MLB Network’s Morosi: What it means if this isn’t Mariners’ year

Jun 18, 2023, 3:09 PM | Updated: Jun 19, 2023, 2:18 pm

Seattle Mariners Scott Servais...

Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais during a game against the Miami Marlins. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Jon Morosi has long had a generally optimistic view of the Seattle Mariners’ direction during the tenures of manager Scott Servais and president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto.

The MLB Network insider still maintains that to a degree, but when it comes to the state of the current Mariners team’s hopes of making the playoffs for a second straight year, Morosi has his doubts.

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During Morosi’s weekly conversation with Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob, he shared a sobering take on the 2023 M’s when asked about whether the team would consider trading its top prospect before the Aug. 1 deadline to increase its postseason chances.

“As much as I love being an optimist, this team has not played well enough relative to the competition to merit a trade of Harry Ford,” Morosi said, referring to Seattle’s No. 1 prospect per MLB.com who is currently a catcher with the Single-A Everett AquaSox. “… I don’t see that trade right now. It stings and it hurts a Mariner fan to hear me say this, but we’re getting to the stage where you look at how well Texas is playing and how well of late the Angels have played, too – it just might not be the Mariners’ year.”

Ouch? Yeah, considering how high expectations were for the Mariners were coming out of their run to an American League Division Series appearance against the Houston Astros last season, ouch indeed.

That’s only taking into account this year, though, and while Morosi’s thoughts may be a tough pill to take now, he went on to explain why he’s anything but worried about the future of the Seattle Mariners.

“I’m not saying ‘not their year’ to be relevant, because I think they’re already relevant, they’re already a good team,” Morosi continued. “But the way this season has started does not send to me signals that say, ‘You better go for it all now.’ I just don’t feel that way, and you know what? It’s OK. Because the positive side of this team right now is what’s the rush? You’re not going to lose George Kirby to free agency this year. You’re not going to lose (Logan) Gilbert. You’re not going to lose (Bryce) Miller. You’re not going to lose (Luis) Castillo.

“It may just be that things didn’t quite line up the way you thought it would offensively from a top-down perspective, and the the better path might be, ‘You know what? We love our pitching. Why take away from our strength to improve what’s been, at its best, a wildly inconsistent offense?’ It might even be better, honestly, to just retool, refocus, gather a little more data about who your truly core position players are this season, and then make a little bit of a pass through the lineup and organization in the offseason. That right now is how it feels to me.”

Did the Seattle Mariners fail last offseason?

What the Mariners did – and just as importantly did not do – in the offseason following the 2022 campaign has been a hot button issue since even before spring training this year. Seattle needed to improve its offense, but its attempts to do so have mostly fallen flat in 2023 as they’re an even 35-35 despite winning back-to-back series against the Marlins and White Sox on their most recent homestand. Morosi is allowing the front office some grace in that respect.

“By the way, this is not their fault necessarily. This is not something where the Mariners have done poorly, or this was a scenario where we entered the year thinking that there was some flaw in the roster. There wasn’t,” Morosi said. “I liked this team a lot in spring training, but even well-constructed teams can underperform a little bit. That’s what has certainly happened here offensively.”

Not helping matters are that the Texas Rangers, who have made a splash in free agency each of the past two years, have turned around from a 68-94 record last season to being the class of the AL West in 2023 so far (click here for the current MLB standings). And with the Los Angeles Angels ahead of even the defending World Series champion Astros, it leaves Seattle fourth in the division.

“On the flip side, (the Mariners) can’t control that the Rangers all of a sudden got healthy and got great all, like, this year,” Morosi said. “The signings they made a year ago, (Marcus) Semien and (Corey) Seager, look at how they’re playing right now. (Nathan) Eovaldi has been great. Jon Gray has been great. (Leody) Taveras has been really good in center field for them. (Ezequiel) Durán has come out and played well for them. Everything has gone right for Texas, and on some level, it hurts to say it, but this might be a ‘We’ll reevaluate things next year’ (for the Mariners).”

The other side

Bob Stelton, co-host of Wyman and Bob, sees things differently from Morosi, as he did not have the same grade of the Mariners’ offseason prior to spring training.

“You and I were sort of at odds on what they did in the offseason – you liked it, I did not because, to me, they didn’t go for it,” Stelton said. “They had a rare opportunity where you finally got the fan base excited and engaged. There was a lot of apathy out here, for good reason. I mean, (the Mariners made the playoffs after) 20-plus years of no postseason, and then they go out and (trade for) Teoscar (Hernández) – we love that move – but then they went (AJ) Pollock, and then they went with (Tommy) La Stella, and then they went Kolten Wong and said, ‘Hey, we’re good.’ No, you weren’t. You got what you paid for, and it’s like they didn’t account for any level of regression from anybody else. Everybody else was just gonna automatically be better than they were last year, and you know better than anybody, that’s just not how it goes.

“So I feel like it’s a blown opportunity to truly capitalize on the sort of Mariner fever that existed after what took place last year, truly a moment that they let slip through their fingers. I mean, the season is certainly not over and maybe they get things turned around. But if we’re at the end of the season talking about, ‘You know, they won 86 games, they’re a winning team’ – the consolation prize – I think that’s gonna play really poorly with this fan base right now.”

Morosi said that was a “fair” response while explaining why he expected better this season than the Mariners have done to date.

“I thought that Wong was about what they needed at second base. Clearly they’ve needed more, and then I think the Pollock move at DH was also a little bit less offensively than what they needed. And you’re right, I think that the overall roster construction has underwhelmed,” he said. “Now, if Teoscar has one of his more normal All-Star-like seasons, and if Julio (Rodríguez) is great from Day 1 (of this season), it might be a different approach right now and a different conversation.”

If there’s a silver lining to Morosi, though, it’s that if this isn’t the Mariners’ year, it doesn’t have to be the same way it does for one of their chief rivals.

“The reality is they’re (hovering around .500), they’re behind three good teams, and I think at the top the Rangers are playing great. Houston is just now kind of finding their way. And the tough part about it is the Angels are playing better to where even if the Mariners win seven out of 10, how many games are they probably going to move up in the standings? … (But) Houston has some flaws. They really do. They have to make some moves. There’s a team that is all-in now. They have no choice but to be all-in right now based on where they’re at, defending a World Series title, the age of their roster. They have to be all-in whereas Seattle can show up to Peoria (for spring training) next year with the starting pitching that they’ve already got, and a lot of us would say, ‘Hey, they’ve got to work on their offense,’ but the pitching is more than enough, in my view, to be competitive as long as this group is together.”

Listen to the whole Wyman and Bob conversation with Morosi at this link or in the player near the top of this article.

More on the Seattle Mariners

Notebook: What the M’s are looking for from rookie SP Bryan Woo
Have the Mariners found their DH? Dipoto talks Mike Ford’s play
Dipoto: What rookie 2B José Caballero has that’s ‘off the charts’ good
How the Seattle Mariners will manage their young pitchers’ workloads
How will the Seattle Mariners fit into Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes?

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