How could first-place Mariners address their need for offense?

May 31, 2024, 10:22 AM

Seattle Mariners J.P. Crawford...

J.P. Crawford of the Seattle Mariners reacts during a May 30, 2024 game. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

This week’s most recent ESPN MLB power rankings perfectly summed up the Seattle Mariners’ start to the season in a way that couldn’t help but make me laugh.

“The Mariners are in first place in the AL West even though they really aren’t that great at anything.”

Seattle Mariners Takeaways: Bullpen rebounds, offense stays cool

That’s what ESPN’s Bradford Doolittle said about positional rankings, where not a single player ranks in the top 10 of bWAR. Consider that Seattle as a team is 25th in slugging (.361), 28th in OPS (656) – right alongside the Marlins and White Sox, the two worst teams record-wise in baseball right now – are second-to-last in runs scored (211) and lead the league in strikeouts.

So yeah, when you consider they’re 31-27 and three games up in the AL West entering Friday, you can’t help but laugh… a chaotic, confused, worried type of laugh. Because ultimately, this is a team that should be in the playoffs. Their fans deserve it. And while this brand of baseball – one spearheaded by excellent pitching – has gotten them to first place in a weak division, it hardly guarantees they’ll stay there. In fact, the only guarantee at this rate is heart health concerns for viewers.

If you’re looking for a silver lining, here’s the good news: The Mariners are in first place without Julio Rodríguez playing his best baseball. Their starting rotation is healthy, and the bullpen has strung together solid outings despite injuries. They’ve had one of the league’s toughest schedules, and they just took three of four from the Houston Astros (25-32).

I don’t want to take away from that. But fans need more than a silver lining, and they can hold two opinions simultaneously: it’s great to be in first place, but this offense isn’t good enough to get to a World Series. Frankly, it’s not good enough to support this pitching staff over a season, and it hardly makes clinching the division seem like a sure outcome.

Seattle might have the pitching (and just enough luck so far) to get to a World Series, but its mostly painful offense is going to look like a liability until it improves, and improvement will need to come from the outside.

So… what’s that mean?

“I don’t think we can just sit back on our hands and think someone’s going to win this division with 83 or 84 wins,” Mariners general manager Justin Hollander told us Thursday on Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy.

Hollander said the club isn’t going to look at an artificial date as a deadline to acquire; that could happen in early or late July.

“We anticipate this team being a team that tells us we need to add at the deadline. Whether that’s July 30 or July 15… when the opportunities present themselves, I think we need to be really open-minded to adding to this group and making sure that we give them every chance to win the division, go deep in the playoffs, and achieve the goals that we have.”

Where GM Hollander sees improvement coming for first-place Mariners

A few names to keep an eye on

It feels silly to count the Tampa Bay Rays (28-29) out this early, but they’re on the outside looking in of the playoffs at the close of May (always subject to change) in a division that houses the 35-19 Orioles and a drastically improved 39-19 Yankees team (with two of the top five leaders in OPS right now). Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena has been rumored as a trade target before. He’s got a great track record… but isn’t boasting excellent stats this year (.571 OPS). It may not cost Seattle what it would have in years’ past, but would they be getting the version of Arozarena that can best help?

Also struggling in a competitive AL East are the Toronto Blue Jays (26-29), who have a few major stars who could be on the trade block. Vladimir Guerrero Jr. is scheduled to reach free agency next offseason. Is it likely? No. Fun? Sure. Expensive? Yes.

White Sox outfielder Luis Robert is the best target from the worst team in the league (who will undoubtedly be sellers) and he has club options remaining, but Eloy Jiménez could be more likely. Both are currently on the injured list, though.

More on the Seattle Mariners

Video: Bob’s Baseball Breakdown – Should Mariners make moves now?
J.P. Crawford wows with one of this year’s best web gems
How an adjustment helped George Kirby stifle Astros
Will Mariners’ AL West rivals turn it around? Morosi weighs in
Ranked: Seattle Mariners’ five most deserving All-Star candidates

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How could first-place Mariners address their need for offense?