Will Mariners Get Better In 2020? We'll See …

Jim Caple

Will Mariners Get Better In 2020? We'll See

Will the Mariners be better this coming season than in 2019 when they finished in last place and missed the postseason for the 18th consecutive year, the longest current streak in the majors as well as the NFL, NBA and NHL?

Hopefully they will but it is always hard to know how a team will do heading into a season. After all, who knew the Washington Nationals would win the World Series when their record was 19-31 in late May? Or that the Mariners would finish in last place after starting off 13-2 and being in first place the first month of the season?

While Seattle’s good start was a little surprising, the eventual 2019 decline was not so much. After all, they had lost most of their best players after their 89-73 season in 2018. That’s because general manager Jerry Dipoto got rid of pitcher James Paxton, second baseman Robinson Cano, shortstop Jean Segura, closer Edwin Diaz and designated hitter Nelson Cruz (who was not re-signed as a free agent). He also traded away Edwin Encarnacion last June when the batter was leading the league in home runs. And he just traded catcher Omar Narvaez to the Brewers, who hit 22 home runs and led the team with a .278 average.

Not surprisingly, they also have not re-signed Felix Hernandez, a Cy Young-winner, all-time great and extremely popular pitcher but who has declined significantly in recent seasons (he was 1-8 with a 6.40 ERA last season).

They do have some good players, including pitcher Marco Gonzalez who was 16-13 last year with a 3.99 ERA. Veteran third baseman Kyle Seager missed the first part of the season but then hit 23 home runs after he returned. Dee Gordon is an excellent second baseman who batted .275 (he also does great, funny videos that are shown during games).

Outfielder Mitch Haniger was an All-Star in 2018 and hit 26 home runs with 93 RBIs and was ranked 11th in the MVP votes. Unfortunately, he missed much of 2019 with injuries but hopefully he will be excellent again in 2020.

Also, Dipoto has traded for and acquired young players he considers promising prospects. The question is how good they will be.

For instance, many of the Mariners batted below .250 last year and the team ERA was 4.99. They also had only one All-Star in 2019, Daniel Vogelbach. He had 25 home runs by late July but homered only five more times the rest of the season. He also drove in only 12 runs after August 1 and his batting average dropped to a terrible .208 with 149 strikeouts.

Newly acquired outfielder Mallex Smith did steal 46 bases last year but batted only .227 with 141 strikeouts. Domingo Santana hit 21 home runs but batted .253 and struck out 164 times. Yusei Kikuchi had great seasons in Japan and some good games in Seattle this year but was 6-11 with a 5.46 ERA.

The Mariners did hit a great number of 239 home runs, though part of that is because baseballs are believed to be juiced now, which is why so many teams hit so many. They also used more players (67) and more pitchers (42) than any team in baseball history, not that it helped. The Mariners also made 116 errors, the most in the American League, though the errors did go down the second half of the season.

But perhaps the Mariners will make good deals during the winter meetings that start Dec. 8.

Which brings back the question of how good will be the Mariners current players and their prospects (such as 2017 first-round pick Evan White who was just signed to a six-year $24 million deal). We will see. Some could be good and be even better than before. Some may not be. Others might be far better than expected. Perhaps they will have another Ken Griffey Jr, Edgar Martinez or Ichiro.

Hopefully they will be much better – and the Astros not as good -- but you just don’t know yet.

As Mariners director of player development Andy McKay has said: “Talent prediction is the hardest thing in the world.’’