WYMAN AND BOB

Morosi: How close the Mariners are to being in top tier of AL

May 24, 2024, 10:59 AM

Seattle Mariners Luke Raley...

Luke Raley of the Seattle Mariners runs the bases against the Yankees on May 22, 2024. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

(Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners just wrapped up back-to-back series on the road against the two of the top teams in the American League – the Baltimore Orioles (30-18) and New York Yankees (35-17).

What should we make of three struggling Mariners additions?

Seattle generally hung with the two contenders from the AL East, going a combined 3-4 over the seven games after dropping two of three to the Orioles, then splitting four games in the Bronx.

What did we learn from this last week of games for the Mariners (27-24), who emerged from the gauntlet with a three-game lead in the AL West intact?

“They played what I believe to be the two best teams in the American League pretty well over the last week,” MLB Network insider Jon Morosi said Thursday during his weekly conversation with Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob. “They split the series in New York, they lost a tough series against Baltimore, maybe they could have won that Sunday game in Baltimore. By and large, I think the last week affirms what I believe to be the case with this team, which is they’re a good team and a cut below the best teams. Good team and they’re a level below the best teams – that’s what I’ve got on the Mariners at this point in time.”

Morosi had one more thing to say at the end of that quote, however.

“Now, if Julio’s going, it’s possibly a different story,” he said.

That does appear to be the difference. Julio Rodríguez, Seattle’s 23-year-old All-Star, is off to a slow start this season. He’s hitting .257 with a .306 on-base percentage and .312 slugging mark for a .618 OPS, and just seven of his 52 hits have gone for extra bases. Those numbers are well off what he’s done for his career since making his MLB debut in 2022 – .276 average, .334 on-base, .468 slugging and .802 OPS.

Considering the Yankees’ offense has Aaron Judge and Juan Soto playing to their superstar capabilities while the Orioles have been led by a red-hot Gunnar Henderson, the performance of the Mariners’ most talented player so far looks to be a big factor in why they seem a level under the AL’s top tier.

There’s a silver lining in that, though.

“The Mariners are three games above .500 and they are in first place in the AL West, even with Julio having a .618 OPS,” Morosi said. “If you had told me at the start of the year that Julio had a .618 OPS around Memorial Day, I would say the Mariners are in trouble – and they’re not in trouble. They’re playing decent baseball. Certainly it’s been a huge help from Luke Raley and Dylan Moore. They’ve had to rely on sort of a merry cast of thousands to get where they’re at, but I actually think the arrow is still pointing up on this team.”

Getting Rodríguez back on track is a big priority, and Mariners manager Scott Servais tried something different Thursday by hitting the center fielder sixth in the order instead of his customary No. 2 spot.

“I am, like I’m sure everybody is in Seattle, a little bit confused at what’s going on with Julio’s offense. I thought by now he would have righted the ship,” Morosi said. “… Scott Servais is trying to find something. Is it a refocus? Is it a different approach? I’m not sure what it is, but the results clearly are confusing. That’s the one thing right now, in my mind, that’s stopping me from saying that this team belongs right there with the Yankees and Orioles. I think they can be there if they’re clicking on all cylinders, but they’re clearly not there right now.”

Listen to the full Wyman and Bob conversation with MLB Network’s Jon Morosi in the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post. Catch Wyman and Bob on Seattle Sports 710 AM, the Seattle Sports app and SeattleSports.com from 2-7 p.m. weekdays.

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