MLB Network’s Morosi: How much closer are Mariners getting to Astros?

Dec 18, 2022, 1:31 PM | Updated: 1:33 pm
Mariners Julio Rodríguez...
Mariners CF Julio Rodríguez claps after stealing second base in Game 3 of the ALDS on Oct. 15, 2022. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The objective for the Seattle Mariners in 2023 is pretty clear.

While the M’s are coming off back-to-back 90-win seasons, they finished the 2022 regular season 16 games back of the 106-win Astros in the America League West, then were bounced by the eventual World Series champs from Houston in three games in the ALDS. So if the Mariners have World Series hopes of their own in 2023, they need to find a way past the Astros.

Knowing that led to high expectations for Seattle’s offseason, and it appears a segment of the fan base feels the M’s have fallen short so far. The M’s have made some improvements, though, with their trades for All-Star slugger Teoscar Hernández and two-time Gold Glove second baseman Kolten Wong. The rest of Seattle’s additions have been more under the radar, however – namely a one-year deal for reliever Trevor Gott and a trade for catcher/outfielder Cooper Hummel in a one-for-one swap for Kyle Lewis.

ESPN’s Passan: Expectations for M’s offseason ‘may be a little bit outlandish’

The Astros, meanwhile, lost 2022 AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander (he signed with the New York Mets) and replaced first baseman Yuli Gurriel with 2020 AL MVP José Abreu, who will turn 36 in January. Some other veteran pieces for Houston, including utility player Aledmys Díaz and catcher Christian Vázquez, have also left in free agency.

Taking that into account, and with Hernández and Wong respectively taking the places of Mitch Haniger and Adam Frazier, who have both signed with new teams, are the Mariners doing enough to close the gap with Houston?

MLB Network reporter Jon Morosi shared his thoughts on that when he joined Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob last Wednesday for his weekly segment on the show. Here’s a look at that conversation.

Is Seattle closing the gap with Houston?

Question from Bob Stelton: How do we view what the Mariners have done this offseason? There’s a lot of consternation, a lot of hand-wringing out here about what they have and have not done to improve their roster. Did they capitalize on what they’ve achieved in these past two seasons with 90 wins and reengaging a fan base? … Have they done enough to get themselves to the next level when they bring in Teoscar Hernández and Kolten Wong?

Jon Morosi’s answer:

I think they’ve gotten closer to Houston, because when you look at the big picture scoreboard here, Houston of course is minus Verlander, they did bring in José Abreu. Houston is still the better team – they still are. But Seattle is getting closer presuming that their key guys who are now in their their 20s and in their primes – I’m thinking about (Julio) Rodríguez and Ty France and Cal Raleigh – keep getting better. … Even J.P. Crawford is just 28, so you expect him to get better. And I think you’re still believing credibly that you will see better versions of all those players.

I think Wong (as a left-handed hitter) addresses some of the issues with a lack of balance… Teoscar Hernández, we’ve talked about him, I’m a big fan of his. I think he will really address some of the issues they had maybe about being able to hit the big home runs and drive in runs against really good pitching. He has done that a lot over his career.

… I just think this (Mariners) team is overall in a pretty good spot. And to be honest, they have a pretty tough team to contend with there in Houston – and an improved Texas team, as well. Texas’ pitching is going to be a lot better. So it’s going to be a very competitive American League again. If there’s one thing we know about (Mariners president of baseball operations) Jerry Dipoto, even though I might think that they’re close to being ready for the season, he probably disagrees and will likely make another couple of trades.

Morosi on what do the Mariners have left to do

I would still like to see them get one more DH bat. … Is it a trade? Do you do you even look at bringing back in Nelson Cruz, who wants to play one more year – sort of a low-risk, one-year deal to effectively replace (Carlos) Santana? Because right now there’s a spot there. And yes, you can rotate through (Sam) Haggerty and (Dylan) Moore, but there’s room for a bat there.

… Here’s a name to think about: (recent Astros first baseman/outfielder) Trey Mancini. … For me, at least, there are not like a dozen teams in on Trey, and he’s obviously a first class guy in every way. … I could see him potentially being a being a fit.

You can listen to the full conversation with Morosi in the podcast at this link or in the player below.

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