Will MLB trade market play into what Mariners need to fix?

May 13, 2024, 9:36 AM

Seattle Mariners Mitch Garver...

Mitch Garver of the Seattle Mariners hits a walk-off home run against Atlanta on April 29, 2024. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners have an obvious strength, and they have an obvious weakness.

There’s no denying that the M’s starting rotation is about as good as it gets in Major League Baseball right now. But at the same time, the Mariners’ offense has largely struggled, mostly due to an issue with strikeouts that continues to be a major concern even though the M’s made offseason moves that were supposed to help them make more contact.

Entering Monday, Seattle (22-19) owns a half-game lead over Texas (22-20) for first place in the American League West, led by a pitching staff that ranks sixth in MLB in ERA (3.38) and first in both WHIP (1.07) and opponent batting average (.212). The Mariners’ record would likely be better, however, if not for an offense that is 24th in runs scored (156), 25th in batting average (.223) and OPS (.668), and has a commanding lead for the most strikeouts in baseball (424, compared to 396 by the next team, Boston).

Mariners Takeaways: Julio, offense show encouraging signs

The strength of Seattle’s pitching staff still gives the Mariners a unique opportunity as long as the offense can get on track, as MLB insider Scott Braun, a host and the executive producer of the Foul Territory podcast and TV show, told Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy last week.

“I think they have had World Series-winning pitching for at least the last year or two – this season for sure. This pitching staff is the best in baseball,” Braun said. “They have the best starting staff – I don’t even know if it’s close if you go one through five or six. So this is the best time in franchise history to put together a World Series title.”

But for that to happen, Braun said Seattle’s lineup needs to get better.

“I don’t think it’s good enough to be a World Series-winning offense,” he said. “… They had to kind of reshuffle (in the offseason) and maybe add a little bit more contact to a lineup that actually has not produced that – it’s been the biggest swing-and-miss lineup in baseball. … Not good enough. Can it get better? Yeah.”

More: Rost – Mariners can’t waste World Series-caliber pitching

Here’s where there’s good news.

“Usually, it’s actually easier to acquire impact bats at the trade deadline than it is to acquire pitching,” Braun said.

And if you’re the Mariners, Braun said “you don’t have to worry about (acquiring) the toughest asset in baseball,” which is starting pitching.

The Seattle Mariners who aren’t getting the credit they deserve

The Mariners’ lineup has work to do regardless of if they make additions before the July 30 MLB trade deadline, though.

“They can’t lead the league in strikeouts after last year’s team was close in that category and they felt like they fixed that problem with additions like Jorge Polanco, subtractions like Eugenio Suárez,” Braun said. “… I think it’s been a top-heavy offense. Last year it was essentially three guys – Julio Rodríguez, Cal Raleigh and J.P. Crawford – two of which I think would be better off hitting lower in the lineup. Cal and J.P., they’re great, but I don’t want them to be my marquee, premier bats.”

The Julio effect

What about Rodríguez? He’s off to a slow start with just two home runs so far, and Braun thinks the state of the lineup may be playing into that even though he was confident Rodríguez will get going again at the plate (and there were positive signs there this weekend).

“I’m not worried about Julio. He started slow like this last year, (then) he was MVP-level for the last four-ish months of the season,” Braun said. “… I feel like he’s trying to do too much with the combination of getting the best pitch sequencing from the opposing starters, because they have hitters meetings every day and they say, ‘Who are we circling?’ It’s usually one or two batters, right? They circle Julio every single night and they say, ‘Someone else will do the damage against us. This is not the guy that’s going to beat us.’ I just don’t feel like he has enough help, and that’s a real thing.”

Watch: Mariners’ Julio Rodríguez blasts second home run of season

Listen to the full Bump and Stacy conversation with Foul Territory’s Scott Braun in the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post. Catch Bump and Stacy live from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays on Seattle Sports.

More on the Seattle Mariners

Mariners’ Woo expected to make next start after early exit
Mariners Notebook: Miller has flipped the script on lefties
Mariners Injury Update: Matt Brash has Tommy John surgery
Former GM Bowden: M’s need to add bats, will have to make ‘painful’ trade
Seattle Mariners Farm System Report: Seven early-season standouts

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Will MLB trade market play into what Mariners need to fix?