Morosi: Mariners have a path to jumping Astros, winning AL West

Mar 29, 2023, 2:50 PM

Mariners Scott Servais Logan Gilbert...

Mariners pitcher Logan Gilbert talks to manager Scott Servais during a game against the Astros. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

(Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)

The Mariners made it to the playoffs for the first time since 2001 last year, but they fell to their rival, the Houston Astros, in the ALDS. Additionally, the M’s were the second American League Wild Card team, finishing 16 games back of Houston in the AL West standings.

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But could this be the year the Mariners close that gap with Houston? MLB Network insider Jon Morosi thinks it could happen, as he explained Tuesday to Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob.

For Morosi, the Mariners’ success starts with their pitching.

“I think that (Logan) Gilbert and (George) Kirby are the guys. If they come back and have really good full seasons here in 2023, then you could very easily chart a course to where they win the division,” Morosi said.

As for the Astros, they have some injury concerns in their starting rotation ahead of opening day.

“(Lance) McCullers has had an elbow issue this spring, (Hunter) Brown has had a back issue, there’s no more (Justin) Verlander,” Morosi said. “I think right now it’s 50-50, honestly (which of the two teams has the better rotation). And think back to the way that the playoff series played out between those two teams.”

Morosi noted that when the Mariners and Astros faced off in the ALDS, even though Seattle got swept, the M’s rotation was far from the issue in that series.

“These were late-inning scenarios that decided those those games. So the rotation then, even with the future Hall of Famer in Verlander, even with McCullers, the (two teams’ rotations) were even at best if you’re looking at it from Houston’s perspective,” Morosi said. “And now Seattle’s got all the same guys. They’ve got (Chris) Flexen who is basically there in reserve … I look at Seattle as having not just a really strong rotation, but one that should remain relatively healthy.”

When looking around the AL West, Morosi thinks the Texas Rangers have a good rotation, albeit one that has major injury concerns. He thinks the Los Angeles Angels have a better chance of making the playoffs than Texas does, but he thinks the Mariners can be the best team in the division this year.

“I think this division has gotten better and better. It might actually be one of the tougher divisions in the entire sport,” Morosi said. “I still like Seattle’s chances, though, to emerge and potentially even win the division and to make the playoffs for a second straight year.”

That gap between the Mariners and Astros has closed, Morosi said, and Houston has a lot of injury concerns with notable players heading into 2023 while Seattle appears to be pretty healthy. Most notably, the Astros will be without All-Star second baseman José Altuve for a few months due to a fractured thumb.

“The other name that we haven’t mentioned yet in terms of injury concerns and health with Houston is (Yordan) Álvarez. He’s had a hand issue that’s been sort of there off and on since late last year, and honestly, that worries me about about Yordan. We’ll see how he does over the six or seven months of the season, but there’s some concern there if he still has this hand issue that’s hampering him. That’s a worry,” Morosi said. “And then of course you add on Altuve’s situation, when’s (Michael) Brantley going to be ready? There’s no more Verlander. McCullers has an elbow thing. This team has collectively played a lot of baseball over the last five, six, seven years, and at some point in time the bill for that comes due, and I’m wondering and a little fearful if that’s the case it’s happening right now.”

Morosi thinks the Mariners, meanwhile, had “the right guys” with good showings this spring, both on the mound and at the plate.

“I’m just a big believer in this team. If you look at not just the names, but look at how they’ve come through the spring, who’s healthy … this is a team, I think, in Seattle that’s built to win,” he said.

Additionally, how the Mariners fell to the Astros in the playoffs may help fuel them in 2023.

“I think that now that they’ve had this taste of the playoffs, they know in some ways as you look back on it as tough as that outcome was, it’s almost as though you got the best of both worlds from the standpoint of the experience,” Morosi said. “You realized how close you were – a pitch or two away from being up 2-1 in that series – and you also realize, ‘Hey, we got swept. We have to be better, we have to have a certain resolve about us to not let that happen this year.’ So I really think that the way last year ended and the sting of that, I think in some ways was something that’s gonna give this team a lot of collective resolve and focus as they begin 2023.”

Listen to the full interview with Morosi at this link or in the player below.

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