We move on to our third installment of our preview of the American League West, looking at the Seattle Mariners. After being a doormat over the past few seasons, the Mariners made news this offseason by bringing in Robinson Cano as they look to return to the playoffs. Dan Hughes, the editor of Sodo Mojo, was kind enough to answer a few questions for us in regards to their offseason and expectations this year.
1. What move this offseason will make the biggest difference for the Mariners in 2014?
The easy answer is to say Robinson Cano. However, I think that the biggest difference will be if Corey Hart can return to his 2010-2012 form. In those three seasons, Hart averaged 29 homers and 83 RBI with a .278 average. If Hart can produce anywhere near those numbers, he provides the kind of protection in the lineup around Cano that this team needs for him to be successful. That would make Hart’s signing, the most valuable of the offseason.
2. What free agent do you wish the Mariners had signed?
Personally, I wanted to see Jacoby Ellsbury. That kind of speed and power potential at the top of the lineup is crucial to the success of a club, and one the Mariners have been lacking. Plus, being an Oregon native and graduate of Oregon State, it would have been nice to see Ellsbury play in the NW again.
3. Who is the biggest key to your the Mariners success this year?
Again, the obvious choice would be Cano. I already pointed to Hart as being a critical piece in the puzzle. But to go in a different direction, I believe that the success of the team will depend on the health and success of the young arms in the rotation. I think James Paxton could have a bigger impact than most anticipate. The Mariners need that lefty in the rotation, especially against some of the lefty-heavy lineups they will face this year.
While many would also point to Taijuan Walker, I feel that if Paxton has success, to the tune of 12-15 wins, the Mariners could make some noise this season.
4. What are your expectations for the Mariners in 2014?
I have this team pegged at 82 wins, 4th in the much-improved AL West. I think they will be in the hunt for the wild-card well into September and could get over the hump to 87 or 88 wins and a wild-card berth if they make a trade or two by July 31 and everything goes their way with Hart, Paxton, Walker, Logan Morrison, Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak.
But that’s a lot of maybes to expect success. So I’ll stick with 82 wins for now.
Our thanks once again to Dan for answering these questions. Our series will wrap up tomorrow with a look at the Texas Rangers.