MLB 2018: Mariners' contention window could close after this season

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(Getty Photographs)

It’s been greater than 4 years since Robinson Cano first placed on a Seattle uniform, and greater than two since Jerry Dipoto took over as basic supervisor of the Mariners.

Dipoto was presupposed to deliver a radically totally different faculty of thought to the Mariners’ entrance workplace and lead the staff to success. Cano, signed by predecessor Jack Zduriendcik, was imagined to spearhead a push for relevancy, backed by Felix Hernandez, Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager.

Two years isn’t loads of time to show a stumbling franchise, however Dipoto has had loads of items to play with. He’s made commerce after commerce, waiver declare after waiver declare. The forty-man roster has undergone a close to-fixed overhaul. Solely seven gamers who held a forty-man spot in 2015 are nonetheless among the many group (Cano, Hernandez, Cruz, Seager, James Paxton, Mike Zunino, Tony Zych).

All of the roster shuffling hasn’t amounted to a lot, and there have been missteps alongside the best way. Dipoto freely admits to bungling the Chris Taylor commerce, as an example. The Mariners nonetheless haven’t made the playoffs and have what would be the worst farm system in baseball. Given Seattle’s growing older roster, this season would be the final gasp of life for the Mariners’ contention window — and it’s in all probability not going to go very nicely.

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Seattle gained 86 video games in Dipoto’s first full season, after which fell to seventy eight wins. The 2017 Mariners handled accidents galore, however have been unwell-outfitted to cope with even simply a few of them. Ariel Miranda logged a 5.12 ERA and led the workforce in innings.

Once more, two years isn’t a number of time to assemble a playoff group out of the wreckage of one of many recreation’s most notoriously dysfunctional franchises. There have been positives within the 2017 season, together with the acquisition of Jean Segura, even when it meant watching Taijuan Walker blossom in Arizona. James Paxton broke out in his restricted time. Zunino began to hit. Ben Gamel and James Pazos appeared like strong contributors.

How a lot of that may carry over into this season stays to be seen, in addition to whether or not the newly acquired Dee Gordon can play middle subject, and whether or not Ryon Healy may give sufficient assist together with his bat.

But the Seattle rotation doesn’t appear to be anyplace close to as much as snuff. Hernandez, as nice as he as soon as was, is now getting into his Age 32 season and hasn’t pitched like an ace since 2015. He missed most of final yr with shoulder points. Paxton, as nice as he was, missed time with two totally different muscle strains. The spotlight of the remainder of the group is Mike Leake, which ought to say sufficient.

The depth behind these starters is essentially the identical group of uninspiring faceless starters who threw far too many innings in 2017. Well being has been a problem for the Seattle rotation for years now, in fact, but Dipoto hasn’t precisely put significant depth behind his rotation. The Mariners can’t afford one other fifty nine innings of Andrew Moore, to say nothing of letting Miranda repeat his 2017 workload.

The farm is affected by uninspiring choices resembling Max Povse and Rob Whalen, who have been acquired in a commerce that despatched former prime prospect Alex Jackson to Atlanta. Povse and Whalen appear to be little greater than filler, whereas Jackson has had one thing of a resurgence with the Braves. Seattle’s prime pitching prospect was despatched to Miami within the Gordon commerce.

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To be truthful to Dipoto, the Mariners made a robust marketing campaign to signal Shoehi Ohtani, who would have made an unlimited influence on their rotation. But Dipoto now says that he doesn’t anticipate that he’ll signal one other beginning pitcher. There are nonetheless 4 good starters out available on the market. Clearly somebody like Yu Darvish can be an unlimited increase, however even Lance Lynn could present loads of high quality innings.

As an alternative, the Mariners will go ahead with what they’ve. The starters shall be backed by a bullpen that now options Juan Nicasio and a full season of David Phelps, which ought to assist. The components had higher work. Due to the tumbleweeds on the farm, will probably be extraordinarily troublesome for Dipoto to make a significant improve ought to the Mariners discover themselves in relative contention close to the commerce deadline. Even reaching that time could also be a tall order, given the overwhelming power of the Astros and the flamboyant new toys of the Angels.

If the Mariners do not contend this season, Seattle could also be taking a look at an extended rebuild. Cano is coming off his worst offensive season by OPS+ since 2008. Hernandez’s efficiency is declining, and all of the mileage on his physique could also be displaying. Neither one is getting any youthful. Nelson Cruz is within the remaining yr of his contract. The one significant assistance on the best way could also be within the type of Kyle Lewis, who has misplaced time to a nasty knee damage and has but to play above A-ball. If the Mariners are in the midst of the pack come July, they’ll be at a crossroads.

Dipoto has gone for it, albeit in his personal method. He has tried to make his workforce a winner. Regression and the damage bug got here for the Mariners in 2017, as they all the time appear to do, and it might have been the penultimate nail within the coffin. Even when Dipoto did lure Darvish to the northwest, it might be troublesome to see the staff as higher than those in Houston and Anaheim. However the staff is on its final breaths, and signing a very good starter could imply getting good prospects in a commerce if issues go south.

Historical past teaches us that the Mariners will attempt, and that, by some means, misfortune will befall them. There’s no underlying metric telling us that the Mariners are trapped in a Metsian model of “Groundhog Day,” that they’ll maintain tripping over their very own shoelaces till the eventual warmth demise of the universe. Sooner or later, they may break via.

It simply appears unlikely that it is going to be this yr, or any yr within the close to future. This can be the ultimate chapter of this model of the Mariners. Dipoto might need to do his greatest to make this chapter as robust as he can. The sequel might be a great distance off.