JOE FANN

Fann Mail: Which Mariners will breakout, are flying under the radar?

Feb 10, 2023, 10:39 AM

Mariners Tom Murphy...

Mariners catcher Tom Murphy following a 2021 spring training game. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

We’ve reached a lull in Seahawks and Mariners news, and so I figured it was as good a time as any to take some of your questions for a mailbag. Thank you to everyone who participated.

Drayer: Does an Astros broadcaster see the Mariners closing gap with Houston?

Away we go.

@brandon_sw4: What has flown under the radar for the Mariners this offseason?

To be honest, for those who consume Mariners news daily, I don’t think there has been too much that has gone under the radar given how readily available Jerry Dipoto has been to the media. And I don’t say that as a negative because I’d prefer transparency rather than feeling like there are a bunch of mysteries headed into spring training.

But I think there are two possible answers to your question. The first would be the team’s faith in Tom Murphy and belief that he’ll be a major factor in the lineup this season. Murphy posted an astounding 168 wRC+ in 14 games last year prior to suffering a season-ending shoulder injury. That’s a small sample size and shouldn’t be the expectation over the course of a full season, but the Mariners are betting he’ll look more like his 2019 self (126 wRC+ with 18 home runs) compared to his 2021 self (88 wRC+ with 11 homers). My guess is he is the team’s Opening Day designated hitter.

The second under the radar storyline is Chris Flexen and Marco Gonzales still being on the roster. I was certain at least one of them would be traded this offseason, and that was likely the preference of the Mariners. But they remain in Seattle following the absence of a robust trade market. I’m curious if there is still a move yet to be made because it’s hard to imagine both being on the Opening Day roster.

@Camorooni: If you’re Seahawks GM and Geno has been extended for 3 years already but a top QB is avaialble at No. 5, what do you do?

I love this hypothetical. And I think you absolutely still take a quarterback at No. 5 even if Geno Smith is locked up*.

*This of course assumes that John Schneider and Co. grade said quarterback as a prospect worthy of being taken with a top-five pick.

If the assumption is that Seattle bottomed out in 2022 and things will get better from here, then this will be the team’s only chance at drafting in the top five. I think it would be foolish to pass on a quarterback who you grade to be a potential franchise guy.

@RenoMcGill: Will the Seahawks re-sign Rashaad Penny?

I think it’s possible that Seattle signs Rashaad Penny to a league minimum deal. There’s zero risk there organizationally when signing a player who fits well within the organization and has immense upside when healthy. You could do much worse when signing a backup running back.

@jeffmakesjokes: Which Mariners player not being talked about will have the biggest impact in 2023? And last year, who would that have been? Sam Haggerty?

I think the organization is hoping that Tom Murphy is the answer to this question. But to avoid being repetitive, I’ll go with Bryce Miller. Dipoto has been gushing about Miller’s golden right arm of late and forecasted that the former fourth-round pick could join the bullpen at some point midseason. If Miller continues to flourish in the minors, the Mariners bullpen could feature a trio of power arms in the bullpen with Andrés Muñoz, Matt Brash and Miller down the stretch and, hopefully, into the postseason.

Last year Sam Haggerty was absolutely the guy who fit this bill. Nobody expected him to be such an impact player with five homers, 29 runs scored, 23 RBI, 13 steals and a 114 wRC+ over 201 plate appearances. That’s before mentioning his stellar glove in left field.

@AsxltxLies: Come MLB Trade Deadline if left field has underperformed for the Mariners, who’s the ideal target and who do you trade away?

There was a lot of talk that Cubs outfielder Ian Happ could have been traded during the offseason. He remains in Chicago for now, but I think he’ll be a top name on the move come this year’s trade deadline. Happ has posted a wRC+ of more than 100 in all six of his MLB seasons.

It’s also worth mentioning Bryan Reynolds as it’s no guarantee he remains with the Pirates by season’s end.

@knurri: Thoughts on the Russell Wilson Foundation story?

By now you’ve probably seen the USA Today story about Russell Wilson’s “Why Not You Foundation” and how 24.3 cents of every dollar donated goes to charitable causes. My thoughts on this are pretty simple. I don’t think there’s malice involved, and non-profit organizations being run inefficiently is unfortunately common.

But it’s not a good look for Wilson, a man who takes meticulous care of his image and legacy. His foundation was a huge factor in him winning the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award as well. It feels like something out of the “Rich Guy 101” playbook: Do some good while enjoying some convenient tax breaks and making sure your people are well taken care of.

@HolliWinters: Who will the Mariners’ breakout player be in 2023?

Logan Gilbert has already broken out as he was a borderline All-Star in 2022 and posted a 3.20 ERA on the year. But he’s viewed as a pitcher with an objectively lower ceiling than George Kirby, and I’m curious if he has another gear to close that gap. We’ve seen moments of

dominance from him, so much so that he’s been dubbed an alter ego of “Walter” when he’s got his best stuff. But there has been too much inconsistency to consider him a true front-of-the-rotation starter to this point.

@ClayKoryn: What are you most looking forward to with the Mariners this season?

My excitement about this Mariners season is matched by my nerves and anxiety. The expectations are far greater for this team than in 2022 and getting drubbed in the AL West by the Astros will not be acceptable. But I believe in this roster, and those nerves are a lot of fun given how many years we endured without any playoff expectations. This is what it’s all about! I’m just antsy for Opening Day to get here.

@fritzriddle: Any rumor about the NBA expansion plans? Are Vegas and Seattle still the plan?

I haven’t heard anything, but I really hope it happens soon. I can’t wait to have a vested interest in the NBA again.

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Fann Mail: Which Mariners will breakout, are flying under the radar?