It's probably not a coincidence that Robinson Cano's first year in Seattle was the same season the team finished 16 games better than it did in 2013. While Cano's power was zapped a bit moving from Yankee Stadium to Safeco Field, he still slashed .314/.382/.454 while anchoring the infield and the lineup every day. Consistent veteran leadership goes a long way these days, so Cano should once again be a key figure in what looks to be another fun year in the Pacific Northwest.
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY SportsJoe Nicholson
A more balanced offensive attack
A marquee free agent acquisition by Jack Zduriencik and the M's front office, Nelson Cruz plugs right in to the middle of the lineup. He'll be expected to club 30+ home runs and collect 100+ RBIs, though that may be a bit of a challenge with 81 of his games taking place at Safeco. Cruz isn't alone: newcomers Seth Smith and Justin Ruggiano should help change the offense from the hot-and-cold unit it was last year into something more formidable in 2015.
Getty ImagesGregory Shamus
All hail the King
Felix Hernandez. There's only one, and the Mariners have him. 15-6 with an A.L.-best 2.14 ERA in 2014, King Felix wound up narrowly losing the Cy Young Award battle to Corey Kluber of the Cleveland Indians. Another year of Felix's all-out dominance atop a potent starting rotation should leave the M's in capable hands once again in 2015, as he's proved at this point to be one of the game's absolute best starting pitchers.
Momentum from Seager's breakout year
Kyle Seager emerged as one of the best third basemen in the league last year, swatting 25 home runs, collecting 96 RBIs and posting a WAR of 5.8. Seager parlayed that strong season into a multi-year extension, and helped lead the M's playoff push down the stretch. If he's able to stay away from the streakiness that defined some of his offensive performance in 2014, it'll help the M's get closer to that playoff appearance they've been seeking for so long.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY SportsTim Heitman
Anything can happen
The 2013 Kansas City Royals finished 86-76, inspiring hope around the fan base. A year later, a late-season surge found them finishing 89-73 — and in the postseason, where they won a thrilling Wild Card Game and took the San Francisco Giants to Game 7 of the World Series. The M's are in a similar spot. 2014 was a huge turnaround for the franchise, but they came up just short in the end. A year later, they're a year older, wiser and more experienced — all circumstances that could help them be next season's 2014 Royals.
MLB Photos via Getty ImagesAmy Stroth
First-year Mariners skipper Lloyd McClendon was a big part of last season's turnaround. Despite a slow start, he championed the thought of waiting until the 50-game mark before making assumptions about the season. That kind of steady hand at the helm of the team paid dividends as the youngsters and veterans meshed together in the final few months, pushing them close to October. A year later, the rapport among McClendon, his staff and the players will no doubt have positive effects on the on-field results in 2015.
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY SportsKirby Lee
The West is wide open
The Mariners made some significant strides this offseason, adding some key pieces to hopefully help the offense become more consistent. Their A.L. West foes made improvements themselves, but some issues — the Angels' age, the A's drastic roster overhaul, the Rangers' health, and the Astros' youth — linger. That should provide the Mariners with enough of an opportunity to assert themselves as a potent division threat, something they should also be well-positioned to accomplish. 2015 could be an exciting year in Seattle.