Let's Go Tribe's American League Preview: Seattle Mariners

Don't these guys look happy together? Photo credit - Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Our look at the Tribe's competition around the American League continues with the Mariners, who handed out the third-biggest contract in MLB history this offseason.


Between now and Opening Day, we'll be taking a look at each of the other American League teams, to see what they've done during the offseason, and examine their outlook for 2014.

Find other entries in the series here

- - - - - -

Seattle Mariners

2013 Record: 71-91 (4th in AL West), 2-5 vs. Cleveland

624 runs scored (12th of 15 in AL), 754 runs allowed (12th of 15 in AL)

The Mariners won their first two games, then lost four of their next five to drop to 3-4, and never again had a winning record all season. Kendrys Morales had 57 extra-base hits, Raul Ibanez (age 41) tied Ted Williams for the most home runs hit at that age, with 29, and Kyle Seagar and Justin Smoak each turned in pretty solid seasons at the plate. Still, the offense was, on the whole, weak, as it has been for six consecutive seasons. The pitching wasn't really much better. Hisashi Iwakuma and Felix Hernandez each had a very good year, but of the five other pitchers who started 5+ games for Seattle, none of them had an ERA better than 4.93.

The Mariners have lost more games over the last six seasons than any team but the Astros, and attendance in Seattle has dropped accordingly, going from tops in all of MLB in 2002 (43,709 per game) to middle of the pack in 2007 (32,933), to near the bottom in 2013 (21,747). Adding insult to injury, while the Mariners offered to extend manager Eric Wedge's contract for 2014, he declined, choosing instead to be done at the end of the year.

Ownership has shown a willingness to spend, and the fans (as they do in most cities) have come out in large numbers when the team has been good, but things have gotten pretty ugly in Seattle as of late. The front office noticed, and tried to do something about it, but I'm not sure what they didn't makes much sense.

Key offseason additions:

Robinson Cano (2B), Corey Hart (OF), Logan Morrison (OF/DH), Scott Baker (SP), Fernando Rodney (RP)

Key offseason departures:

Kendrys Morales (DH), Raul Ibanez (OF), Joe Saunders (SP)

2014 Payroll: ~$88 million

Projected 2014 Starting Lineup (with ZiPS fWAR projection):

Pos

Player

Projected WAR

C

Mike Zunino

2

1B

Justin Smoak

1

2B

Robinson Cano

6

3B

Kyle Seager

4

SS

Brad Miller

3

LF

Dustin Ackley

2

CF

Michael Saunders

2

RF

Corey Hart

1

DH

Logan Morrison

1

TOTAL

22

Indian who has killed the Mariners:

Nick Swisher - .274/.368/.516, .884 OPS, 21 HR in 403 PA

Mariner who has killed the Indians:

Kyle Seager - .377/.415/.597, 1.012 OPS, 2 HR in 82 PA

Projected 2014 Starting Rotation/Bullpen (with ZiPS fWAR projection):

Pos

Player

Projected WAR

1

Feliz Hernandez

4

2

Hisashi Iwakuma*

4

3

Scott Baker

0

4

Erasmo Ramirez

0

5

James Paxton

0

RP

Bullpen

1

TOTAL

9

*Iwakuma sprained a tendon in his finger when his hand got caught in a net during workouts just before camp officially began. He's likely to miss at least 3 weeks of the regular season, perhaps more. Top prospect Taijuan Walker could also be in the rotation, but he's also behind schedule, due to a strained shoulder.

2014 Outlook:

I don't really understand the Cano signing. Only Alex Rodriguez has ever gotten a bigger contract (Albert Pujols got the same deal as Cano), and there's no way he's worth that money in the final few years (he's already 31). You could squint and almost make a case for singing a player to that kind of contract if (and only if) the team signing him is in a position to win now. The Mariners are not. If they'd further bolstered their roster by signing guys like Ubaldo Jimenez and Matt Garza to shore up their rotation, and a better DH option that Morrison, things would be different, but instead they appear to be heading into the season with one starting pitcher who is both healthy and above replacement level, and a lineup that's improved, but still not really any better than average.

If Iwakuma and Walker are both back before the end of April, and a few hitters all show significant improvement, Seattle could be on the edge of contention, but I expect they'll be fighting to finish at .500 instead. Oakland, Texas, and Los Angeles all look better in the West, and while there's a reasonable chance at least one of them will falter, it's quite unlikely they all will.

I give Cano three more years of being an elite player, one worth the kind of money he's being paid. The Mariners are wasting one of those three, so far as I can see.

PECOTA Projection: 82-80 (4th in AL West), 698 runs scored, 685 runs allowed

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