BROCK AND SALK

Why Jeff Passan ‘flirted’ with picking Mariners for World Series

Mar 26, 2024, 11:02 AM

Seattle Mariners 2024 pitching Luis Castillo George Kirby...

Seattle Mariners pitchers Luis Castillo and George Kirby before a 2023 game. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

We’re just days away from opening day, and the Seattle Mariners will look to get off to a good start when they host the Boston Red Sox for a four-game series beginning Thursday to kick off the 2024 season.

Breakdown: What Seattle Mariners bring north this year is very different

The Mariners ended their lengthy postseason drought in 2022 and even won a playoff series in the first round, but they fell short of the playoffs last year despite entering the year with high expectations.

So how will the Mariners do in 2024? ESPN MLB insider Jeff Passan has high hopes for the team this season, as he explained to Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk Tuesday morning.

“I am very bullish on the Mariners in 2024. And I’ll be honest, I flirted with picking them to go to the World Series this year,” Passan said. “I didn’t do it, but I don’t think that it is unrealistic to believe that they have the talent and the ability to win a championship with this team. There are still flaws on this roster, but there are flaws on every roster. And when you have the kind of pitching that they do, particularly the kind of starting pitching that they do, it can take you a really long way.”

That starting pitching has been a strength of the team’s over the last few years, and this year should be no different. In fact, MLB.com ranked the Mariners as the No. 1 starting rotation in baseball entering 2024. But the depth of that rotation is a question mark and is already being tested.

Bryan Woo, who joined the rotation last year as a rookie, will begin the season on the injured list with elbow inflammation. He’s not expected to miss much time, but it does highlight the importance of health for Seattle’s five-man rotation.

Seattle Mariners’ Woo lands on injured list days before season

“That’s what this is all going to come down to, guys. If the starting pitching stays healthy, the starting pitching stays healthy the way that it has in recent seasons, I think that the Mariners are going to be in a fantastic position despite being in an absolute meat grinder of a division in the American League West,” Passan said.

The Texas Rangers won the World Series last year and the Houston Astros once again reached the ALCS. The Mariners finished just two games behind those two teams in the division in 2023, but that was enough of a gap to miss the playoffs outright.

“When you’re in a division with the Houston Astros and the Texas Rangers, every win is going to count,” Passan said, “and I do think all three of them are playoff teams this year. But it is going to be health dependent all the way around. The Astros’ rotation is about as banged up as any out there these days … There’s a lot of issues right now with the Astros. And it’s why I think a good start, it’s not a necessity, but it would be a really nice luxury for the Mariners to start off hot.”

Passan thinks the Mariners are in a position with the core of their roster to where they should have added more this offseason. But even without that being the case, Passan likes what the Mariners have in the lineup entering the 2024 season.

“I think that Julio Rodríguez has as good of a chance as anyone to win the MVP award in the American League this year,” he said. “I think that Cal Raleigh is really going to cement himself as one of the best catchers in the big leagues. I think that J.P. Crawford has the ability to turn around and be a five-win player again like he was last year. And bringing in Jorge Polanco and adding a bat like Mitch Garver and Mitch Haniger 2.0 in Seattle, we’ve got things that to me make this a better team than it was last season.”

Listen to Brock and Salk’s full conversation with Jeff Passan at this link or in the player near the top of this story.

More on the Seattle Mariners

• Torrid all spring, Mariners’ Mitch Haniger adds an exclamation point
• M’s prospect’s hilarious booth visit ‘all-time’ moment for Goldsmith
• Drayer: A look around the diamond as Mariners near opening day
• Drayer: Where Mariners stand as they enter final days of spring
• GM Hollander details which Seattle Mariners have stood out this spring

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