The Mariners have loads of young talent but what moves do they need to make to finally end their 19th postseason drought?
The unusual 2020 Major League Baseball season has almost come to an end as the World Series is set with an intriguing matchup between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Dodgers. We can all thank the Rays and the baseball gods that the Houston Astros have been eliminated from the postseason and will not have another shot at a championship after their massive cheating scandal in 2017 was discovered.
Although this was a decent consolation prize for Mariners fans, we still had to endure another season ending before October as the franchise’s playoff drought has officially hit 19 years. 2021 was general manager Jerry Dipoto’s target of competing for a playoff spot when he began this rebuild, so I am going to go into detail about what the Mariners can do over the next offseason to ensure that the streak will not hit 20.
Sign bullpen help … and a lot of it.
The Mariners had the third-worst bullpen in baseball this season, posting a 5.92 ERA overall to go along with eight blown saves. As mediocre as their final record of 27-33 was, this was still only two games short of a playoff spot. This shows how important winning the close games are and if they were able to close out a couple more of those games, then we might have seen them competing in the playoffs.
The biggest problem with the Mariners’ bullpen this past season was their inexperience. There were multiple occurrences where a relief pitcher would enter the game and I would ask myself “who is this guy?” It seemed as if we were throwing minor league pitchers out and praying we would find a diamond in the rough.
Luckily, there are a lot of options out there for Dipoto if he wants to make a big free-agent splash and bring in a proven relief pitcher. One name that stands out to me the most and I would love to see coming out of the pen is Liam Hendriks.
Hendriks will most likely be asking for a long-term contract and thankfully Mariners are a team that has the cap space and the ability to do so. He has been one of the most consistent relievers in baseball over the past five seasons, including a stellar 2020 where he posted a 1.78 ERA and 14 saves with Oakland.
Sign an experienced starting pitcher.
This is one of the position groups that I am most excited about heading into 2021. We saw flashes of greatness from almost every starter that took the hill for the Mariners in 2020, but some were still not able to consistently show that they should be locked in rotation.
The team went with a six-man rotation in the shortened season and Dipoto has already made mention of how he hopes to do this in 2021 as well. That being said, I believe that five of the six spots in the rotation have already been filled. My predicted order is Marco Gonzales, Justus Sheffield, Yusei Kikuchi, Nick Margevicius and Justin Dunn.
I have confidence that Gonzales and Sheffield will continue to consistently build off of their great 2020 seasons. This will be more of a “prove it” year for the other three as they showed glimpses of their talent but were not able to consistently do so, especially with top prospects Logan Gilbert and George Kirby waiting for their shot in the bigs.
Dunn and Margevicius are two pitchers I could see succeed out of the bullpen if they are not able to be consistent starters. Kikuchi’s tenure in Seattle could be over after 2021 considering there is a team option that could buy him out of his $56 million contract.
The sixth spot is wide open and could easily be filled by Gilbert or Kirby but, personally, I would love to see a veteran pitcher signed to eat innings and help mentor the younger pitchers.
Bring in a veteran outfielder.
I pray that I won’t have to watch another season where Tim Lopes and Jose Marmolajos are our primary left fielders. I have nothing against the two, they are solid utility players but are not natural outfielders.
My first choice would be to start future star Jarred Kelenic, who is considered to be one of the best offensive prospects in years, but if Dipoto is planning on waiting a bit longer on bringing him up then I would love to see a veteran outfielder brought in.
Michael Brantley is a name that sticks out to me. Brantley is 34 and could easily be the guy to fill that spot until Kelenic or even Taylor Trammell is ready. He has been one of the most consistent hitters of the past decade and will most likely only require a one-year deal which would help us win now without ruining any future plans.
If Dipoto is able to pull off a couple of the moves I made mention of, this will be the most excited I have been for a Mariners roster in a long time. The playoff drought may be on its final stretch.