14 record afterwards.

It’s worth noting Seattle’s 2020 record closely resembles where the team stood through its first 60 games last year (25-35). That group enjoyed a torrid 13-2 start before plummeting to the AL West cellar.


10

The number of AL teams the Mariners didn’t face in 2020. Why does this matter? We don’t know how Seattle would’ve fared against some of the best teams in the league – the Rays, Yankees, Twins, Indians, and White Sox.

Sure, the Mariners would’ve played these clubs just 6-7 times each. But competing in a larger field would’ve provided us with a better sense for where the rebuilding team stands. This is especially pertinent considering Seattle played in arguably the weakest division in MLB.


22

Mariner rookies used in 2020. That’s more than any team with the Marlins (21), Cardinals (19), and Astros (19) trailing close behind. Unlike Seattle, those clubs reached the postseason.

Several of the names listed above, including Kyle Lewis, Justus Sheffield, and Justin Dunn, debuted before the 2020 season, but retained their rookie status heading into this year. The steady stream of rookies with more on the way in 2021 signals the youth movement is in overdrive.


26.6

While we’re talking youth, the average age of Mariner pitchers per Baseball Reference was 26.6-years-old tying the team with Detroit for youngest in the majors. The Nationals were oldest at 30.8 years. Seattle’s most youthful pitchers were in their age-23 seasons – rookies Ljay Newsome and Joey Gerber. The staff’s graybeard was 36-year-old Yoshihisa Hirano.

Mariner hitters also averaged 26.6 years, which was third lowest behind Toronto (25.9) and Baltimore (26.3). The youngest position players were in their age-24 season – Luis Torrens, Shed Long, Evan White, and likely AL Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis. At 32, Dee Strange-Gordon and Kyle Seager were the team’s senior citizens.


9

The Mariners’ ranking for total Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) in 2020. An impressive jump for a club that was number-29 a year ago.

DRS captures a player’s overall defensive performance by accounting for various aspects of their game – errors, range, outfielder arm and home run stealing ability, middle-infielder double plays, plus catcher stolen base prevention, pitch framing, and blocking.

Seattle’s best defenders were first baseman Evan White and shortstop J.P. Crawford – both tallied seven DRS this season. White led all qualified MLB first basemen, while Crawford finished in a tie with Houston’s Carlos Correa for second place behind Dansby Swanson (9) of Atlanta.

Overall, things are looking up from a defensive standpoint. That said; 2021 will be a transition year for the club as it introduces new players and determines the best position for several versatile holdovers. Expect early growing pains, which is okay for a club looking to the future.


.308

The expected weighted on-base average (xwOBA) of Seattle’s starting rotation, which was thirteenth best in MLB. We know xwOBA relies on quality of contact (launch angle and exit velocity) and strikeouts and walks. Good pitchers have a positive influence over these elements.

In the Mariners’ case, three starters who faced 150-plus batters had an xwOBA better than the league-average for starters (.314) – Yusei Kikuchi (.279), Marco Gonzales (.291), and Justus Sheffield (.303). Furthermore, Nick Margevicius (.301) fell short of our 150-hitter criteria by one plate appearance.

Obviously, there’s room for improvement. Kikuchi managed to lead in xwOBA, yet his 5.17 ERA was worst on the starting staff. This is particularly troubling considering the relatively solid defense behind him. Moreover, Dunn posted a more respectable 4.34 ERA, but his .356 xwOBA ranked in the bottom 10-percent among MLB starters.

Despite these issues, the Mariners have established a foundation to build upon this offseason and in the future.


2.5

Since baseball integrated in 1947, only 10 pitchers qualifying for the ERA title have recorded a lower walk rate than Gonzales’ 2.5-percent this year. The lowest was Carlos Silva at 1.2-percent with the 2005 Twins.

It’s worth noting Kyle Hendricks of the Cubs had the same walk rate as Marco. Neither pitcher throws hard, yet both manage to succeed in an era when throwing over 95-MPH is commonplace.


208.2

Innings pitched by Seattle’s left-handed starting pitchers – tops in the majors with Oakland (123.2) a distant second. The main southpaw starters were Gonzales, Kikuchi, Sheffield, and Margevicius with Nestor Cortes Jr. making a 0.1 inning special guest appearance.


6

The number of pitchers in the Mariners’ 2020 rotation and most likely next year’s too. Although a 6-man rotation mitigates workload, it comes at a competitive cost. Over a full 162-game schedule, the best pitchers on a 6-man staff will start 5-6 fewer games than a 5-man crew.

Can the Mariners contend with less of Gonzales and Sheffield in 2021?


.332

The rotation was a good news story, but the bullpen was not. Seattle relievers collectively had a .332 xwOBA. Only three teams were worse – the Phillies (.347), Marlins (.349), and Rockies (.355).

Although the bullpen ranked poorly, several relievers managers to stand out. Rookie Anthony Misiewicz made his mark with a .278 xwOBA and should figure prominently with the Mariners next year.

Rule 5 draft pick Yohan Ramírez recorded a .305 xwOBA despite inconsistent command and control. Opponents hit .130 against Ramírez – fourth lowest in the majors. However, his MLB-worst 21.3-percent walk rate produced a .351 OBP that ranked 264 of 323 big-league pitchers.

The bullpen did improve with a .316 xwOBA in September. Waiver-claim Casey Sadler (.247) performed well as did freshman Joey Gerber (.318) and Kendall Graveman (.310).

Graveman began the season in the rotation until a benign bone tumor in his neck prompted a bullpen role. How he fits into Seattle’s future plans is unclear. There’s a $3.5 million club option for 2021, but that may be too pricey considering the 29-year-old’s recent injury history and unproven record as a reliever.

Regardless of the outcome of Graveman’s situation, the bullpen needs an influx of dynamic arms. Especially if Dipoto is serious about contending for a postseason berth.


91

The Mariners’ On-base Plus Slugging Plus (OPS+) this year.

OPS+ normalizes On-base Plus Slugging percentage by accounting for factors such as league, ballpark, and era. League-average is always 100. Therefore, a player or team with a 120 OPS+ is 20-percent above average.

In Seattle’s case, a 91 OPS+ tells us the offense was nine-percent below average. It also ranked twentieth in the majors.

Historically, the Mariners have posted a lower OPS+ just nine times in 44 seasons. If you prefer conventional numbers, the team’s .226 batting average was its lowest ever. Furthermore, their OBP and SLG were among the 10 lowest in franchise history.

The current Mariners had just three players with 150-plus plate appearances with the team and an OPS+ over 100 – Dylan Moore (139), Lewis (126), and Seager (122). Only seven teams had fewer than three.

Note: Ty France had a combined 133 OPS+ with the Mariners and Padres. The player France was traded for – Austin Nola – had a 152 OPS with Seattle.


60 (Again)

Only four clubs hit fewer home runs than the Mariners’ 60 dingers this year. It’s worth noting the top eight clubs in home runs reached the postseason.

To be clear, it’s possible to play October baseball without hitting a ton of home runs. Cleveland and St. Louis ranked behind the Mariners, yet those clubs reached the playoffs. Still, teams hitting the most home runs in postseason games this year have emerged victorious nearly every time.


50

Stolen bases by the Mariners this year. Only the Padres (55) and Marlins (51) swiped more bags. Seattle’s stolen base tally actually exceeded the team’s totals during 112 games in 1994 and a full 162-game slate in 2013. Moore led the team with 12 swiped bags tying him for fourth most in the majors.


18.6

Yeah, this one is irrelevant, although it seemed fun. The average home run trot time for Sam Haggerty was 18.6 seconds.

Yes, Haggerty had just one dinger. But only Andrew Stevenson (17.3 seconds) of the Nationals and Brandon Nimmo (17.8 seconds) of the Mets were faster than the former New Mexico Lobo. At 28 seconds, Baltimore’s Pedro Severino had the slowest trot in MLB.


3

Current Mariners with guaranteed contracts for the 2021 season – Seager ($18.5 million), Kikuchi ($17 million), and Gonzales ($5.25 million). Two others have club options, but Seattle may choose to move on. Graveman and Strange-Gordon.

Why does this matter? The Mariners will have the financial flexibility to add talent, if management decides to do so this offseason. Publicly, Dipoto seems inclined to continue evaluating his cadre of youngsters and hold off on adding premium talent for now.


95

The MLB Pipeline ranking of George Kirby – the final prospect in the Mariners organization to appear on the outlet’s Top-100 list. Joining Kirby are Seattle prospects Jarred Kelenic (9), Julio Rodriguez (15), Emerson Hancock (30), Logan Gilbert (35), and Taylor Trammell (51).

Having so many top prospects is certainly a good thing for the Mariners. But becoming a sustainable winner will inevitably require help from outside the organization. Perhaps Dipoto inevitably trades some of these notable names to add reinforcements.


19

That brings us to our final entry. Yeah, you know what this signifies. It’s the number of years the Mariners have gone without a postseason appearance. This one needs to go away, right?

Yes, of course it does.…

The Seattle Mariners, per GM Jerry Dipoto, will be in the market for a few arms this winter, and if his tone can be interpreted at all it seems to send the message that his ballclub is looking at a different kind of free agent than it was a year ago. That should make for a fun offseason.

Last winter, the Mariners signs right-handers CJ Edwards, Kendall Graveman, Taijuan Walker and Yoshihisa Hirano, most notably,  Now, don’t expect Seattle to throw out any mega deals, but this year’s list is very likely to be more interesting.

It sounds like — and can be backed up by common sense — Dipoto would like to add two or three proven veteran relievers, including one that projects as an option in the ninth inning, and a starter with some probability. What this means is the club isn’t just after projects with some upside, since they’re goal for 2021 is to snag one of 189 playoff spots in the American League.

Free agency isn’t the only way to add talent, of course, so included here are some buy-low trade candidates. Why ‘buy-low’? Because it’s not time for Dipoto to trade young talent for major leaguers, at least not in a significant manner.

I also believe the club should look to improve the bench with a multi-position player with some proven value at the plate. On the Baseball Things podcast recently, we discussed players like Josh Harrison and Brad Miller, both free agents this offseason. But there are a few buy-low trade candidates that may be sensible bench targets, too.

Here are some free agents I think Seattle should consider, at varying degrees.

Starting Pitchers

Anthony DeSclafani, RHP

DeSclafani entered 2020 with a career FIP around four, but scuffled in seven starts and was pushed to the bullpen before eventually being left off the Reds’ postseason roster.

He’s throwing as hard as ever (95.2 mph) and has a changeup, slider and curveball that have been average or better. The slider is consistently a plus pitch.

DeSclafani failed to miss bats (15.8%, down from 24% a year ago) and his walk rate was up 3% over 2019.

While not a frontline arm, the soon-to-be 31-year-old could be a value buy this winter. He’s had some injury issues in the past — he made just 41 starts between 2017 and 2018 — but also has two 31-start seasons and there were no signs of any significant injuries hampering his abilities this past season.

On a one-year deal, the right-hander could make a lot of sense for Seattle, and anything around league average over 25-plus starts would be a quality addition. Perhaps the Mariners six-man rotation can help him stay healthy and sharp.

Kevin Gausman, RHP

Gausman is comong off three average or better seasons, with the most recent being his best yet as a big leaguer. He made 10 starts and posted a 3.09 FIP and 32.2% K rate, showing occasional dominance and the same quality control that has made him interesting his entire career.

There’s No. 2 stuff here and the only question is whether or not Gausman can bring it for 25 starts or more. Seattle is a great fit for Gausman, but the Mariners will have competition for his services, and it ultimately may take a multi-year deal to acquire the former first-round pick.

He’s 30 in January but has a pretty clean health record and the miles on the arm are more than reasonable.

Michael Wacha, RHP

Wacha hasn’t been good at all since 2018, posting FIPs over five over his last 37 appearances, all but six in a starting role. But the arm is sound and the combination of command and stuff suggest mid-rotation ability.

Wacha’s fastball is firmly in the 93-95 mph range, but he hasn’t drawn much value from the fastball of late, which has him throwing his fringey cutter even more. His best pitch has typically been his changeup, but he didn’t have it in 2020.

Wacha was dinged as an amateur for not having a quality breaking ball, and that’s been the case the past two seasons with his cutter and curveball both being firmly below average, and he all but ditched the curveball in 2020.

He’s more of a project than Gausman, but there don’t see to be any health risks — beyond the inherent risk of throwing a baseball for a living. Like DeSclafani, a team with the chops Seattle has in terms of finding ways to improve pitch value should be all over Wacha this winter on a one-year deal.

Jake Odorizzi, RHP

Odorizzi has a finger injury in 2020, but made 28 starts or more from 2014-2019 with the Rays and Twins. The results were mixed, but he’s typically been a good No. 4 starter and was more than that in 2019 when his fastball dazzled thanks to quality command and three other average or better offerings, including a plus slider.

The right-hander sits 91-96 mph and carries a career strikeout rate of 25%, despite that dropping to 20% in four outings this past season.

He took a one-year qualifying offer for 2020 and after missing time and struggling in a small sample, he may be forced to take another short contract at a reduced price.

I’d feel comfortable with Seattle tabbing him their guy as long as the finger injury doesn’t project to bite him next year, too. Despite no guarantees, betting on a healthy Odorizzi being league average or better is a smart one.

Mike Minor, LHP

Minor has two 200-inning seasons under his belt — 2013 with the Braves and 2019 with the Rangers. He wasn’t as consistent this past season but was solid with the A’s in September and his postseason start was also adequate.

The positives of Minor’s 2020 include a 26% strikeout rate and an average exit velocity of 87.5 mph. But he also allowed too many hard-hit balls, which limits his potential value.

I’d bet on Minor as a league-average starter in 2020 if the risk was a one-year deal. He’s been as healthy as one can ask a pitcher to be, and if all else fails he has had great success as a 75-inning reliever.

I think Seattle is likely to add just one starter with significant guarantee money and I’d be shocked if they hand out a three-year contract or longer — and even mildly surprised if they go two years — but I could see them adding one of Minor, Odorizzi or Gausman, plus a Wacha, Walker or DeSclafani type if they feel like Justin Dunn will end up in the bullpen, anyway.

Relief Pitchers

Shane Greene, RHP

Greene covered 27.2 innings in a 60-game season in 2020 and had his ups and downs, but in a good bullpen is a solid middle reliever.

His strikeout rate was down this past season, but the velocity wasn’t and he’s a legitimate four-pitch arm — sinker, cutter, slider, changeup.

Greene isn’t going to get closer opportunities this winter, of course, but did save 55 games 2018-19 and could win such a role in Seattle, potentially making the Mariners intriguing for the 32-year-old.

Jeremy Jeffress, RHP

Jeffress, 33, was terrific in 2018 but has been somewhat ordinary since.  Still, it’s a middle-relief projection with some upside left if he can regain a little of the velocity he’s lost the past two seasons — he’s down two full ticks and averaged 93.8 mph in 2020.

He’s a sinker-splitter-curveball reliever and all three were average or better this past season. His control, however, was not as he posted a 13.6% walk rate.

A bounceback looks like a 7th or 8th inning arm, a role Seattle doesn’t have filled in the slightest at the moment, and Jeffress could get save chances from the outset.

Blake Treinen, RHP

Treinen is going to get looks from contenders who are willing to pay him, including the Dodgers, but in a good bullpen the 2020 version isn’t a closer and should be limited in high-leverage situations.

Treinen was elite in 2018, struggled in 2019, and while he rebounded in 27 appearances this past season, his strikeout rate was down to 20.6%. He’s using the sinker more and the four-seamer and cutter less, while his slider usage is up to 26%, which is neither good nor bad, but at his best all four were values and his fastball combo was devastating.

Treine is 32 and healthy, and a reasonable bet for better results in 2021 since the stuff — outside the fastball being hit harder, despite the same 97 mph heat — is similar.

Trevor Rosenthal, RHP

I think Rosenthal is a pipe dream for Seattle, since he’s now proven to some extent his bout with severe control problems are behind him. He posted a career-best 41.8% strikeout rate in 2020 and everything else is in line with his best years.

Some poor GM is probably going to give him a multi-year deal, but if that doesn’t happen and he wants to be assured the closer role to start the season, Seattle is one of a large handful of possibilities… as are the Angels, for the record.

Joakim Soria, RHP

Soria, 37 next May, had another strong year, the third in the last four he’s posted a FIP under three. But his xFIP this past season over five, his strikeout rate is down a touch and he had some control issues beyond a high-leverage arm.

He’s still very interesting for a club such as Seattle. He averaged 92.8 mph with the fastball in 2020 — 93.0, 92.9, 93.2 the last three years — and made 22 appearances, answering the bell every time upon which he was called.

If Soria is one of the arms the Mariners add this winter it’s a good move.

Justin Wilson, LHP

Wilson had a good 2020 and has always walked more batters than is ideal, but he misses bats — 26.7% this past season, 26.2 for his career — and dominates lefties, including a .115/.207/.231 slash with the Mets.

With his splits, Wilson can’t be any club’s relief ace, and the three batter minimum puts pressure on his ability versus RHBs, but if the Mariners can get more strikes out of him against righties he’ll be fine.

Greg Holland, RHP

Holland is more of an injury risk than most other free agent relievers, but he was very good in 2020, punching out nearly 28% of the batters he faced and posting a career-best 6.7% walk rate.

I wouldn’t bet on that kind of control over the course of a full 2021, but the stuff is the best its been since 2014. He’ll be 35 in November and the aforementioned risk is real and relatively high, but the price might be right all things considered.

Seattle could be attractive to Holland if the closer’s role is dangled.

Dipoto is very creative and for at least one of the relievers he acquires this winter he’s likely to surprise some onlookers. But that surprise may come by way of trade, rather than free agency.

A small-to-medium-sized trade that includes a proven, yet young-ish reliever would not shock me at all. Such deals have been Dipoto’s M.O. since he arrived in Seattle five years ago.

Buy-Low Trade Targets

Seattle’s needs are mostly on the mound, but Dipoto never stops looking ahead, either. Here are four buy-low trade candidates for Seattle to consider this winter.

Ryan McMahon, 2B/1B/3B

McMahon isn’t your traditional utility player since shortstop is out of the question and he’s merely adequate at second base, but he can help at three positions, including third base, and a lot of his peripherals suggest he’s a better hitter than he’s shown for most of his career.

He hits the ball hard — 90.1 mph average exit velocity and 40.3% hard-hit rate in 2020 — and draws enough walks to support his batting averages, but he’s struggled to make enough contact to make it all count.

He blasted 24 home runs in 2019, so Colorado is going to hang onto that if clubs approach them this winter, but they have so many needs up and down their organization and they’ve been waiting for McMahon to show consistency for three years.

He’s also arbitration eligible this offseason, suggesting a seven-figure salary, and GM Jeff Bridich, assuming he’s back for 2021, will have to make changes.

McMahon has a solid chance to upgrade Seattle’s bench in 2021, and despite the fact he can’t play the outfield, the fact Dylan Moore can, and fairly well, covers Seattle in case of mid-game emergency.

Adam Frazier, 2B/SS

Frazier batted .276, .277, .278 with .344, .342, .336 OBPs from 2017-2019, but in 58 games in 2020 it all fell apart to the tune of a .230/.297/.364 slash. He’s arbitration eligible for the second time and made a pro-rated $2.8 million this past season, suggesting the grossly-rebuilding Pirates could very well be open to a deal.

Frazier is a solid-average second baseman, capable at shortstop and has 99 starts in the outfield where he’s posted +8 DRS in four years.

Frazier has hitting chops and I’d bet pretty hard on him bouncing back. He’ll be 29 in December, bats left-handed — which adds some needed balance to a pretty right-handed lineup the Mariners will send out there in 2021 (J.P. Crawford and Kyle Seager are the lone lefties in the projected lineup).

While Frazier won’t be free, the Pirates aren’t likely to love the idea of paying him $3.5-4 mill, either, suggesting he can be had without costing anything more than expendable talent in return.

Maybe a multi-player deal including Bucs right-handed reliever Tyler Bashlor can be negotiated. Bashlor is out of options and has struggled throwing strikes, but that sounds an awful lot like Connor Sadzeck and Austin Adams.

Bashlor sits 94-97 mph with an average slider and useful changeup.

Jon Gray, RHP

You knew I was going to bring up Gray, right?

I’ve been talking about Gray for two years because he’s underperformed since 2017 and now is a year from free agency. The Rockies either need to fish or cut bait and they don’t know how to cast a line.

Gray’s shoulder injury that ended his season is an obstacle and could derail the idea altogether, but there’s no indication — yet — that the injury is long-term.

The former No. 3 overall pick has a big fastball at 93-97, though his average heater dropped from 96.1 to 94.1 in 2020. His slider is plus to plus-plus, but he didn’t have the best of it much this past season, and while his changeup hasn’t been useful since 2018, his curveball has been at least fringe-average, albeit more of an early-count option than an out pitch.

His strikeout rate sank to 12.6% this year, but his 23.5%-24.6% the past three years still doesn’t match the raw stuff. Gray needs someone to help him unlock his potential.

I’m not saying he’s Gerrit Cole — he doesn’t have that kind of upside… Cole always did (former No. 1 pick, always projected as a potential ace), Gray does have frontline stuff, and he’s always been able to throw strike, generally speaking — 7.6% walk rate over his career.

I’d sure like to see what the Mariners could do with a healthy Gray in 2021. Wouldn’t you? And we’re past the point where the cost is too prohibitive. He’s only controlled by Colorado for one more season and via arbitration could net between $6-7 million.

This suggests the Rockies could even non-tender the right-hander, and if I were Seattle I’d be at the front of the line looking for medicals and potentially handing Gray a guaranteed contract. Heck, I’d be willing to give him his projected arbitration salary.

Miguel Andujar, 3B/1B

The Yankees have Gio Urshela now entrenched at third base for the foreseeable future and Andujar struggled in his 65 PAs in 2020.  We saw some potential at the plate in 2018 when the now-25-year-old (26 in March) batted .297/.328/.527 with 27 homers, and his ability to make contact could be a valuable foundation for a fix to his recent struggles.

Andujar is not a good third baseman, and the Mariners have first base locked up for the time being, but there’s upside here and all it takes is one injury to Seager, Ty France, Dylan Moore, or Evan White to open up time for a player like Andujar.

The squeeze here is the fact the Yankees have an option left on Andujar and he’s not arbitration eligible until after next season (at the soonest), so the Bombers aren’t particularly motivated to move him, generally a tell on cost.

I just wonder if the Mariners don’t have an equally-valuable yet dispensable piece in their system the Yankees might believe is more likely to help them than Andujar.…

*Players mentioned in this episode are Mitch Haniger, J.P. Crawford, Eduardo Escobar, George Springer, Dylan Moore, Michael Limoncelli, Ty France, Marwin Gonzalez, Robinson Cano, Yu Darvish, Max Roberts, Trevor Bauer, Luis Torrens, Dustin Ackley, Tim Lopes, Marco Gonzales, Cal Raleigh, Shed Long Jr., Jacob deGrom, Josh Harrison, Tom Murphy, Noelvi Marte, Juan Mercedes, Brad Miller, Evan White, Sam Carlson, Felix Hernandez, Kyle Seager, Jeff McNeil, and DJ LeMahieu.

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The Seattle Mariners threatened to make the postseason for a short time in 2020, but came up short and finished 27-33 in what was Year 2 of Jerry Dipoto’s rebuild.

During the year, a lot of players came and went.

As one way to get ready for the offseason, here’s a look at every player on the 40-man roster as of October 2 with their roster, contract status, and service time.

For pitchers, click here.

CATCHERS (4)

Joe Hudson

G:
AVG:
.176
OBP:
.263
SLG:
.176
HR:
0
wRC+:
33
xwOBA :
.183
DRS:
-2
fWAR:
-0.1
EV:
82.1

SERVICE TIME: 1.106

CONTRACT: Club controlled through at lest 2026. Arbitration eligible after 2023 at the soonest. Two options remaining.

ROSTER: Hudson will again enter the offseason as potential depth likely set for Triple-A Tacoma to open the 2021 season.


Tom Murphy

(60-IL)

SERVICE TIME: 3.092

CONTRACT: ARB1. No options remaining.

ROSTER: Murphy is expected to be 100% when pitchers and catchers report to camp in February. He’ll be the No. 1 catcher when the regular season begins, though it’s more of a timeshare scenario than a starter-backup.


Joseph Odom

G: 18
AVG:
.128
OBP:
.209
SLG:
.128
HR:
0
wRC+:
2
xwOBA:
.170
DRS:
1
fWAR:
-0.4
EV:
84.4

SERVICE TIME: 0.92

CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2026. Arbitration eligible after the 2023 season at the soonest. Two options remaining.

ROSTER:


Luis Torrens

G: 25
AVG:
 .247
OBP:
.325
SLG:
.371
HR:
1
wRC+:
96
xwOBA:
.305
DRS:
-5
fWAR:
-0.1
EV:
93

SERVICE TIME: 1.126

CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2025. May qualify for Super Two status after 2021. No options remaining.

ROSTER:


INFIELDERS (11)

Shed Long Jr.

G: 34
AVG:
.171
OBP:
.242
SLG:
.291
HR:
3
wRC+:
50
xwOBA:
.242
DRS:
0
fWAR:
0.0
EV:
87.1

SERVICE TIME: 1.057

CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2025. Arbitration eligible after the 2022 season at the soonest. One option remaining.

ROSTER: Long needs to hit, but did prove he can handle second base. His defensive versatility will likely become more crucial next season, and his 40-man roster spot is safe for the time being, but his 26-man spot is a bit shaky entering the offseason.


Kyle Seager

G: 60
AVG:
.241
OBP:
.355
SLG:
.433
HR:
9
wRC+:
118
xwOBA:
.352
DRS:
-5
fWAR:
1.5
EV:
89.2

SERVICE TIME: 9.085

CONTRACT: Has one year and $18 million remaining, plus a a $15 million option with a buyout amount to be determined.

ROSTER: Seager’s 40-man and 26-man roster spots are safe.


Dee Strange-Gordon

G: 33
AVG:
.200
OBP:
.268
SLG:
.213
HR:
0
wRC+:
42
xwOBA:
.256
DRS:
-3
fWAR:
-0.3
EV:
79.2

SERVICE TIME: 8.154

CONTRACT: Club options for 2021 at $14 million or a $1 million buyout.

ROSTER: Strange-Gordon has struggled mightily the past two seasons as his speed is being neutralized by shifting, and the Mariners are certainly going to move on from the veteran after three years in Seattle.


Donovan Walton

G: 5
AVG:
.154
OBP:
.214
SLG:
.231
HR:
0
wRC+:
25
xwOBA:
.216
DRS:
0
fWAR:
-0.1
EV:
81.2

SERVICE TIME: 0.098

CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2026.  Arbitration eligible after the 2023 season at the soonest. Two options remaining.

ROSTER: Walton may be expendable with Lopes, Long, Haggerty, and Moore on the roster, plus another wave of multi-position utility defender closing in on the upper minors. The 40-man roster squeeze is coming for the Mariners. Walton is likely in the fence.


Evan White

G: 54
AVG:
.176
OBP:
.252
SLG:
.346
HR:
8
wRC+:
66
xwOBA:
.279
DRS:
7
fWAR:
-0.2
EV:
92.2

SERVICE TIME: 1.000

CONTRACT: Five years and $22.7 million remaining, plus $21 million in options for 2026 and 2027 combined. Three options remaining.

ROSTER: White’s roster spot is safe thanks to his long-term contract, and his role as the club’s starting first baseman is secure for the foreseeable future.


Dylan Moore

G: 38
AVG:
.255
OBP:
.358
SLG:
.496
HR: 8
wRC+:
139
xwOBA:
.343
DRS:
5
fWAR:
1.4
EV:
90.4

SERVICE TIME: 2.000

CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2024. Arbitration eligible after 2021. Three options remaining.

ROSTER: Moore likely enters 2021 with a starting spot within his grasp, likely second base. If he continues to perform at the plate well into next season, don’t be surprised if there’s a multi-year extension in the offing.


J.P. Crawford

G: 53
AVG:
.255
OBP:
.336
SLG:
.338
HR:
2
wRC+:
94
xwOBA:
.306
DRS:
6
fWAR:
1.1
EV: 
85.9

SERVICE TIME: 2.163

CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2024. Super Two arbitration eligible this offseason. One option remaining.

ROSTER: Crawford is going to get at least the 2021 season to show he can produce better at the plate, and is defense allows him quite a bit of leeway, but once Year 3 of arbitration hits prior to the 2023 season, the price may start to be a significant factor.


Tim Lopes

G: 46
AVG:
.238
OBP:
.278
SLG:
.364
HR:
2
wRC+:
78
xwOBA:
.266
DRS:
-1
fWAR:
-0.1
EV:
87.1

SERVICE TIME: 1.069

CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2025. Arbitration eligible after the 2022 season Three options remaining.

ROSTER: Lopes’ 26-man spot may be challenged by an offseason acquisition, though his 40-man spots is likely safe for the time being.


Sam Haggerty

G: 13
AVG:
.260
OBP:
.315
SLG:
.400
HR:
1
wRC+:
100
xwOBA:
.299
DRS:
1
fWAR:
0.4
EV:
90.6

SERVICE TIME: 0.074

CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2026. Arbitration eligible after 2023 at the soonest. Two options remaining.

ROSTER: Seattle may end up choosing between Lopes, Haggerty and a veteran this offseason, and at some point relatively soon the Lopes-Haggerty-Walton trio will need to be sorted as 40-man roster spots become more precious.


Ty France

G: 23
AVG:
.302
OBP:
.362
SLG:
.453
HR:
2
wRC+:
129
xwOBA:
.343
DRS:
0
fWAR:
0.6
EV: 
85.6

SERVICE TIME: 1.089

CONTRACT: Club controlled through 2025. Arbitration eligible after 2022. Two options remaining.

ROSTER: France is a shallow core player on the current 40-man and 26-man rosters.


OUTFIELDERS (6)

Braden Bishop

G: 12
AVG:
.167
OBP:
.242
SLG:
.233
HR:
0
wRC+:
37
xwOBA:
.222
DRS:
2
fWAR:
0.0
EV:
89.5

SERVICE TIME: 1.014

CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2025. Arbitration eligible after 2022 at the soonest. One option remaining.

ROSTER: With the additions of Phillip Ervin and Jose Marmolejos, the expanded defensive profiles of Lopes, Moore, and Haggerty, and the inevitable arrival of Jarred Kelenic, Bishop’s 26-man prospects don’t look good for 2021. Furthermore, Bishop and Jake Fraley become dispensable from a 40-man standpoint before their arbitration years, so the pair is running out of time.

I do wonder if Seattle gives him a real shot at the left field gig out of the blocks instead of entering spring training without an actual competition. Bishop is a more natural fit as a fourth outfielder once Kelenic hits the majors since he’s a plus-plus glove, a plus runner and bats right-handed.


Phillip Ervin

G: 16
AVG:
.205
OBP:
.340
SLG:
.282
HR:
0
wRC+:
87
xwOBA:
.246
DRS:
.1
fWAR:
0.0
EV:
.85.4

SERVICE TIME: 2.110

CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2024. Arbitration eligible after the 2021 season at the soonest. No options remaining.

ROSTER: While things can change this winter, Ervin enters the offseason as the seat warmer for Kelenic for the first few weeks of 2021. Once Kelenic is up, Ervin turns into a reserve, but keep an eye on a competition in March where Bishop may be a factor.


Jake Fraley

G: 7
AVG:
.154
OBP:
.241
SLG:
.269
HR:
0
wRC+:
45
xwOBA:
DRS:
1
fWAR:
-0.1
EV:
82.6

SERVICE TIME: 0.094

CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2026. Arbitration eligible after 2023 at the soonest. Two options remaining.

ROSTER: Fraley is running out of opportunities, despite the fact the opportunities he’s received to this point have been few and far between. He’s unlikely to have a shot at the 26-man to open next season, and 2021 may be his last shot to find a long-term home on the 40-man.


Mitch Haniger (60-IL)


SERVICE TIME: 4.048

CONTRACT: Club controlled through 2022. Arbitration eligible for the second time this winter. Three options remaining.

ROSTER: Haniger’s roster spots are safe, though at the first sign of significant trade value, the 29-year-old is trade chum.


Kyle Lewis

G: 58
AVG:
.262
OBP:
.364
SLG:
.437
HR:
11
wRC+:
126
xwOBA:
.333
DRS:
-1
fWAR:
1.7
EV: 
88.5

SERVICE TIME: 1.020

CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2025. Arbitration eligible after the 2022 season at the soonest. Three options remaining.

ROSTER: Lewis represents the closest thing to a true all-star the Mariners possess. He’ll enter 2021 as the starting centerfielder and ultimately be flanked by Haniger and Kelenic.


Jose Marmolejos, DH/OF

G: 35
AVG:
.206
OBP:
.261
SLG:
.411
HR:
6
wRC+:
84
xwOBA:
.301
DRS:
-1
fWAR:
-0.3
EV:
90.4

SERVICE TIME: 1.061

CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2025. Arbitration eligible after the 2022 season at the soonest. One option remaining.

ROSTER: Marmolejos is a placeholder until the Kelenics and Trammels pop. The biggest threat to his 26-man roster spot to open 2021 is Fraley, but his 40-man spot will be threatened next summer.…

The Seattle Mariners gave the Houston Astros a bit of a scare for the No. 2 spot in the American League West, but came up short and finished 27-33 in what was Year 2 of a total rebuild of the franchise.

Again this season, we saw a lot of players arrive, a lot of players depart, and some came and went so fast we didn’t get much of a look.

As one way to get ready for the offseason, here’s a look at every player on the 40-man roster as of October 2 with their roster, contract status, and service time.

For hitters, click here.

Marco Gonzales, LHP

GS: 11
IP: 69.2
FIP: 3.32
xFIP: 4.13
K%: 23.1
BB%: 2.5%
BAA: .222
fWAR: 2.0
WPA: 1.39

SERVICE TIME: 3.102

CONTRACT: Owed $30 million over the next four seasons, including $5.25 million in 2021.

ROSTER: Gonzales is the easiest arm on the roster to project for 2021. He’s a proven, consistent performer with almost no risk of falling off a cliff anytime soon.

The trade front isn’t likely to sweep away the left-hander anytime soon, either, despite the chance the league starts valuing command-and-feel starter more.


Justus Sheffield, LHP

GS: 10
IP: 55.1
FIP: 3.17
xFIP: 4.27
K%: 20.7
BB%: 8.6
BAA: .249
fWAR: 1.6
WPA: 0.70

SERVICE TIME: 1.053

CONTRACT: Club controlled through 2025. Scheduled to become arbitration eligible following the 2022 season. Not in line for Super 2 status after 2021. Two options remaining.

ROSTER: Sheffield is a sure thing for the Opening Day roster next spring and has earned a spot in the rotation for the foreseeable future. Where he’s slotted depends on what the club does over the winter with regard to starting pitching.


Yusei Kikuchi, LHP

GS: 9
IP: 47.0
FIP: 3.30
xFIP: 3.78
K%: 24.2
BB%: 10.3
BAA: .236
fWAR: 1.1
WPA: -0.20

ROSTER: Kikuchi has improved his status as a starter for 2021 and likely to start 2022 as well, but if the rotation gets full in ’22 all bets are off.

SERVICE TIME: 2.000

CONTRACT: Owed $31 million over the next two seasons. Through third day after 2021 World Series, Seattle has the right to exercise four one-year options at $16.5 million per. If they decline, player has two days to exercise a $13 million option for 2022.

The club is not picking up those options unless Kikuchi dazzles in ’21, and while I like the left-hander, it’s tough to see that level of production from him after the 41 MLB starts we’ve seen.


Justin Dunn, RHP

GS: 10
IP: 45.2
FIP: 6.54
xFIP: 6.23
K%: 19.2
BB%: 15.7
BAA: 188
fWAR: -0.3
WPA: -3.49

SERVICE TIME: 1.020

CONTRACT: Club controlled through 2025. Scheduled to become arbitration eligible following the 2022 season. Not in line for potential Super 2 status after 2021. Three options remaining.

ROSTER: Dunn carries high probability to open the 2021 season in the club’s rotation but it’s not out of the question they deem time in Triple-A Tacoma necessary, whether it be at the outset of the season or after showing more signs of struggle.

Command needs to improve, but the changeup is also a key for Dunn if he wishes to remain a viable rotation candidate. I do wonder if he might get back some velocity in ’21; Last summer he was 92-93 and touched 94-95 most starts in Double-A Arkansas.


Nick Margevicius, LHP

G/GS: 9/6
IP: 35.1
FIP:  4.51
xFIP: 4.53
K%: 21.8
BB%: 7.5
BAA: .257
fWAR: 0.4
WPA: -0.18

SERVICE TIME: 1.100

CONTRACT: Club controlled through 2025. Scheduled to become arbitration eligible following the 2022 season. Two options remaining.

ROSTER: Margevicius’ 40-man roster spot is safe, but his 26-man spot depends on what GM Jerry Dipoto decides to do this offseason and how the club plans to move forward with their pitching staff.

The step forward taken by Margevicius in 2020 makes him more than interesting moving forward, however, especially since the fastball and slider both took large steps forward, and at 24 years of age and built like Cliff Lee, maybe there’s more in the thank than the back-end arm we’ve seen so far.


Ljay Newsome, RHP

G/GS: 5/4
IP: 15.2
FIP: 5.73
xFIP: 4.99
K%: 13.2%
BB%: 1.5%
BAA: ..303
fWAR: 0.0
WPA: -0.01

ROSTER: Much like Margevicius but with less of a big-league resume, Newsome will have to battle for a 26-man spot next spring, and even if he makes it out of Peoria the young guns will be coming after his job in no time.

The stuff is rather ordinary on the surface — 89-92 mph four-seam fastball, curveball, changeup — but he’s thrown a cutter in the past and some kind of cutter-slider could help him pitch inside to left-handed batters and even steal a strike versus righties.

SERVICE TIME: 0.106

CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2026. Earliest arbitration eligible: after the 2023 season. Three options remaining.


Anthony Misiewicz, LHP

G: 21
IP: 20.0
FIP: 3.04
xFIP: 3.67
K%: 30.1
BB%: 7.2
BAA: .263
fWAR: 0.5
WPA: -0.08

SERVICE TIME: 1.000

CONTRACT: Club controlled through 2025. Scheduled to become arbitration eligible following the 2022 season.

ROSTER: Misiewicz was my Mariners Reliever of the Year for being the most reliable from start to finish. But he didn’t lack impact, posting a 1.84 +WPA and a 30% strikeout rate.

The southpaw held LHBs to a .216/.256/.243 triple-slash and just one extra-base hit, but righties lit him up to the tune of .308/.386/.590 and seven extra-base hits. Misiewicz, however, is still learning how to use his cutter in on RHBs.

He’ll enter spring training with a great shot to break camp with the big club after his 2020 performance, but I’d like to see him get more value out of his curveball, a potential plus pitch that could help him versus hitters from both sides of the plate.


Kendall Graveman, RHP

G/GS: 11/2
IP: 18.2
FIP: 4.26
xFIP: 4.83
K%: 19.5
BB%: 10.4
BAA: .217
fWAR: 0.3
WPA: 0.03

SERVICE TIME: 5.078

CONTRACT: Club has $3.5 million option for 2021 that comes with a $500,000 buyout. Also arbitration eligible for the third time. One option remaining.

There are a handful of scenarios here for Graveman, and a few of them involve the Mariners. Seattle could pick up the option and be OK paying a reliever $3.5 million. They could pick up the option and try Graveman again in the rotation — which is where I think he belongs., just not in Seattle next season. The club also could decline the option and work out something else with Graveman via the arbitration process, presumably for a salary that better fits a relief pitcher with injury concerns.

ROSTER: If Graveman returns as a starting pitcher, it likely means the club doesn’t go out and look for another buy-low arm similar to the signing of Taijuan Walker over this past winter. With Gonzales, Kikuchi, Margevicius, Dunn, Newsome and eventually Logan Gilbert to fill up the rotation, adding Graveman to that group creates a bit of a crowd, which likely lends us some insight into the chances Graveman returns as a candidate for the rotation.

In relief, Graveman is a middle-innings arm — he is not a bona fide closer by any stretch. He gets some fastball value at 94-99 thanks to arm side run and sink , and he has a four-seam version in his back pocket if he’s looking to miss bats with velocity at the top of the zone.

The changeup is useful, though it may be too firm to be anything more than that. His cutter-slider is fringe-average as is his 79-82 mph curveball. It’s a lot of fringey stuff, despite the velocity, and the command is below average.

While 99 mph looks good out of the pen, there’s no swing-and-miss pitch to put away hitters, and the combo of stuff and command don’t bode well for consistency, suggesting a lot of ups and downs where he looks great one outing and not-so-great the next. The stuff is just too hittable, especially considering he’s using the sinker 72% of the time in relief outings.

As a starter he’s more inclined to use a mix, his ground ball tendencies are a lot more valuable, and having a short run where he gets hit hard is forgivable for a No. 4 starter looking to go five or six frames.


Yohan Ramirez, RHP

G: 16
IP: 20.2
FIP: 6.05
xFIP: 
K%: 27.7
BB%: 21.3
BAA: .129
fWAR: -0.2
WPA: 0.52

SERVICE TIME: 1.000

CONTRACT: Club controlled through 2025. Schedule to hit arbitration after the 2022 season. Three options remaining.

ROSTER: Ramirez pitched well enough to be among those with a legitimate chance to again break camp with the big club next spring.

The stuff is undeniable — 94-97 mph with late life and a 60-grade slider. He also has a 60-grade curveball at 75-78 mph if he ever wants to give hitters a bigger velocity differential.

Batters have a tough time squaring him up consistently, but he hasn’t thrown strikes to a level ever acceptable in the majors, and he’s yet to learn how to pitch to left-handed batters, which was his biggest problem all year.

He’ll be in the mix come spring training, but he has all three options left and the Mariners’ brass are likely to want to see him earn his spot now that the Rule 5 status has been lifted.

Perfect World, Ramirez turns into world beater Edwin Diaz 2.0. Most likely outcome? He’s a middle-relief arm that sometimes looks like that world beater, but just as often shows up doing a great rendition of the bad Fernando Rodney.


Brandon Brennan, RHP

G: 5
IP: 7.1
FIP: 6.87
xFIP: 5.96
K%: 21.2
BB%: 15.2
BAA: .250
fWAR: -0.1
WPA: -0.18

SERVICE TIME: 2.000

CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2024. Schedule for arbitration eligibility following the 2021 season. Three options remaining.

ROSTER: Brennan is an “in the mix” reliever with no guarantees..

The raw stuff is solid, including a sinker at 93-96 mph and a plus changeup, but his control has been poor and he’s had two extended stints on the IL — one each in 2019 and 2020. He also has a slider he rarely uses but began to bring out a bit more in five appearances this season.

While Seattle is still in “find answers to questions” mode, there are a lot of arms that need time and at some point — perhaps in 2021 — the experiments will begin to narrow down a bit as the Mariners path to winning nears and becomes clearer. When that happens, arms like Brennan will be out of chances.


Joey Gerber, RHP

G: 17
IP: 15.2
FIP: 4.40
xFIP: 5.67
K%: 9.7
BB%: 8.1
BAA: .232
fWAR: 0.1
WPA: -0.37

SERVICE TIME: 0.154

CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2026. Not arbitration eligible until after the 2023 season, at the soonest.

ROSTER: Gerber is in the same boat as the rest of the relievers this season, but he has an advantage over Brennan and Ramirez, among others; he throws strikes.

His track record of pounding the zone dates back to college when he closed at Illinois, and he’s been up to 97 mph with deception.

Gerber’s slider hasn’t been very good this year, flattening out a lot and he seems to have lost some feel, but hitters aren’t lifting the ball much against him and there’s more velocity  in the fastball than what we’ve seen so far (93 mph).

Gerber has a leg up on the other relievers who remain unproven in the show, with more room to grow and control and command that already plays. But he’s going to have to miss more bats and the slider is likely key to that lock.


Yoshihisa Hirano, RHP

G: 13
IP: 12.1
FIP: 5.70
xFIP: 5.63
K%: 17.5
BB%: 12.5
BAA: .333
fWAR: -0.2
WPA: -0.14

SERVICE TIME: 3.000

CONTRACT: Free agent

ROSTER: Hirano signed a one-year deal with Seattle and missed half of the 60-game schedule. But he was more than serviceable, picking up two saves and getting through a scoreless outing in 7 of 9 appearances.

He doesn’t throw hard, but he finds the plate and the splitter is above average.

There’s a chance Hirano interests Seattle enough on another one-year deal, but likely only s a last resort.


Brady Lail, RHP

G: 7
IP: 15.0
FIP: 7.86
xFIP: 6.61
K%: 17.5
BB%: 12.7
BAA: .333
fWAR: -0.3
WPA: -0.58

SERVICE TIME: 0.116

CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2026. Not arbitration eligible until after 2023 at the soonest. Three options remaining.

ROSTER: Lail, 27, is among several middle relief options Seattle will have next spring. Typically, he pounds the zone with below-average velocity but some arm side movement and a plus curveball.

Lail’s issues with the long ball need to be addressed if he’s to break camp with a 26-man roster spot, and like so many others will have to throw more strikes.


Walker Lockett, RHP

G: 5
IP: 8.1
FIP: 4.39
xFIP: 5.15
K%: 8.3
BB%: 2.8
BAA: .343
fWAR: 0.0
WPA: -0.07

SERVICE TIME: 0.134

CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2026. Arbitration eligible after 2023 at the soonest. Out of options.

ROSTER: Lockett throws strikes but has rather ordinary stuff and if he makes it through the winter on the 40-man will have an uphill climb to make the club next spring.


Erik Swanson, RHP

G: 9
IP: 7.2
FIP: 7.50
xFIP: 4.92
K%: 24.3
BB%: 5.4
BAA: .333
fWAR: -0.3
WPA: -0.75

SERVICE TIME: 1.098

CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2024. Arbitration eligible as early as 2023. Two options remaining.

ROSTER: Swanson’s increased velocity help his case in 2021 — he went from 92-93 mph to averaging 95.6 and touching 99. He throws his changeup less in a relief role and his slider must improve if he’s to be more than up-and-down fodder.

He’ll likely enter camp with a real shot at a spot in the bullpen.


Casey Sadler, RHP

G: 7
IP: 9.2
FIP: 3.29
xFIP: 4.11
K%: 26.9
BB%: 11.5
BAA: .217
fWAR: 0.2
WPA: -0.33

SERVICE TIME: 2.000

CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2024. Needs one more years of service to become arbitration eligible. Out of options.

ROSTER: Sadler, 30, has solid stuff, sitting 94-96 with the fastball and complementing with a cutter and curveball to give him three big-league pitches. He has a decent track record of throwing strikes, but struggled with control in New York and wasn’t a lot better with the Mariners.

If he remains on the 40-man he’ll get some looks in Peoria, but the club is going to add some proven veteran talent which may limit the open spots.


Matt Magill, RHP (60-IL)

G: 11
IP: 10.1
FIP: 6.56
xFIP: 5.02
K%: 24.4
BB%: 13.3
BAA: .231
fWAR: -0.2
WPA: -0.62

SERVICE TIME: 3.031

CONTRACT: ARB1, out of options

ROSTER: Magill started the season strong and served as the most reliable arm in the club’s bullpen, despite some bouts with control problems. It all caught up with him in the form of too many walks and too many long balls, but the makings of a legitimate middle reliever are there.

But he’s first-year arbitration eligible, which generally requires a raise into the seven-figure range. He ended the season on the IL with a shoulder problem, and then had surgery September 16, clouding the club’s decision to tender, despite the expectation he’ll be ready for spring training. At this point, I’d put it at 50-50, largely dependent on updated medicals, but a roster crunch could come into play as well.


Art Warren, RHP

SERVICE TIME: 0.020

CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2026. Not arbitration eligible until at least 2023. Has two options remaining.

ROSTER: Warren didn’t pitch in the majors in 2020 after making his debut last summer, throwing six games and posting a 2.46 FIP over 5.1 innings.

The 27-year-old has a plus fastball up to 97 mph, a slider and power curveball, but none of the pitches stand out and he has yet to show he can command them well enough to suggest he might be a consistent go-to anytime soon.

As a result, Warren’s 40-man spot is not secure, especially considering the slew of arms pushing toward the majors, including Sam Delaplane, Wyatt Mills, Ian McKInney, Penn Murfee, Logan Gilbert, and others.


Taylor Guilbeau, LHP (60-IL)

G: 8
IP: 7.2
FIP: 4.76
xFIP: 6.77
K%: 8.3
BB%: 16.7
BAA: .267
fWAR: 0.0
WPA: 0.04

SERVICE TIME: 1.028

CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2025. Arbitration eligible as early as 2022. He has two options remaining.

ROSTER: Guilbeau looked like an entirely different pitcher this season versus last. After the trade last summer, Guilbeau sat 93-97 mph with a plus changeup. He struggled to touch 91 this season and the changeup, and a slider he used more in 2020 than last season, were fringy at best.

When he’s right, the lefty is a legit option in the bullpen for 2021. We’ll see which version shows up in February, but he ended the season on the 60-day IL.


CJ Edwards, RHP (60-IL)

G: 5
IP: 4.2
FIP: 1.26
xFIP: 2.92
K%: 35.3
BB%: 5.9
BAA: .125
fWAR: 0.2
WPA: 0.35

SERVICE TIME: 4.098

CONTRACT: ARB2

ROSTER: Edwards ended the 2020 season on the IL with a forearm issue, but if the prognosis remains promising, tendering the right-hander isn’t out of the question. After making a pro-rated $950,000 this past season, Edwards could earn seven figures next season, which will be a factor in the club’s decision.


Seth Frankoff, RHP

G: 2
IP: 2.2
FIP: 5.44
xFIP: 11.23
K%: 0.0
BB%: 12.5%
BAA: .429
fWAR: 0.0
WPA: -0.20

SERVICE TIME: 0.058

CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2026. Earliest arbitration eligibility is 2023. Two options remaining.

ROSTER: Frankoff isn’t likely to last the winter on the 40-man roster, but may earn an NRI next spring.


Aaron Fletcher, LHP

G: 6
IP: 4.1
FIP: 9.19
xFIP: 7.97
K%: 24.1
BB%: 24.1
BAA: .350
fWAR: -0.1
WPA: -0.19

SERVICE TIME: 0.050

CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2026. Not arbitration eligible until at least 2023. Two options remaining.

ROSTER: Fletcher’s 40-man spot is probably fairly safe, being a 24-year-old with two options left.


Nestor Cortes Jr., LHP (60-IL)

G/GS: 5/1
IP: 7.2
FIP: 14.41
xFIP: 7.25
K%: 18.2
BB%: 13.6
BAA: .333
fWAR: -0.6
WPA: -0.71

SERVICE TIME: 1.139

CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2025. May be Super two eligible after 2021. Two options remaining.

ROSTER: Cortes struggled in his few appearances in 2020 but may have value as a long reliever and swing starter if healthy. He spent the final month of the season on the IL with an elbow issue, however, suggesting his roster status is anything but safe.


Gerson Bautista, RHP (60-IL)

SERVICE TIME: 0.120

CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2026. Not arbitration eligible until after the 2023 season at the soonest. Two options remaining.

ROSTER: Bautista, now 25, struggled in 2019 — both at Triple-A Tacoma and in eight appearances in the majors — and spent 2020 on the IL with an elbow issue.

Bautista could very well be among those exposed to waivers as the club adds players to the organization over the next six months, and as early as November.


Andres Munoz, RHP (60-IL)

SERVICE TIME: 0.080

CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2026. Not arbitration eligible until after the 2023 season as the soonest. Three options remaining.

ROSTER: Munoz, who came over in the August 31 trade with the San Diego Padres in exchange for Austin Nola, is rehabbing from March Tommy John surgery, which may mean he’s unable to pitch until as late as June, 2021.

But his roster spot is safe, thanks to relatively high upside as a high-leverage reliever. When healthy, the 21-year-old lives 98-101 mph and has touched as high as 104 mph. He also has a slider and has been known to alter grips on the heater to generate horizontal run to both sides of the plate.


Ian Hamilton, RHP

SERVICE TIME: 0.089

CONTRACT: Club controlled through at least 2026. Not arbitration eligible until after the 2023 season at the soonest. Two option remaining.

ROSTER: Skyview High School’s Hamilton, 25, made his MLB debut in 2018 and has 14 games — 12 innings — of big-league experience. His entire pro career has come in a relief role after he made 15 starts for Washington State in 2016.

He’s a fastball (93-96 mph), slider, changeup right-hander and the slider is his best offering. In his limited time in the majors he’s had problems with the base on balls and his minor league record is spotty. But he’s athletic and the live arm give him a shot.…

Throughout this topsy-turvy season, there were encouraging signs for the rebuilding Seattle Mariners. Sure, the Mariners didn’t snap their 19-year postseason drought, a disappointing reality considering half the league earned a playoff spot. But playing October baseball was never the goal for 2020.

Instead, Mariners management opted to sacrifice “the now” to build a sustainable contender – something Pacific Northwest baseball fans haven’t witnessed this century.

So what were those encouraging signs? Some were obvious, others more subtle.

Productive First Rounders

For two-plus decades, the Mariners were underachievers when it came to drafting and developing prospects. Prior to the arrival of GM Jerry Dipoto, the team was particularly inept in the first round. The most prominent first rounders selected by Seattle this century were Adam Jones and Taijuan Walker – that’s it. Now though, the organization appears to have a cohesive scouting and development strategy.

For proof, look no further than the first player drafted during the Dipoto era – Kyle Lewis. Not only did the Mariners shrewdly select Lewis with the eleventh overall pick in 2016, the team helped him recover from a devastating knee injury suffered the same year. Now, the Mercer alum is the front-runner for this 2020 AL Rookie of the Year.

Yes, Lewis deserves all the credit for having the tireless work ethic and steadfast perseverance needed to overcome a potentially career-altering setback. But his ascent to the head of the 2020 rookie class with Seattle may not have been possible under previous regimes.

Lewis isn’t the only first rounder making his presence known. Evan White appears to be the long-term answer at first base – a position long devoid of value for the Mariners. Yes, White must improve his hitting. But after leading all first basemen in Defensive Runs Saved (DRS), we know his Gold Glove caliber defense is for real.

The next impact first rounder on the horizon is Logan Gilbert. If it weren’t for the pandemic, Gilbert probably joins the Mariners in 2020. Perhaps the club delays the 23-year-old’s MLB debut at the onset of next season. But barring unforeseen circumstance, he’ll be be part of the rotation by the All-Star break.

Marco Was Marco

Once again, Opening Day starter Marco Gonzales was the anchor of the Mariners’ fledgling rotation. The left-hander’s numbers weren’t sexy. But the former Gonzaga Bulldog continued to improve, as he did in 2019.

Marco’s 2019 and 2020 Production

More importantly, Gonzales emerged as a team leader – particularly within the pitching staff. During in-game interviews on team broadcasts, young starters Justus Sheffield, Justin Dunn, Nick Margevicius, and Ljay Newsome routinely cited Marco’s methodical preparation and aggressive approach on the mound as characteristics to emulate.

Being an example for the kids is an intangible that won’t show up on the back of Gonzales’ baseball card. But this quality is invaluable to a club striving to build around front-line starting pitching.

Justus Was Served

Of all the young Mariners on this year’s roster, Sheffield’s growth was most impressive – at least it was to me. Sure, Lewis is the presumptive Rookie of the Year. But Sheffield demonstrated significant progress after a turbulent 2019.

Justus Sheffield’s 2020 Numbers

Even when Sheffield didn’t have his best stuff, he continued battling and usually delivered strong outings for manager Scott Servais. The “quality start” stat can be misleading due to its reliance on earned runs, but the Tennessee native making quality starts in six of 10 outings suggests he’s secured a spot in Seattle’s rotation of the future.

Defense As A Core Competency

One of the more memorable highlights from the Mariners’ 2020 season was Lewis making a catch reminiscent to one once made by Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr. That said; there are signs Seattle’s defense has improved far beyond one highlight reel catch.

The following table illustrates where Seattle’s combined DRS at each position ranked in MLB in each of the last two seasons. Highlighted in red are positions with significant improvement in 2020.

Mariners DRS Rankings 2019 v 2020

Whether it was an influx of new personnel or a greater emphasis on fundamentals, Mariner defenders played more cleanly in 2020 and the numbers agree.

We already noted White rates among the best defensive first baseman in baseball, as a rookie. Meanwhile J.P. Crawford finished the season ranked fourth at shortstop – a position deep with top-shelf defenders.

In center field, Lewis was mid-pack at another elite defensive position. It’s worth noting the 25-year-old spent more time playing corner outfield spots than center field with Class-AA Arkansas last year. In fact, his 56 starts/478.2 innings in center field with the Mariners in 2020 represents his highest season total of his professional career.

While there was an everyday center fielder, multiple players held down the corners. Dylan Moore and Braden Bishop delivered plus-defense. Other contributors included Dee Strange-Gordon, Jake Fraley, Shed Long, Tim Lopes, Jose Marmolejos, Phil Ervin, and Mallex Smith. Some were better than others, none were atrocious. That’s an important distinction from recent outfield rotations – athletic contributors with better defensive value.

Despite the good news, there remains room for improvement.

Although the third base defense of Kyle Seager often receives positive attention on the air and from fans, the metrics didn’t favor the former North Carolina Tar Heel’s work. His -6 DRS placed him near the bottom among third basemen. Still, Seager did rank sixth among his peers in 2019. Perhaps he rebounds next season.

Catcher ranked poorly, but that’s understandable. After Tom Murphy went down with a foot fracture in summer camp, the team spent the season cobbling together a backstop rotation with Austin Nola, Joe Odom, Joe Hudson, and Luis Torrens.

As of today, Murphy and Torrens project to be the Opening Day catching tandem with top prospect Cal Raleigh waiting in the wings. Murphy was a strong defender last season, while evaluators speak positively about the work of both Torrens and Raleigh behind the plate.

The M’s Are Good Bargain Shoppers

Dipoto and his crew have a knack for discovering players with value after other clubs discard them. Prior to the 2019 season, the Mariners signed Moore, a minor-league free agent, to a major-league contract. The 28-year-old struggled last season in a part-time role. However, he flourished this year when given the opportunity to play on an everyday basis at multiple positions.

Moore started games at every infield and outfield position in 2020 and led the team in stolen bases, OBP, SLG and OPS+. Perhaps the team chooses to find a permanent spot on the field for the University of Central Florida product, such as third or second base. Another option is to morph him into a Ben Zobrist type, a super-utility man with offensive upside.

Nola was another diamond in the rough discovered by the Mariners. Unlike Moore, the former LSU Tiger was an instant hit last season with 10 home runs and a .269/.342/.454 slash-line in 79 games. He too was flexible playing both corner infield spots, second base, and catcher during his rookie campaign.

This year, Nola was the Mariners’ primary catcher after Murphy went down. At least until Dipoto dealt the 30-year-old to the Padres in August for top-100 prospect Taylor Trammell, Ty France, Andrés Muñoz, and Torrens. Quite an impressive haul for a player with 108 games of MLB experience with Seattle.

Fans tend to focus on marquee acquisitions. However, Nola and Moore are examples of low-profile additions capable of helping a team trying to build a championship roster. Perhaps, this year’s less heralded pickups – Jose Marmolejos, Phillip Ervin, and Sam Haggerty – eventually deliver similar value for the Mariners either on the diamond or in the trade market.

A Willingness To Move On

Ever since taking over as GM of the Mariners in September 2015, Dipoto has repeatedly stated he’s willing to admit mistakes and turn the page when necessary. This year, he proved true to his word

Dipoto traded minor-leaguer Jordan Pries and Mike Montgomery to the Cubs to get Daniel Vogelbach and Paul Blackburn from the Cubs in a 2016 deadline deal. The Mariners hoped Vogelbach’s hit tool would make him a central figure in their lineup for years to come. But that never happened with the exception of a brief period last season. As a result, the team designated him for assignment before trading him to the Blue Jays in August.

After a breakout season with the Rays, Seattle picked up Mallex Smith along with Jake Fraley in exchange for Mike Zunino, Guillermo Heredia, and minor-leaguer Michael Plassmeyer from Tampa Bay. As with Vogelbach, Smith didn’t live up to expectations. The Mariners outrighted him to Class-AAA Tacoma in September.

Dipoto’s willingness to acknowledge mistakes is crucial for a club intent on integrating many youngsters into its 2021 roster. Some of these players may not work out, but we now know JeDi has the capacity to act appropriately.

That’s encouraging.

Management Stayed The Course

Dipoto and his organization stuck with the game plan with their leading prospects – Gilbert and Jarred Kelenic. Even when a whiff of the postseason was present in mid-September.

Sure, the Mariners could’ve called up both Gilbert and Kelenic in an attempt to end their postseason drought. Perhaps one or both players would’ve helped, but the team chose to be patient leaving the duo and the rest of the kids in Tacoma.

Management also avoided the temptation of switching to a five-man rotation down the home stretch. Doing so would’ve permitted the club’s best pitchers to make 1-2 extra starts and instantly increase the odds of overtaking the hapless Astros for second place in the AL West. Instead, the Mariners remained disciplined putting player development and health ahead of being the eighth best team in the AL.

Wait Til Next Year

We saw a lot of good things from young and new players, such as Sheffield, Moore, and White. But others teased us in short bursts with their talent and promise. Next year, we’ll seem more of them and that’s going to be fun.

Rule 5 pickup Yohan Ramirez struggled with his command and control at times, but his stuff is so tantalizingly good. Imagine Ramirez’s dynamic arsenal and the 100-mph velocity of new acquisition Andrés Muñoz becoming a lethal combo at the back-end of Seattle’s bullpen. Perhaps as soon as late next year.

We recently learned Long was dealing with an injured leg since March. Serious enough to undergo surgery after the season. This likely explains why the 25-year-old under-performed at the plate. It’ll be fun to see how a healthy Shed rebounds next year. I’m rooting for him.

There were several other 25-or-younger arms presenting flashes of promise – Nick Margevicius, Ljay Newsome, Anthony Misiewicz, and Joey Gerber. Their progress next season will be must-see also.

Although he didn’t play this year, we should take a moment to acknowledge Mitch Haniger. After being out since June 2019 due to injuries, Haniger projects to be healthy by next season. If that’s the case, he’ll be the regular right fielder.

Haniger will be entering his age-30 season in 2021 and a year from free agency. If he performs at his former All-Star level, Dipoto could deal him prior to next season’s trade deadline. By then, Trammell may be ready to take over.

Speaking of debuting prospects, Kelenic and Gilbert almost certainly join the Mariners. That’s assuming both players remain healthy and don’t set off red flags from a developmental standpoint. There’s also a chance we’ll see Raleigh and starters George Kirby and Emerson Hancock too.

Yes, a lot can change between now and next September. But how exciting is the notion of seeing all these youngsters next year?

Very exciting.

Time To Compete?

The truncated season and no minor-league baseball undoubtedly had a negative effective on the Mariners’ deep pool of prospects. That’s why it wouldn’t have been a surprise if management downplayed expectations for next year. But that’s not what happened. Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports Dipoto believes his club could contend in 2021.

“I think we’re in a really nice position for ’21. “And our goal would be to go out there and contend for a playoff spot. And I don’t think that’s an unrealistic goal.” – Jerry Dipoto

Sounds like a lofty goal for a club finishing 2020 with a .450 winning percentage and a flawed roster. Then again, the encouraging signs we’ve discussed suggest there’s a chance the Mariners can be far better ball next year. Perhaps a few key veteran additions and a bunch of kids stepping up is all the team needs to do something special.

Yes, a lot has to go right for a club likely to enter next season with one of the youngest rosters in the big-leagues. Then again, there are so many encouraging signs suggesting it’s a doable do – especially in an AL West division hurtling towards a recession.

Wouldn’t it be apropos for the Mariners to end the longest postseason drought in professional sports on the 20-year anniversary of the team’s most successful season?

Seems like poetic justice to me.

My Oh My……

*Players mentioned in this episode are Mitch Haniger, Justin Dunn, J.P. Crawford, Ty France, Jean Segura, David Fletcher, Albert Pujols, Chris Taylor, Justus Sheffield, Julio Rodriguez, Mookie Betts, Marco Gonzales, Shed Long Jr., Mike Trout, Nick Markakis, Sixto Sanchez, Jarred Kelenic, Luis Torrens, Jose Marmolejos, Evan White, Kyle Lewis, and Logan Gilbert.

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