Although every sporting eye in Seattle is probably right now on the Super Bowl Champion Seahawks, the Mariners are taking steps in the offseason toward joining them. Okay, a World Series title might be a big stretch, but Seattle is shaping a competitive roster to make their first playoff appearance since 2001. Seattle landed another big free agent yesterday, inking Fernando Rodney to two year deal. The moves may not even be finished with the Mariners still in the running for slugger Nelson Cruz and possibly another starter. The team is moving forward, looking to put last year’s 71-91 season in the rearview mirror.
The Starting Rotation in 2014. The Mariners signed Scott Baker, formerly of the Twins and Cubs, to compete for the No. 3 role in the rotation. Baker won 63 games for the Twins from 2005-11, starting 158 games. He was then sidelined with Tommy John surgery but made a strong late-season return to the Cubs in 2013, starting three games and posting a 3.60 ERA in 15.0 IP. The righty could be a steal as he is familiar with American League teams from his time with the Twins. Basically, there are right now five starters for three spots: Baker, Erasmo Ramirez, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, and Brandon Maurer. With this many young arms, a lot will depend on Spring Training. Michael Pineda was a surprise starter for Seattle, and Maurer made the rotation out of Spring Training last season. If Baker is healthy, I see the rotation coming out of Spring Training as: Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Ramirez, Baker, and Taijuan Walker.
The Bullpen in 2014. To move forward as a playoff contender, a team needs a shutdown closer. The Mariners got that in signing Fernando Rodney. Rodney had an amazing 2012 saving 48 of 50 games while posting a 0.60 ERA. He followed that up with 37 saves in 2013, his third season of 37 saves or more. Signing Rodney allows the Mariners to move power pitcher Danny Farquhar out of the closer’s role and into set-up. Spring Training will heavily influence the make-up of the bullpen but I expect joining Rodney and Farquhar will be former closer Tom Wilhelmsen, Yoervis Medina, and Charlie Furbush.
Another Move? Don’t expect Seattle to be finished on the signings of Rodney and Robinson Cano. Seattle added Joe Saunders late before Spring Training in 2013, and Saunders filled the No. 3 role in the rotation all season. The Mariners have been linked to Ervin Santana and Bronson Arroyo, the top starters left in the market. Santana, I think, would be the ideal get for the Mariners at this point. Santana has experience in the A.L. West having been a starter for the Angels for eight seasons. He has also made at least 23 starts in every season since 2005. After an over 5 ERA in 2012, Santana rebounded in Kansas City going 9-10 with a 3.24 ERA in 32 starts. A nice power arm, Santana struck out 161 batters in 2013, and 1328 batters for his career