There’s just over a week remaining before the Seattle Mariners start their 2016 season and, as usual, fans have concerns about the team’s Opening Day roster. This year, speculation centers around who’ll fill out the club’s bullpen, and hold down the backup first baseman and utility infielder spots.
Prospect Insider and other baseball sites do their best to help keep their readers informed by providing insight on players who’re on the roster bubble. Unfortunately for some fans, so much in-depth analysis can drive their anxiety into overdrive.
Despite the intense speculation on the club’s roster configuration, the names who’ll fill out those last few spots probably won’t matter that much. Let’s take a look back to the 2015 Opening Day roster to see what I mean. It may surprise some fans that so few players from the last season’s original cast lasted until their curtain call on October 4.
|Mariners Opening 2015 Day Roster|
|LF||Dustin Ackley||Traded to New York Yankees|
|CF||Austin Jackson||DL trip in May/Traded to Chicago Cubs|
|RF||Seth Smith||Lasted the entire season|
|C||Mike Zunino||Demoted day after Jack Zduriencik firing|
|OF||Justin Ruggiano||DFA/Traded to Los Angeles Dodgers
|C||Jesus Sucre||Optioned to Tacoma/returned a few weeks later|
|SP||Hisashi Iwakuma||Two month DL stint|
|SP||J.A. Happ||Traded to Pittsburgh Pirates|
|SP||James Paxton||Two trips to DL|
|SP||Taijuan Walker||Shutdown at end of season|
|CL||Fernando Rodney||Traded to Chicago Cubs|
|RP||Charlie Furbush||Lost to DL in second half of season|
|RP||Danny Farquhar||Multiple trips to/from Tacoma|
|RP||Tom Wilhelmsen||Short stint on DL|
|RP||Yoervis Medina||Traded to Chicago Cubs|
|RP||Tyler Olson||Demoted to Tacoma
In April, Tom Wilhelmsen was placed on the 15-day disabled list (DL) due to a hyper-extended right elbow. Less than two weeks later, the Mariners placed starter Hisashi Iwakuma on the 15-day DL due to a right lat strain.
As May began, starting center fielder Austin Jackson was lost to a right ankle sprain. Both Danny Farquhar and Yoervis Medina were optioned to the Class-AAA Tacoma Rainiers after less than two months in the regular season. In just a few weeks, Medina would be shipped to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for catcher Welington Castillo, while Farquhar would bounce back and forth between Seattle and Tacoma due to ineffectiveness.
By the time Iwakuma returned in early July, Seattle had designated Justin Ruggiano, Rickie Weeks, and fan-favorite Willie Bloomquist for assignment. Ruggiano would clear waivers and accepted assignment with the Rainiers. Both Weeks and Bloomquist left the organization and didn’t play for the rest of the season.
As July closed, the Mariners were no longer thinking about the postseason. Consequently, the team purged several players prior to the July 31 non-waiver deadline and in August. Those who were used as trade chips included J.A. Happ, Dustin Ackley, Austin Jackson, Fernando Rodney, and Ruggiano.
All-in-all, eight players from the Opening Day 25-man roster were no longer with the organization, while nine others spent time on the DL or were demoted to the minor leagues. Only Logan Morrison, Robinson Cano, Brad Miller, Kyle Seager, Seth Smith, Nelson Cruz, Felix Hernandez, and Carson Smith survived the entire season without being injured, demoted, or dispatched. Taijiuan Walker almost made it, but he was shut down in September due to innings limitations.
Considering the amount of roster instability that the Mariners experienced last year, it’s easy to see why general manager Jerry Dipoto was so busy adding “layers of depth” during the offseason. With that said, the organization will certainly encounter roster challenges during the upcoming season. Look no further than the relief corps for examples of roster hiccups that Dipoto has already encountered.
Relievers Evan Scribner, and Ryan Cook have already gone to the DL, plus Charlie Furbush will likely join them by Opening Day. At the beginning of Spring Training, Scribner and Cook were expected to be seriously compete for spots in the bullpen, while Furbush was viewed as a lock. Now, they’re out of the picture.
I can’t predict with certainty where Seattle will finish in the standings in 2016, but I’m confident that Dipoto will be constantly making moves to tweak and improve his ball club during the regular season, just like his predecessor — Jack Zduriencik — did in 2015. Heck, he may make a deal or two before the Mariners open against the Texas Rangers next week.
That’s why I’d advise Mariner fans to not overthink who’ll actually earn those last few spots; they won’t be season-defining. After all is said and done, Opening Day is just the beginning of the Mariners’ six-month odyssey.