It wasn’t all bad for the Seattle Mariners in 2013. Sure, the record ended at a disappointing 71-91, but this team showed the building blocks are in place for a better 2014. The youth movement has paid dividends with Seattle having the possibility of adding Taijuan Walker and James Paxton to the rotation who both looked good in late season action. Since 2004, this team has only recorded two winning seasons (2007 and 2009), and they haven’t made the playoffs since 2001. What is it going to take for new skipper Lloyd McClendon to take that next step back toward a winning season and a return to the playoffs?
Step One. Re-sign Kendrys Morales. Morales is the big bat Seattle has been missing. He paid off huge in his first season as a Mariner batting .277 with 23 HR and 80 RBI. Seattle has already offered Morales a qualifying offer that would give him a significant pay raise for 2014 ($14.1 million vs. 5.25 million for 2013). He has until November 11 to accept, and, on the chance he does decide to go elsewhere, Seattle would receive an extra first round pick at the end of the next amateur draft. We will know soon if he is staying, and I hope that Morales chooses to remain a Mariner.
Step Two. Add another big-time offensive player. Although the Mariners haven’t landed a big fish in free agency recently, Seattle was in discussions with two of the biggest of the last two seasons (Prince Fielder and Josh Hamilton) until they decided to go elsewhere. The Mariners got a surprisingly strong offensive season from Raul Ibanez who batted .242 with 29 HR (leading Seattle) and 65 RBI. Outfield is where the Mariners should look to add, and the rumors are swirling that they are going to make a strong push at Oregon native Jacoby Ellsbury. Ellsbury, who also received a one-year qualifying offer from Boston, is expected to reject it and seek a multi-year deal. If Ellsbury falls through and the Mariners look to go for more a power bat, former Mariner Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz would be available.
Step Three. Add a No. 3 pitcher. The Mariners last season made a late signing before Spring Training and added veteran pitcher Joe Saunders for the No. 3 spot in the rotation. Saunders ate up innings (183.0 IP) and had some good stretches, but he ended up 11-16 with a 5.26 ERA. The Mariners declined his option, and they are expected to look elsewhere. In my opinion, No. 1 on the Mariners’ radar should be Matt Garza. He is familiar with the American League, and he has a nice power arm (136 K in 155.1 IP). Throwing out 2012 where he was injured, Garza has pitched over 150 innings in every season since 2008, and he has won double-digits game in all those seasons except one (2009). Another name I’ve heard rumored is Phil Hughes, who struggled in 2013 for the Yankees. The Mariners may also want to look at Dan Haren, who has familiarity in the A.L. West having pitched for both Oakland and the Angels.