In less than three weeks, the 2020 season opens at T-Mobile Park, so let’s take our first shot at projecting the 26-man roster.
Here’s the current Mariners 40-man Roster, for reference.
Note players on the IL, including right-hander Austin Adams, who was placed on the 60-day IL last month after undergoing ACL surgery.
Players out of options and also those not currently on the 40-man roster present factors int he decision that otherwise may not exist.
Some of the players listed in ‘Depth’ may be released or traded in March as part of an annual organizational restructuring that tends to trickle along during spring training. The club also could end up moving a veteran or two between now and final cut-down day. It’d be a surprise if there weren’t a move or two of this type.
Starting Pitchers (5)
Depth: Left-hander Nick Margevicius has two options remaining and could serve as ideal depth in Triple-A Tacoma to start the season. If one of the above five starters suffers a setback and is unable to start 2020 on the active roster, Margevicius is among the top options to step into a spot at the back of the rotation, followed by non-roster players including right-handers Ljay Newsome and Penn Murfee, and lefties Wei-Yin Chen and Manny Banuelos in a pinch.
Relief Pitchers (8)
Altavilla is out of options, but the club could easily trade him or try and slip him through waivers in favor of Bautista, Swanson or one of the prospects throwing the ball well this spring. Every other relief arm listed has options.
The league has a pitcher limit of 13, so if the club runs with five starters out of the gate, they’ll be limited to eight relievers. Unless one of the starters begins the year on the IL, the club would have to burn an option on one of them, such as Sheffield, to make room for a ninth reliever, which isn’t happening.
While it’s plausible at times over the course of the season the club carries three catchers — and I do think clubs will carry three more than ever in 2020 — I don’t see a scenario that makes sense to start the year for the Mariners, at least as it stands today.
Depth: Tim Lopes, UT, Donovan Walton, 2B/SS, Patrick Wisdom, 3B, Sam Haggerty, 2B/SS. Alen Hanson is in camp but is not currently on the 40-man roster, and isn’t likely to beat out Moore or Lopes, let alone both. Lopes is better than Moore, but the front office isn’t likely to admit that yet.
The Mariners will have a 26th-man decision to make. We’ll get to that in a second here.
Four outfielders works here because the two utility players each can handle left field and all four of the by-trade outfielders have experience in center — three of them more than passable in 2020.
The Mariners easily could make the youth decision and take all three kids and cut Gonzalez, and it’s even more conceivable they swap Lewis for Bishop in the above scenario. Utility players Lopes and Moore both are capable of handling a corner outfield spot, and Lopes may even be fine in center, if given the shot.
The Mariners will have to decide whether or not they want to keep Bishop and Lewis rather than both utility players, and that decision may come down to how much time they feel Bishop or Lewis need in Tacoma to start the season.
I’d start both in Tacoma and use Moore and Lopes as the fourth and fifth outfielders, but I don’t get a sense the Mariners will do that, based on comments by Scott Servais and Jerry Dipoto, and the spring usage of all the players involved.
The presence of Gordon makes it more difficult to take the youth route, too, and it’s a shame because Gordon isn’t one of the best 26 players in camp.
To make room for Gonzalez in this scenario, the club’s options include trading a veteran such as Gordon, or DFA’ing an arm like Grotz. But in this case I do not have Yohan Ramirez making the club, so as a Rule 5 pick he’ll have to be offered back to the Astros. If the Mariners work out a trade with Houston for Ramirez, they’ll still have the roster crunch, but if he stays, he not only remains on the 40-man, but the 26-man, too.
Designated Hitter (1)
Note: I’m not 100% convinced Vogelbach starts the 2020 season with the Mariners … 97.5% maybe. Moving Vogelbach may not be all that fruitful in terms of trade return, but it would allow them to start the year with Lopes, Moore, Lewis and Bishop.
The final roster spot may come down to the extra infielder — Moore or Lopes — versus Bishop (or Lewis, if based on player development need rather than spring momentum), and if the club chooses the player most ready to perform in the majors, Lopes is in and the choice is between Moore and Bishop.
Long-term, there’s merit in taking both players north. Trading Vogelbach or Gordon — or Seager, for that matter — alleviates the squeeze, but each young player has options so there’s no risk in losing anyone in the meantime.