Scott Servais: Mariners have laid a foundation, ‘can start building upon it’
The 2020 season was one like no other for Major League Baseball, and that was certainly the case for the Seattle Mariners.
Seattle was poised to break camp last year with a number of young players who would get a ton of playing time and experience while even younger prospects knocked on the MLB doorstep. But the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the Mariners played just a 60-game schedule and there was no minor league baseball, which may have impacted the rebuilding team more than most of the other MLB franchises.
Even though Seattle’s trajectory when it comes to its rebuild might have hit a minor roadblock, the 2020 season still gave the organization plenty to be excited about.
“We have laid a foundation. That’s the most important thing,” Mariners manager Scott Servais told Rick Rizzs and Gary Hill on the most recent edition of 710 ESPN Seattle’s Hot Stove Report.
Servais pointed to center fielder Kyle Lewis winning American League Rookie of the Year, first baseman Evan White and shortstop J.P. Crawford winning Gold Gloves, and how other young players across the board stepped up and contributed. While Seattle ultimately went 27-33 and missed the playoffs, Servais thinks that group laying “the foundation” will “pay dividends” going forward.
“We have a core group of players that we believe in, they have talent … we love the makeup of this group and the fact that they’re wired a little bit differently, as they should be. But they believe in what we’re doing, they believe in the Mariners and our process,” he said. “Now, since we’ve laid the foundation, we can start building upon it.”
It’s been well documented that the Mariners’ next “wave” of prospects is a key one, headlined by outfielder Jarred Kelenic and starting pitcher Logan Gilbert. Now that the young core that has MLB experience has laid that foundation, Servais thinks young players coming up and making their MLB debuts will know immediately what’s expected of them and know that what’s expected is winning ballgames.
“We have another group coming behind that and ultimately what you’re doing is raising the bar,” Servais said. “This is the bar. When you walk into our clubhouse, this is what’s expected. When we go out and play, this is how we play. We’re not going to win every ballgame, but that’s the goal. Every night we line up and every time I put that lineup card in at home plate, I expect to win the game. And all the decisions we make going forward and all of our actions, how does this help us win is how I’m looking at it.”
Crawford and pitching staff leader Marco Gonzales have told reporters they expect to compete for a playoff spot this year. Servais said those kinds of comments coming from those types of players is big for a team ready to take the next step forward.
“I think the average teams are led by coaches. I think the elite teams are led by the players,” he said. “I’ve talked to our players about holding each other accountable. And ultimately they have to be comfortable – they have to have that as part of their skill set – (and) we’re getting to that point.”
Servais told Rizzs and Hill that when he was a player at spring training, he always thought it was his team’s year in terms of winning the World Series, and always thought of the steps needed for his team to win it all. He says that he has that same belief entering the 2021 season as well in terms of turning some heads.
“I really do believe we’ve got a chance to do something special here and get it turned a little bit quicker than maybe some people think we can,” Servais said.
The Mariners have made a few moves this offseason, namely adding relievers Keynan Middleton and Rafael Montero, but the team has been pretty quiet overall. Servais said the team has “flexibility” on the roster “down the road” and that the Mariners may be in position to add more MLB talent in the near future.
“When it does come time to maybe add a piece or player that can kind of get us over the hump – and that time is coming quickly – it’s exciting and I’m glad to be a part of it and leading this group because it is a fun group of players to be around every day,” he said.
Listen to Servais’ full interview in the first hour of Tuesday’s Hot Stove Report at this link or in the player below.