How long does the Mariners’ rebuild get? They ‘really should be winning next year,’ says Jon Morosi
The Mariners began a full-scale rebuild after the 2018 season, trading established veteran players in order to restock what was seen as the worst farm system in all of baseball.
In that regard, the rebuild has been a success to date as the Mariners now boast what’s seen as a top-five MLB farm system, and that’s with quite a few of the team’s top trade returns from early in the rebuild having already “graduated” from prospect status due to MLB service time.
But at the end of the day, winning is what matters most in sports, not prospect rankings. So while it’s exciting that the Mariners currently have six prospects ranked in the top 100 per MLB Pipeline, that doesn’t change the fact that Seattle hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2001.
When the rebuild first kicked off, it was thought that the Mariners could potentially contend for a playoff spot or at least turn a corner towards contention in 2021. If that were to happen, then being a top threat in the American League in 2022 wouldn’t be out of the picture.
But the Mariners have had a few things go against them in terms of that timeline.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic caused the cancellation of the minor league season, and only a handful of prospects were able to participate at the team’s alternate training site. And with the MLB season shortened to just 60 games, young players partaking in their first full season as big leaguers didn’t get nearly as much experience as the Mariners were hoping for.
As for this season, the Mariners have struggling with injuries, and a couple top young prospects – outfielders Jarred Kelenic and Taylor Trammell – struggled out of the gate in their first MLB action.
So where does that leave expectations for this team and for general manager Jerry Dipoto come the 2022 season? MLB insider Jon Morosi of MLB Network and FOX Sports shared his thoughts with 710 ESPN Seattle’s Wyman and Bob.
In order to get a better understanding of Morosi’s answer, here’s the question and framework from Bob Stelton:
“We brought up the idea that because of this team suffering an inordinate amount of injuries and (they’ve played) 51 different players … it’s just been crazy. And we’ve talked about the idea that, does this push back Jerry’s plan for being competitive in 2022? Does this buy him more time?” Stelton asked. “I’m of the belief that no, it doesn’t. It does not. You don’t have an excuse. And that’s what next year needs to be, whether that means your young guys haven’t developed yet, they’re not where you want them to be, then you bring in established talent and fill those spots until they’re ready. You can’t continue to kick the can down the road and say, ‘Well, this happened, so we’ve readjusted our expectations.’ What is your thought on how they should approach 2022, whether this is an injury-riddled year (in 2021) from beginning to end or not?”
“Well, that is an important question,” Morosi replied. “And Jerry is approaching the sixth anniversary of his hiring. Six years is a long time to be a GM in this league with one franchise and not make the playoffs. It is.”
Across MLB and the AL West, Morosi said, many teams have changed general managers or shaken up their entire front office in the time since the Mariners hired Dipoto in September 2015. And that includes teams who have had far more success than the Mariners have had in that time.
“He is now one of the longest-tenured GMs in baseball in terms of years of continuous service,” Morosi said.
When it comes to when Mariners fans should expect a winner, Morosi doesn’t think 2022 is asking too much. And he doesn’t think that the injury bug the team has caught this year should have any impact on Dipoto and his staff fielding a winner next season.
“I don’t think the injuries at all this year should effect the expectation of this team winning next year,” he said. “If the prospects are as good as we have been told they are – and a lot of people in the industry believe they are that good, by the way – then you really should be winning next year.”
What helps the Mariners going forward, Morosi said, is the division they play in.
“There is not as I would describe a dominant team in this division right now,” he said.
Morosi said that the Oakland Athletics are a year-to-year team due in part to a limited payroll. The Houston Astros lost one of their top players, George Springer, in free agency this year, and will likely lose shortstop Carlos Correa in free agency after this season. Plus, Houston’s farm system isn’t nearly as good as it once was.
The Angels, Morosi said, have still not been able to figure out their MLB pitching staff, and the Texas Rangers are in a rebuild of their own and will pick No. 2 overall in next month’s draft.
“The opportunity and the fundamentals are still there (for the Mariners to compete),”‘ he said. “… The Mariners should be a playoff team. Mariners fans should expect this team to be in the playoffs next year.”
And if the Mariners don’t make the playoffs in 2022?
“If they’re not, the time is long since past to ask serious questions as to why that’s the case,” Morosi said.
Listen to Morosi’s full segment from Friday’s edition of Wyman and Bob at this link or in the player below.