3 bold predictions for AL West-leading Mariners: Trades, All-Stars and more

Jun 17, 2024, 12:57 PM | Updated: 2:54 pm

Seattle Mariners Julio Rodríguez J.P. Crawford...

The Seattle Mariners' Julio Rodríguez and J.P. Crawford celebrate a May 29, 2024 win over Houston. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners are building a sizable lead in the American League West, and it’s starting look like it’s going to be a special summer in the Emerald City.

ESPN’s Schoenfield on where Mariners sit: ‘The momentum is there’

With the M’s riding high after sweeping aside the second-place Texas Rangers over the weekend, they could start to focus on doing a few things here and there to really make some noise in the American League. What could help that happen? If any of these three bold predictions for the next month and a half of M’s baseball become true.

1. Julio Rodríguez will be one of four Seattle Mariners All-Stars.

Really going out on a limb here to start, huh? I know, Rodríguez was an All-Star in each of his first two MLB seasons, and he’s one of the more recognizable faces in the game. But there’s no arguing that he hasn’t been playing to the level of an All-Star thus far in 2024, and there’s not much time between now and the Midsummer Classic rosters being announced early next month.

Entering Tuesday, Rodríguez owns a .268/.319/.361 slash line for a .680 OPS, and he’s currently sitting at just 13 extra-base hits (seven home runs, six doubles) in 74 games. Meanwhile, the All-Star Game in Texas is less than a month away. Is that enough time for Rodríguez to play his way into a third straight trip?

Well, this is still Julio Rodríguez we’re talking about.

At this point in the season, a two-week hot streak (or more) can drastically improve a batting line. And we know he’s capable of something like that. Remember when he caught fire last summer? In a 14-game stretch from Aug. 14 to Sept. 2, Rodríguez went 34 for 66 (.515) with 13 extra-base hits, raising his slash from .255/.319/.435 (.754 OPS) to .287/.346/.485 (.831). And while that was a pretty extreme streak, it was also with two more months of the season logged into his stats than now, showing just how impactful a stretch of dominant play can be on a hitter’s numbers.

As for now, Rodríguez seems to be hinting at another breakout. In his last 21 games, he has a .309/.371/.469 slash for an .840 OPS with four homers and a double.

And while his power numbers have lacked this year, he’s still doing three other things that provide a lot of value. First, he’s getting base hits, with his .268 average and 78 total hits both ranking fourth among American League outfielders. Second, speed doesn’t slump, and his 16 stolen bases (on 20 attempts) is second among AL outfielders. And third, defense is also slump-proof, and his four outs above average (per Statcast) is third among center fielders in the AL.

By the way, only six AL outfielders currently have an OPS over .800, so it’s not like the competition is all that fierce for Rodríguez to get into the ASG picture.

As for the three other Mariners All-Stars that will go to Texas? I think it’s time starter Logan Gilbert (2.93 ERA, 0.92 WHIP) and closer Andrés Muñoz (1.55 ERA, 0.97 WHIP) finally get well-deserved All-Star nods, and either George Kirby (3.54 ERA, 1.01 WHIP, 9.33 strikeouts per walk ratio) or Bryce Miller (3.48 ERA, 0.98 WHIP) will do enough to join them.

2. Fans are going to stop paying attention to AL West rivals.

What does this mean? That the Mariners will keep pulling away from the scuffling Rangers and Astros, so the concern will start becoming more about playoff positioning with the best teams in the AL Central and AL East.

I know that nobody wants to count out Texas, the defending World Series champ, or Houston, which has won all but one AL West title since 2017. It makes total sense. The Mariners have made the playoffs just once since 2002, so counting chickens is taboo around these parts. But this has as much to do with the warts those two rivals have as anything else.

Texas has a boom-or-bust roster built on veteran stars with checkered injury histories and a host of talented young players that haven’t proven much yet at the big league level. Obviously last season the Rangers went boom, starting off hot but still needing to sneak into the playoffs in the final days of the season, then putting it all together in October. But this season has been the other side of that coin, and who’s to say the expected returns of names like Max Scherzer, Jacob deGrom, Tyler Mahle and Josh Jung won’t be accompanied by injuries to other key players?

As for the Astros, it’s understandable to think they’ll make another run, but they have serious injury issues themselves, particularly with their pitching staff. And there also seems to be a lack of the aura Houston had under previous managers A.J. Hinch and Dusty Baker, who both led the Astros to a World Series title. This is the first year with Joe Espada as manager, and while he has been with the team as a coach since 2018, he’s never been a manager at any level. You know what they say about how you don’t want to be the guy after “the” guy? Well, Espada is basically the guy after two managers who could be considered “the” guy.

If Texas and Houston keep stumbling, it could lead to the Mariners gaining more confidence in themselves, solidifying their team identity, and then setting their sights on teams ahead of them in the AL instead of looking behind them in the division.

3. Seattle’s big trade will either include a reunion or some local flavor.

All signs seem to be pointing to the Mariners making a big move before the July 30 MLB trade deadline, so the question is less “will they?” and more “who will they get?”

For that, keep your eye on the National League West. Both the San Francisco Giants and defending NL champion Arizona Diamondbacks are underachieving with identical 35-37 records, yet they’re still fighting in a crowded wild card race where a team under .500 (the 37-38 San Diego Padres) currently holds a playoff spot. If things go south for either Arizona or San Francisco, they could choose to sell and try again next year. Or they could even do something similar to what the M’s did at last year’s trade deadline, turning Paul Sewald’s closing ability into three players who have been on Seattle’s big league roster this year.

Oh, and Sewald was brought up for a reason. He’s still with Arizona, and it sure would make a lot of sense for the Mariners to dip into their prospect pool to bring him back to Seattle as a much-needed additional arm for high-leverage situations. While the M’s are at it, why not also grab slugging first baseman Christian Walker (16 home runs, .820 OPS), who is set to be a free agent after this season?

That’s a pair of veteran rentals with postseason experience worth digging into the farm system to push yourself over the top.

If I was to guess, however, the Giants are probably the more likely of the two to fall out of the race. If they do, they have some local products who could help in Seattle. Second-year reliever Ryan Walker could be an interesting piece for Seattle. A WSU alum and native of Arlington, Wash., Walker paces MLB with 37 appearances this season while pitching to the tune of a 2.43 ERA and 0.946 WHIP. Just watch his funky, across-body delivery and tell me it wouldn’t fit perfectly in Seattle’s bullpen.

Taking this down the road a bit further, Walker could be joined in a trade to the Mariners by outfielder Michael Conforto, the former Redmond High School and Oregon State star. Or perhaps the M’s would be more interested in one of the Giants’ other lefty bats like LaMonte Wade Jr. (.896 OPS in a part-time role) or Mike Yastrzemski? Surely one of them would like to pull some stretch-run homers into the right field seats at T-Mobile Park.

Seattle Mariners this week

Find radio coverage of all Mariners games on Seattle Sports 710 AM, the Seattle Sports app and

Tuesday: M’s at Cleveland Guardians, 3:40 p.m. (pregame 2 p.m.)
Wednesday: M’s at Guardians, 3:40 p.m. (pregame 2 p.m.)
Thursday: M’s at Guardians, 10:10 a.m. (pregame 9 a.m.)
Friday: M’s at Miami Marlins, 4:10 p.m. (pregame 3 p.m.)
Saturday: M’s at Marlins, 1:10 p.m. (pregame noon)
Sunday: M’s at Marlins, 10:40 a.m. (pregame 10:30 a.m.)

Click here for details on how to stream Mariners radio broadcasts from Seattle Sports.

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3 bold predictions for AL West-leading Mariners: Trades, All-Stars and more