With all due respect to the American League East, the most challenging division in baseball heading into the 2014 season at this point looks to be the American League West. With two sure-fire contenders at the top, in the Oakland Athletics and Texas Rangers, in addition to the Los Angeles Angels and their massive payroll, it promises to be a dogfight throughout the season. Even the Houston Astros are a team on the rise and won’t be the guaranteed win they’ve been in recent years.
Then there’s the Seattle Mariners. The Mariners have been one of the busier clubs around all of baseball thus far into the offseason, and it doesn’t sound like they’re quite done yet, as that whole potential David Price deal continues to linger. Nonetheless, as things stand right now, it’s worth questioning whether or not the Mariners are a real playoff threat heading into the new season, or if all of this movement has been futile.
The Mariners have made three significant acquisitions to their starting lineup this winter, starting with the obvious signing of Robinson Cano to an absurd $240 million contract. Whether or not you agree with the money spent there is irrelevant at this point. It happened. Now Cano is faced with immense pressure to lead the M’s back into contention. Luckily, he’ll have a bit of help.
In addition to grabbing Cano off of the free agent market, the Mariners went out and signed Corey Hart, in addition to acquiring Logan Morrison from the Miami Marlins. This may be more puzzling than throwing all that money at Cano. Acquiring one of them would have made significantly more sense, as they’re extremely similar 1B/DH/OF types with extensive injury histories. Just how do they fit into this lineup together?
With those three additions, as well as Willie Bloomquist, who was a solid under-the-radar pickup (even at the price he signed for), this is what the M’s lineup could shake out like in 2014:
- C: Mike Zunino
- 1B: Justin Smoak
- 2B: Robinson Cano
- SS: Brad Miller
- 3B: Kyle Seager
- LF: Dustin Ackley
- CF: Michael Saunders
- RF: Logan Morrison
- DH: Corey Hart
There are still some changes that could still take place here, mind you, and the batting order is anybody’s guess at this point. Smoak could still be dealt, Bloomquist could nail down a starting gig somewhere on the left side of the infield, and no one knows what’s in store for Jesus Montero at this point. On paper, that’s not a bad lineup, but there are still questions. This is a team that got on base at a .306 clip last year, which was 26th in baseball. They were 22nd in runs scored and 28th in batting average.
Adding Cano to the mix is a nice boost, but how will he transition to Safeco? Can Morrison and Hart stay healthy enough to contribute enough to pick up this Mariners’ offense? As of right now, this is a lineup with more questions than answers, and they still don’t match up with any of the other clubs in their division.
As far as their pitching goes, adding Price could take this group to another level. Combine him with Felix Hernandez and Hisashki Iwakuma, and you’d have a top three that’d be as good as any in baseball. Of course, how the rest of their rotation would fare, as well as their 29th ranked bullpen, remains a major question mark. Again, we’re finding more questions than answers here.
The Mariners may very well surprise us and make some noise out of the AL West, given their new acquisitions. However, while Cano, Morrison, and Hart will likely spark interest from the fanbase, they’re not a trio that is instantly going to elevate the M’s to the top of the division. If they acquire Price, maybe we’ll talk about them as someone to take seriously. But when it comes down to it right now, there are still more questions than answers for this Seattle Mariners team.