ESPN’s Passan: Mariners brass ‘needs to recognize’ Rangers’ path to success

Sep 26, 2023, 1:52 PM | Updated: 2:22 pm

Seattle Mariners Scott Servais Luis Castillo...

Seattle Mariners manager Scott Servais talks with pitcher Luis Castillo on Sept. 25, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners were even with the Texas Rangers in the American League playoff chase entering a three-game series last Friday. Afterwards, the two teams didn’t look that close at all.

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The Rangers swept the three games from the M’s, taking control of first place in the AL West and keeping Seattle a half-game out of a playoff spot. The Mariners’ woes continued Monday with a tough 5-1 loss to the Houston Astros, another team they’re chasing in the race, to fall to 1 1/2 games back of the AL’s third and final wild card held by Houston (86-71).

It’s no surprise that the Astros, the defending World Series champions and the AL West winners in five of the last six seasons, are in the postseason mix during the final week of the regular season. But the fact that Texas (88-68) will likely finish higher than Seattle (84-72) a year after the M’s made the playoffs and the Rangers went 68-94, however, may be alarming for Mariners fans.

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ESPN MLB insider Jeff Passan spent much of his weekly Tuesday conversation with Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk diving into what is to be made out of Texas passing the M’s in the standings, and the manner in which the roster that did it was built.

“I think the Rangers have approached this year like, ‘This is the beginning of a really good window that we have right now,'” Passan said. “You guys saw (Rangers rookie) Evan Carter this weekend. Evan Carter is batting ninth in this lineup, (but) Evan Carter’s going to be like a No. 2 (or) 3 hitter for a long time. The only reason he’s not going to be the 2 hitter is because (the Rangers) have Marcus Semien leading off and Corey Seager batting second. But he’s a top of the order guy, and Josh Jung and (Adolis) García and Nate Lowe and Jonah Heim, all top of the order guys. And by the way, Wyatt Langford, who was the No. 4 pick of the draft this year, is going to be up next year.”

With Semien and Seager excepted, the Texas hitters that Passan listed have been younger pieces that the Rangers have somewhat quietly built around. The reason for using the word “quietly” is that most of the attention the Rangers’ front office has garnered has come from big contracts handed out to veteran stars in free agency like Semien, Seager and Jacob deGrom.

The amount of moves the Mariners have made in free agency in recent years hasn’t been on par with Texas, especially when it comes to hitters. Seattle has been building its own corps of young stars like Julio Rodríguez, Cal Raleigh, Logan Gilbert and George Kirby, but it doesn’t have the same firepower when it comes to established veterans that the Rangers do, which was on display during Texas’ weekend sweep.

Passan said that should send a message.

“Mariners fans should understand what’s coming, because to me, when you hear all of these things, what that says is that ownership needs to recognize this and go out and make bold moves. And I’m not saying Shohei Ohtani is the move that’s going to counter all of these things. I’m just saying, you better be in it because it’s not like the Rangers are going to be going away. It’s not like this is a flash in the pan right now. No, they’re real. … Here’s the thing that the Rangers and Ray Davis, their owner, have proven – that when they see time to strike and when they feel like a window is open, they will go and spend to back it.”

What’s next for the Seattle Mariners?

So how do the Mariners counter what the Rangers have done to leapfrog them in the AL West hierarchy this year? The answer will likely be on the trade market this offseason, where Passan said there are about 10 big names that could be available.

One in particular stands out: San Diego Padres star Juan Soto, who has one more year of team control until he will reach free agency.

“If you’re the Seattle Mariners, I don’t know if you can sign Juan Soto to a contract long-term, I don’t know if he’s gonna want to stay, but I will say this: the price is going to be a lot lower (to trade for him) than it was a couple years ago when the Padres traded for him,” Passan said.

Passan has spoken optimistically about the long-term health of the Mariners’ farm system when it comes to hitters, but if Seattle wants to take a step forward in the next year or two, he doesn’t expect those players to be much of a factor.

“Can those bats (in the farm system) coincide with the strength of these arms over the years to come?” asked co-host Brock Huard.

Answered Passan: “For 2024? No. For 2025? Maybe. For 2026 and beyond? Yes. I think there is a one- to maybe two-year window where what they have right now plus what they have internally is not going to be enough, and that’s where they need to go out and supplement. And it’s not just bringing back Teoscar (Hernández). It’s trades, it’s going out and getting bats.”

ESPN MLB insider Jeff Passan joins Brock and Salk at 8:30 a.m. each Tuesday on Seattle Sports. Listen to this week’s conversation at this link or in the player near the top of this post.

More on the M’s

Video: Bob’s Breakdown – Can M’s rebound to make playoffs?
Potential Seattle Mariners postseason tickets to go on sale this week
Morosi: What’s most likely outcome for Seattle Mariners over final stretch?

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