ESPN’s Olney: Mariners have many thinking they can win AL West

Mar 5, 2024, 10:34 AM

Seattle Mariners Julio Rodriguez J.P. Crawford...

Julio Rodriguez of the Seattle Mariners celebrates with with J.P. Crawford on June 16, 2023. (Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

(Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners made the playoffs in 2022, ending a two decades-long postseason drought and even winning a wild card playoff series against Toronto.

Which Seattle Mariners stood out in first week of spring training games?

The M’s were again in playoff contention last year, but they missed the postseason after entering the season with high hopes.

That led to a bit of roster turnover, especially when it came to the lineup. It took a bit of time this offseason, but the M’s were able to add some notable pieces when it was all said and done after shedding some payroll due to reported salary constraints.

“They overall made some nice (additions) considering limited resources. What do you think of the team right now?” Seattle Sports’ Stacy Rost asked ESPN MLB insider Buster Olney during Monday’s Bump and Stacy.

Replied Olney, “Yeah, I would agree with that. I think that’s a good assessment.”

The Mariners, like some other teams in MLB, didn’t spend a whole lot due to concerns about the future of regional sports networks. That meant the M’s weren’t very active in signing free agents, especially early on. But after two cost-cutting trades made early in the offseason, Seattle did go out and add some big names both in free agency and in trades to help a lineup that was very inconsistent in 2023.

“For me, when you look at the the Mariners and what they did in the offseason within that context and you look at what the biggest problem was, I think that they actually did OK signing Mitch Garver, trading for Luke Raley,” Olney said. “I think they added thump, which to me was the big question about the team coming into the year, and they still have that great pitching staff.”

How the Seattle Mariners improved this offseason

Just how different could the Mariners be in 2024?

“It remains to be seen because let’s face it, the players that they added, I don’t think any of them you would necessarily think of as being superstar guys, right? It’s not like they went out and added a guy who you could pencil in 40 home runs,” Olney said. “But they did add depth.”

That’s a key thing to note, Olney said, because according to some of the Mariners’ top rivals, that was where they especially fell short in 2023.

“I remember at the end of last year talking with some of the Astros players, some of the Rangers players about the Mariners, and that’s the feedback that I got, that there wasn’t a lot of offensive depth,” Olney said. “And it felt like at times when (Cal) Raleigh and Julio (Rodríguez) weren’t hitting that there wasn’t a lot around them. Well, I think they have a chance now with the guys they added to lengthen that lineup to make them a little bit more dynamic.”

Olney isn’t the only one who thinks that way.

“I talked to (The Dallas Morning News’) Evan Grant, who has covered the division forever, he’s a beat writer covering the Rangers, and I asked him last week who’s gonna win the division. And he said, ‘I think the Mariners are,'” Olney said. “And that reflects I think the view of a lot of people, that they think the Mariners are going to be really good this year.”

Rodríguez is the biggest X-factor for the Mariners as the 23-year-old outfielder is already an established superstar with two top-10 MVP finishes. Olney thinks the group around him is better now.

“The best lineup protection comes from not only guys hitting behind someone like Julio Rodríguez, but also the guys in front of him getting on base more consistently, backing opposing pitchers into corners, creating stress points for the opposing pitchers,” he said. “So I do think the Mariners are gonna have a better lineup top to bottom, and I think that’s going to help him.”

Listen to Bump and Stacy’s full conversation with ESPN’s Buster Olney at this link or in the player near the top of this story.

More on the Mariners

• Seattle Mariners Notebook: The good, the bad and the updates
• Why Mariners’ Julio Rodríguez-Ichiro connection is so valuable
• How did Gilbert’s unique work begin? His private pitching coach explains
• Dipoto breaks down Mariners’ top farm talent, who could debut in ’24
• Morosi: New-look lineup can help Seattle Mariners avoid another slow start

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