MIKE SALK

Salk: 4 things Mariners need revealed by this season’s struggles

Jun 21, 2022, 12:27 AM
Mariners J.P. Crawford...
Mariners' J.P. Crawford drops his helmet after striking out against the Twins on June 13. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)
(AP Photo/John Froschauer)

I really hope in a few years we can look back at right now for the Seattle Mariners and say the night really was darkest before the dawn. There are signs that is true.

Mariners Minors Check-In: How Kelenic, Brash, top prospects are doing

Julio Rodríguez, Logan Gilbert, George Kirby, Ty France, J.P. Crawford – that is a solid young core. And if Jarred Kelenic can be a solid everyday player, that helps too. But let’s be clear, there is only one potential superstar in that group, only one player that caries you for long stretches because he is that good, and that’s Julio.

So, how do you get from where we are to a World Series title?

It’s gonna take a few things, and probably more than I originally thought.

Another elite bat. Julio and France are a good start, but look at the contending teams – they have more than two. And while Kelenic, Jesse Winker or Kyle Lewis could eventually be important pieces if they reach their potential (or stay healthy), they are more likely second-tier players. The Mariners need another stud. Think about going through the Angels with Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani vs. the Red Sox with Rafael Devers, J.D. Martinez, Trevor Story and Xander Boegarts. You gotta get to three and probably four players in a lineup that scare an opposing pitcher.

Something reliable in the bullpen. This may be a pipe dream because Major League Baseball is full of young, flamethrowing relievers that you have never heard of and can’t be consistent. The Mariners have a few of their own. But it helps to have something in your pen that you know you can count on, and while Paul Sewald and Diego Castillo are excellent, they aren’t quite at the consistently dominant level you need on a championship team. Maybe Matt Brash will turn into Edwin Díaz 2.0, but until he does, this is a need that likely comes from outside the organization.

A veteran who can still contribute. I appreciate the idea of Justin Upton, but he isn’t what I’m talking about. I mean a player that is playing his back 9 but not triple-bogeying the 18th hole. Repeatedly I have mentioned Carlos Beltrán, Michael Brantley and Josh Reddick as this kind of player who helped get the young Astros over the top. Veterans provide both professional at-bats and an important resource in the clubhouse for young players. This player doesn’t have to be a top three hitter, but he can’t have a meat thermometer reading “well done” sticking out of his hip, either. Nelson Cruz would certainly fit this description, but for how much longer?

A supporting cast that can step up rather than down. That means a solid lefty in the pen and utility players that get on base. Look at the bats on the Braves’ bench: Michael Harris is hitting .346, Orlando Arcia .338, William Contreras .284. Those guys make a meaningful contribution even if they don’t play every day.

Those four things would make the Mariners a better team. And while they aren’t easy to find, they aren’t impossible either. It might take money. It might take prospects in trades. It might take some shrewd development or giving up on some players that haven’t reached their potential. But the Mariners have some of the pieces in place. They have a quality starting staff that is improving with more help coming. They have some good, young pieces in their everyday lineup. And they have a breakout superstar just about ready to come into his own. But he needs help, and he needs it soon.

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