Morosi breaks down three big Mariners concerns entering 2024

Feb 22, 2024, 10:06 AM | Updated: 2:43 pm

Seattle Mariners Ty France...

Mariners first baseman Ty France reacts after striking out against the Yankees on May 31. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Spring training is in full swing, which is when hope springs eternal for MLB teams. But it’s also a time for worry about what teams do and don’t have, and that’s true for the Seattle Mariners.

During his Wednesday visit with Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi detailed three key concerns and worries for the Mariners this upcoming season.

Will Ty France bounce back?

Ty France was an All-Star in 2022 and was a top hitter in 2021. But due to various injuries and inconsistencies, France posted career-low numbers across the board.

Drayer: Seattle Mariners’ Ty France back after drastic offseason of adjustments

France changed his offseason work, spending a lot of time at Driveline, and now aims to bounce back for the Mariners.

Morosi said France is a huge key for the Mariners this season, in large part because of the position he plays.

“The first base position is one where traditionally for your lineup to really flow. You need some offense there. You need some run production,” he said.

Morosi sees France hitting sixth for the Mariners, which is a key part of the lineup.

“The sixth spot in the lineup, you often have a lot of key RBI opportunities, and lineups that go from good to great are those that pick up a lot of RBI around there,” he said. ” … At first base, you need some run production, you need a big OPS. And this is not just a spot for an on-base guy to hit singles and even doubles. You need some production. You need some RBIs to make this lineup really work … The first baseman has gotta hit. And right now the first baseman is Ty France. He’s going to have to produce.”

Morosi thinks there’s “a good chance” France has a bounceback season, but whether he produces or not will have a big impact on the ceiling of this Mariners team.

“If you tell me Ty France’s games played and RBIs, I will be able to tell you a lot about how good this team is gonna be,” Morosi said.

The other corner infield spot

Across the diamond at third base, the Mariners face uncertainty there, too.

The Mariners have clear starters across the board, except at that spot where it appears Josh Rojas and Luis Urias will platoon together. Rojas was about leage-average offensively in his two months with the Mariners last season while Urias had a dreadful 2023 season after two above-average seasons in 2021 and 2022.

“There’s a reason why in most projections of this lineup right now you’re seeing the third baseman probably bat ninth,” Morosi said.

That is, unless the Mariners go sign free-agent third baseman Matt Chapman, a perennial Gold Glover who Seattle has been tied to of late.

Could Seattle Mariners still add Matt Chapman to ‘complete’ roster?

The M’s know Chapman well from his time in Oakland, and he spent the last two years in Toronto. He’s a stellar defender at the hot corner with a lot of power, but he also has a lot of swing and miss to his game and was very streaky in 2023.

Chapman’s tendency to whiff may not make him an ideal fit on a Mariners team that struck out more than almost every team in baseball last season.

“They were trying to get a bit more in the zone and a little more contact, and so Chapman will not necessarily address that issue,” Morosi said. “But he is an elite, deluxe third baseman and the power is real. It’s just maybe not quite as contact-oriented as Jerry Dipoto was talking about a few months ago.”

Chapman reportedly is seeking a long-term deal worth nine figures, but that may not come to fruition with spring training already underway. That could lead him to signing a one-year deal to try and reset his market for next year.

If that’s the case, Morosi doesn’t see Chapman landing in Seattle.

“If you’re going to sign a one-year deal, you typically want to go to a place where you’re going to put up huge numbers,” Morosi said. “… (Seattle) may not necessarily be the best place for you to put up monster numbers that hit the open market again, after the season is over.”

Do the Seattle Mariners have enough rotation depth?

The Mariners are built on pitching, namely their starting rotation.

Seattle feels good about its five-man rotation of Luis Castillo, George Kirby, Logan Gilbert, Bryce Miller and Bryan Woo after holding on to all five this offseason, but after those five? The depth isn’t quite there after trading Robbie Ray and Marco Gonzales.

“They are that elite one through five. But notice I didn’t say necessarily one through nine or 10 because eventually the run of the Mariners’ success from a standpoint of health, it won’t last forever,” Morosi said. “And I think that’s where the first time your phone buzzes with a notice of somebody having a checkup with their UCL or something like that, then all of a sudden Emerson Hancock, Levi Stoudt, who of course is now back from Cincinnati, they become two of the most important people in the organization.”

When the Mariners begin Cactus League play, Morosi will be very interested in keeping tabs on pitchers who likely won’t break camp with the team, but could start games for them down the line.

“I would really focus a lot on the likes of Stoudt and Hancock and the way that some of the other invited players are looking on non-roster deals,” he said. “… Because they’re going to need players like that at some point and and the better that they perform right now, the more reassured Mariners ownership and front office is going to be about what they can offer as the season goes along.”

More on the Seattle Mariners

Mariners’ Woo eager to take lessons learned as rookie into 2024
Mariners’ Julio Rodríguez determined to be even better in 3rd year
Mariners Notebook: Updates on Urías, No. 1 starter spot
Mariners arrive as ‘hungriest team’ Servais has ever had in spring

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