Seattle Mariners' best-case and worst-case scenarios for 2024

Mar 5, 2024; Peoria, Arizona, USA; Seattle Mariners outfielder Julio Rodriguez celebrates in the
Mar 5, 2024; Peoria, Arizona, USA; Seattle Mariners outfielder Julio Rodriguez celebrates in the / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Mariners won 88 games last season, two fewer than they needed to in order to reach postseason play for the second consecutive year. Team President Jerry Dipoto reacted just as he does every offseason, no matter how things went the year prior: he turned over half the starting lineup.

Thus, whether the Mariners can make up that two-game difference may largely hinge on whether Dipoto’s new hirelings live up to his expectations. In 2024, however, the Mariners do have valuable returning assets who also could make the difference.

2024 Seattle Mariners' Best-Case Scenario

The first and most obvious of those returning assets is center fielder Julio Rodriguez. The 2022 Rookie Of The Year, Rodriguez gave Mariners fans a steady, solid 2023, with 32 home runs, 103 RBI, a .275 average and .818 OPS, all improvements on 2022.

That earned him enough MVP votes to finish fourth. If Rodriguez can put together a true MVP-type season, it would go a long way toward making the Mariners a front-rank threat in the AL West and beyond.

The Mariners have a potentially intimidating front-three in their rotation, those three being Luis Castillo, Logan Gilbert and George Kirby. As a group, they went 40-26 with a collective 3.62 ERA in 96  starts encompassing 578 innings.

It would be unfair to ask more than that of those three, but if they can replicate 2023 – and if Andrés Muñoz or Matt Brash can replace Paul Sewald as closer – the 2023 third-stingiest pitching staff in terms of runs allowed per game should be good enough.

That throws it back to the new guys: DH Mitch Garver, second baseman Jorge Polanco, right fielder Mitch Haniger and left fielder Dominic Canzone.

Garver was a .270 hitter with power in 2023, and the fact that he did it for the World Champion Rangers is a plus. Haniger is a veteran coming off a bad season. Canzone was acquired in a midseason trade and hit poorly in 44 games. He’s been better this spring.

The Mariners need Canzone to demonstrate the ability he showed at Triple-A in 2023, when he batted .354 with 16 home runs in half a season. If he does, they’re a serious threat.

2024 Seattle Mariners' Worst-Case Scenario

Rodriguez, Kirby, Castillo and Gilbert are as close to sure things as you get in MLB; it’s the new faces that could undermine Seattle’s hopes. The Mariners are leaning on Haniger to replace Teoscar Hernández in right field, but Haniger is returning to Seattle after a season in which he batted .209 for San Francisco. He’s only topped .250 and 15 homers once since 2018, and if he repeats his .631 OPS of 2023, he will be a major liability playing a power position.

Canzone has to prove he’s big-league ready. The list of .350 hitters in Triple-A is a lot longer than the list of guys who became useful parts of a pennant contender in their first full season.  

Polanco has an established record, but it’s hardly the type to get fans’ juices flowing. He’s a career .270 hitter with okay power and a neutral defensive profile across nine seasons. He won’t kill you but he won’t help you win, either.

Finally there’s the uncertainty surrounding the team’s search for a new closer to replace Sewald, who was sent to Arizona at last season’s trade deadline. Muñoz got 13 save chances down the stretch and converted 11 of them. Brash got four chances and converted three.

But let’s be honest; from year to year, nobody knows what any closer – especially an unproven one – is going to do. If the reshaped pen blows up, it will be with dire consequences.

Most realistic scenario for Seattle Mariners

In Rodriguez, Kirby, Gilbert, Castillo and -- to a lesser extent -- catcher Cal Raleigh and infielders Ty France and J.P. Crawford, the Mariners have a core of stable, high-performing assets. Add Garver to the mix, and that core alone is capable of keeping Seattle at or above .500.

To truly contend, one or more of the following things has to happen. Canzone has to establish himself as a legitimate offensive threat. Or Haniger has to have a resurgent season. Or Muñoz/Brash have to head up a lockdown bullpen.

If one of those three scenarios unfolds, the Mariners can contend for a postseason spot. In the less likely scenario that two occur, they’re threats to the Astros and Rangers. And in the unlikely event that Mariners fans’ prayers are answered and they get all three, Seattle will probably win the AL West.

That, however, is probably asking for too many stars to align too perfectly.

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