Mariners get mixed results in Stage 1 of rebuild
SEATTLE (AP) — There were bound to be bumps and headaches along the way when the Seattle Mariners embarked on a major makeover.
After using a major league-record 67 players in one season, the first year of Seattle’s rebuild was quite the roller coaster for those involved. It nearly turned out to be one player for every win.
“I would characterize it as organizationally we knew what we were in for. You hear the saying expect things that are expected,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “When we left spring training we knew we were going to have a ton of transition, a ton of turnover on our roster. We have. We have gotten to a point I knew we were eventually going to get there.”
The Mariners weren’t going to be contenders this year. They knew that back in spring training and even after starting off the season with an unexpected 13 wins in their first 15 games. They were flawed. They accepted it as they turned the team over to a young core that they hope to build around for the future.
Along the way, Seattle said goodbye to Jay Bruce, Edwin Encarnacion, Mike Leake and others to acquire more young prospects. They said hello to future prospects Shed Long, Justus Sheffield, Kyle Lewis and Justin Dunn, to name a few.
Seattle finished 68-94, its worst mark since 2011. They finished 39 games behind Houston and went 1-18 against the Astros, showing just how wide the gap is between first and last. Servais compared the season to the first year of high school.
“First day you go into high school, you don’t really know what it’s like. By the time it’s a couple weeks into it, I’m OK. And by your sophomore year, I’ve got this,” Servais said. “We all look back and it’s the same type of thing that happens here. It’s a comfort level. And by the time you’re a junior or senior, you’re on the varsity and helping them win games. Put it in simplest terms, that’s how I see the maturation of this group.”
Other things to know as the Mariners head into the offseason:
AT THE DISH
Seattle got a great first half from Daniel Vogelbach, who hit 30 home runs. Kyle Seager was excellent in the second half. But the Mariners need more consistency at the plate. Not enough hits. Too many strikeouts. The Mariners finished 14th of 15 teams in the AL in batting average (.237) and strikeouts. Of those who played in at least 81 games, Seattle had just three players who hit higher than .250.
The only position that seemed to exceed expectations at the plate was catcher, where the duo of Omar Narvaez and Tom Murphy are solid moving forward. The pair combined to hit .277 with 40 home runs and 95 RBIs.
There were significant changes to Seattle’s rotation throughout the season and there are likely to be more going forward. Marco Gonzales had the best season of his career, making 34 starts and throwing 203 innings. Yusei Kikuchi had a rocky first-year adjustment from Japan to the majors. Those two, along with Sheffield, will be anchors going into next season.
The biggest change will be the departure of Felix Hernandez, who will be a free agent and is not expected to return to Seattle. There will be at least two or three openings for the Mariners to fill.
Part of the reason Seattle used a record number of players was the staggering amount of injuries. The biggest loss was arguably outfielder Mitch Haniger, who suffered a ruptured testicle in early June then had a significant back injury during rehab. Haniger was an All-Star a year ago and a major piece that Seattle hopes to build around when its prospects are ready.
With at least one more year before the Mariners expect to contend, there is going to be plenty of attention on what is happening in the minors. The focus will be on outfielders Jared Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez, first baseman Evan White and pitcher Logan Gilbert. Kelenic, who was Seattle’s minor league hitter of the year after hitting .291 with 31 doubles, 23 homers and 68 RBIs between three different stops, said his goal is to be making an appearance with the major league club by the end of next season.
Gilbert was Seattle’s minor league pitcher of the year after going 10-5 with a 2.13 ERA at three different stops.
Since GM Jerry Dipoto arrived in Seattle, the offseasons have been exceptionally busy. But Dipoto says he thinks this will be a generally quiet offseason for the Mariners with the majority of the focus being on the development of young prospects.
“It’s been really rewarding to watch the young guys make the progress that they’ve made and we want to continue to see that happen,” Dipoto said.