Feb 13, 2014; Peoria, AZ, USA; Seattle Mariners pitcher Felix Hernandez (left) catches a ball next to manager Lloyd McClendon looks on during team workouts at Peoria Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Seattle Mariners 2014 season preview


King Felix (left) next to new M's manager Lloyd McClendon (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

King Felix (left) next to new M’s manager Lloyd McClendon (Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports)

Recap of 2013

71-91, 4th in AL West

For the fourth consecutive season, the Seattle Mariners finished with a record below .500. Eric Wedge (213-273), who suffered a stroke during last season, was out after three seasons managing the M’s, citing he saw no future with the organization. Wedge told reporters of the differences he had with the organization’s vision as compared to that of the front office. Wedge would later go into greater detail to Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times.

Key additions

2B Robinson Cano, 1B/DH Corey Hart, OF Logan Morrison, C John Buck, INF/OF Willie Bloomquist, P Scott Baker, P Fernando Rodney

And can’t forget new manager Lloyd McClendon.

Key departures

P Oliver Perez, DH/OF Raul Ibanez, 1B/DH Kendrys Morales (for now), P Joe Saunders, P Carter Capps

Payroll

Cot’s Contracts shows the M’s committed payroll as roughly $74MM while Baseball Reference projects an opening day payroll of $81.2MM. If BR is on the mark here, it would be the Mariners lowest opening day payroll since 2004 ($81.5MM)

Player to watch

Couldn’t just make this one as I see a 1a and 1b.

1a. Hart – how much of an impact can he have after missing all of 2013.

1b. Taijuan Walker – all the accolades have gone his way as well as being a top 20 prospect for the last three season for both Baseball America and MLB Pipeline. Now is his time.

Must improve

Justin Smoak – and you could actually say must improve more or continue to improve. Smoak has never produced to the level he did in the minors (career in minors: .278/.397/.445, 24 HR, 98 RBI). Sure, having Safeco as a home field can take away from a player’s offensive production (career at Safeco: .214/.304/.358, 23 HR, 79 RBI, 90 OPS+). And yes, Smoak is coming off his most productive season in terms of OPS+ (113), but why is it that we are wanting more? That’s because the promise that many of us feel is there just hasn’t developed yet.

Maybe this is his year to break out.

Regression?

Can it be anyone other than Cano? If he can produce at the rate he did as a member of the Yankees, where he was playing the majority of his games in hitter-friendly confines, more power to him. That would be a huge plus for a Meriners team that has lacked some scoring. But does anyone honestly believe he will produce at that rate? His career line with the Yankees was .309/.355/.504, OPS+ 125.

Here’s some projections for Cano:

- Davenport: .285/.352/.481, 24 HR, 95 RBI
- Steamer: .292/.363/.487, 24 HR, 90 RBI
- Oliver: .289/.360/.458, 19 HR, 79 RBI
- ESPN: .315/.379/.498, 23 HR, 104 RBI

That’s regression, aside from ESPN’s projections (Are those based on playing 81 games at Yankee Stadium? They claim it isn’t.), and it may not be of his own accord either. Being 31 may be a factor in those projections, too.

That one question

Are the Mariners honestly a contender for a playoff spot?

At this point, I can’t say they are.

Love the offensive additions with Cano (despite what you just read) and Hart (provided his back to being fit). Being complimented by Kyle Seager, a hopefully improving Smoak, and LoMo should be able to add a few runs to the M’s side of the scoreboard. Don’t look for this club to be among the top 5 in runs scored, though, but anything extra from what the offense has produced over the past half a decade will surely be a welcome sight. During that span, no team has scored less than the Mariners.

Not sold on the starting rotation even with Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma at the top. Having a pair of rookies in Walker and James Paxton could provide to be too much pressure at this point. If that duo can overcome the rookie pitfalls along the way and perform as they did in the minors, this staff could be among the best in the league especially if Iwakuma comes back full-strength.

Yes, I said that, Mariners fans may hope it, but I can’t envision it.

Tags: Featured Popular Seattle Mariners