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AL West 2020 preview: Seattle Mariners are rebuilding

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Offseason moves, 60-man player pool, and season outlook

Seattle Mariners v Pittsburgh Pirates
Marco Gonzales led the Mariners in WAR last season
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

The 2020 MLB season is just two weeks away from finally starting, coronavirus pandemic willing. The offseason feels like it was years ago, so let’s remind ourselves of what the competition looks like.

The Oakland A’s will only face nine different teams in their abbreviated schedule, with two-thirds of their games coming against their four AL West rivals. Let’s begin with the Mariners.

Seattle Mariners

2019 record: 68-94 (finished 5th in AL West)

Quick season review: Their last competitive window passed them by without a single postseason berth, and their next rebuild began. Gone were superstar Robinson Cano, slugger Nelson Cruz, ace James Paxton, and closer Edwin Diaz, and in their place were promising youngsters like J.P. Crawford and Daniel Vogelbach as well as international free agent Yusei Kikuchi.

They got off to a hot start in April with lots of power, but then cratered in May and never recovered. Remaining veterans Kyle Seager and Dee Gordon underperformed and missed time to injury, star outfielder Mitch Haniger got hurt, Kikuchi was a dud in his rookie year, and worst of all franchise cornerstone Felix Hernandez looked finished. Rental DH Edwin Encarnacion hit well but was traded in June, signaling an early white flag on the season.

It will probably be another tough year in 2020, especially on the pitching side, but there are still a few interesting hitters and the farm system has slowly built back up (No. 11 overall, per Keith Law). Here’s a quick look at their offseason moves from last winter.

Hello Goodbye
Free Agency
RHP Kendall Graveman (1/$2m)
RHP Taijuan Walker (1/$2m)
RHP Yoshihisa Hirano (1/$1.6m)
RHP Carl Edwards Jr (1/$1m)
IF Patrick Wisdom (1/$0.6m)
RHP Yohan Ramirez (Rule 5)

Trades
LHP Nestor Cortes (from NYY)
Free Agency
RHP Felix Hernandez (to ATL)
LHP Wade LeBlanc (to BAL)
LHP Tommy Milone (to BAL)
RHP Connor Sadzeck (to CHW)
RHP Sam Tuivailala
1B Ryon Healy (to MIL)
SS Tim Beckham
OF Domingo Santana (to CLE)
OF Keon Broxton (to MIL)

Trades
C Omar Narvaez (to MIL)

Can we get a wellness check on Jerry Dipoto? The customarily hyperactive general manager had a quiet offseason, making only a couple small trades plus a handful of minor signings to fill out his spring training roster — not listed above are former A’s outfielder Collin Cowgill, who unfortunately didn’t make the player pool yet, plus another 10 or so minor league free agents with MLB experience. In a true sign of changing times, King Felix is officially gone, to the Braves (though he’s opting out of 2020 anyway).

Here’s the player pool. Players with asterisks** are the favorites to make the Opening Day 30-man roster, in the opinion of Lookout Landing (they marked 31 total, but noted that Walton and Wisdom could go for another pitcher). Players in italics are not on the 40-man roster.

Seattle Mariners 60-man pool
Pitchers Hitters
Starters

Marco Gonzales (L)**
Taijuan Walker (R)**
Kendall Graveman (R)**
Yusei Kikuchi (L)**
Justus Sheffield (L)**
Justin Dunn (R)**
Nick Margevicius (L)
--Isaiah Campbell (R)
--Logan Gilbert (R)
--Emerson Hancock (R)
--George Kirby (R)
--Ljay Newsome (R)
--Juan Then (R)
--Brandon Williamson (L)


Relievers

Dan Altavilla (R)**
Brandon Brennan (R)**
Nestor Cortes (L)**
Carl Edwards Jr (R)**
Yoshihisa Hirano (R)**
Matt Magill (R)**
Yohan Ramirez (R)**
--Austin Adams (R)** (IL)
Gerson Bautista (R)
Zac Grotz (R)
Taylor Guilbeau (L)
Erik Swanson (R)
Art Warren (R)
Taylor Williams (R)
--Sam Delaplane (R)
--Joey Gerber (R)
--Aaron Fletcher (L)
--Anthony Misiewicz (L)
Catchers

Tom Murphy (R)**
Austin Nola (R)**
--Joe Hudson (R)**
--Cal Raleigh (S)
--Brian O'Keefe (R)


Infielders

J.P. Crawford (L)**
Dee Gordon (L)**
Shed Long (L)**
Tim Lopes (R)**
Dylan Moore (R)**
Kyle Seager (L)**
Daniel Vogelbach (L)**
Donovan Walton (S)**
Evan White (R)**
Patrick Wisdom (R)**
Sam Haggerty (S)
--Tyler Keenan (L)
--Jose Marmolejos (L)
--Noelvi Marte (R)
--Kaden Polcovich (S)
--Austin Shenton (L)


Outfielders

Braden Bishop (R)**
Jake Fraley (L)**
Kyle Lewis (R)**
Mallex Smith (L)**
--Jarred Kelenic (L)
--Julio Rodriguez (R)
--Zach DeLoach (L)

The top of the rotation is Gonzales, who’s been solid the last couple years and profiles as around a No. 3 starter. He’s followed by a couple reclamation projects (Walker and Graveman), a couple upcoming prospects (Sheffield and Dunn), and the question mark of Kikuchi. The bullpen has a few new additions from the offseason, and the closer job is still up for grabs, with Hirano as a possible candidate.

The infield still has a pair of familiar names (Gordon and Seager), surrounded by some young upcomers (Crawford, Long, and White) and a newly minted All-Star slugger DH in Vogelbach. The catcher Murphy was a quietly good hitter last summer. In the outfield, former 1st-round draft pick Lewis made his debut last year and showed some power, while Smith looks for a bounce-back after a replacement-level 2019 in CF. Haniger might possibly be out for the season while he recovers from a multitude of injuries.

A’s fans know this drill. There are strong lotto tickets in all areas of this rebuilding roster, and the hope is for a few of them to develop into keepers for the next good Mariners team in a couple years, or in some cases into midseason trade chips to continue stocking value within the organization. There’s a best-case scenario where the lineup comes together pretty well, but the pitching staff is likely to hold them back from any sustained run even in a small-sample season. In the meantime they’re an easy pick for last place in the division in 2020, but they’re making progress.

The A’s will face the Mariners for the first time from July 31 to Aug. 3, on the road in Seattle. That’s Game Nos. 7-10 of the season.