Why the Mariners’ roster is talented enough to snap playoff drought

Jan 18, 2018, 1:15 PM | Updated: 2:17 pm
Mike Zunino and Mitch Haniger both had breakout seasons for the Mariners in 2017. (AP)...
Mike Zunino and Mitch Haniger both had breakout seasons for the Mariners in 2017. (AP)

The Seattle Mariners’ offseason has lacked the noteworthy additions of previous years, with a trade for Dee Gordon serving as by and far the biggest move by general manager Jerry Dipoto since the end of the 2017 season.

While that has tempered hope of the Mariners snapping the longest playoff drought in all of the four major sports, MLB Network host Greg Amsinger pointed out to 710 ESPN Seattle’s Bob, Groz and Tom that the team looks better than it did at the start of last year when the M’s were considered postseason contenders.

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“I would be completely disappointed, like I was last year, if the Seattle Mariners are not one of those wild card teams,” Amsinger said. “Yes, this is a playoff team in my opinion. They invested the money in it.”

The 2017 Mariners were plagued by injuries, a big factor in why they never found a sustained period of success and fell out of the playoff race in the final month. But at the same time, an unassuming Minnesota Twins team was able to grab the American League’s second wild card berth – something Amsinger pointed to as a reason Mariners fans can actually feel optimistic about the current roster, even as Seattle sits in the same division as defending World Series champion Houston.

“Do I like this 2018 (Mariners) roster as it stands right now, without any other additions, more than (the 2017) Minnesota Twins? … The answer is yes, by a mile. Give me the Mariners’ roster,” Amsinger said. “That’s the game. The game isn’t ‘Can they hang with the Houston Astros?’ Forget it. Throw the white flag up, you’re not going to win the division. … But as it stands right now, why can’t the Seattle Mariners be that Minnesota Twins of 2018? Why can’t they? They’ve got better talent.”

Amsinger especially likes the Mariners’ lineup, which will feature Gordon leading off ahead of Jean Segura, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager, new first baseman Ryon Healy and 2017 breakout players Mike Zunino, Mitch Haniger and Ben Gamel.

That being said, Amsinger does think the Mariners should make one more key addition either in the outfield or starting rotation. He’s just not sure they would be able to.

“I just want another name to go with the guys they got. Maybe Ben Gamel’s legit, maybe Mitch Haniger’s gonna take the next step up, but those are question marks, and the biggest is can Dee Gordon play that position out there (center field),” Amsinger said. “It’s just unfortunate because the infield is so set, and with Zunino becoming a force offensively last year, you love it. But then you look at the outfield and you’re like ‘I don’t know.’ Then you look at the rotation you’re like, ‘I’d love just one more guy.’ But I don’t know if they’ve got enough money to pull that off.”

In Amsinger’s view, the Mariners are employing a win-now mentality based on the fact that veterans like Cano, Cruz and Felix Hernandez are under high-paying contracts, making 2018 a very important year for the franchise. And considering that, he found the gamble Dipoto took by trading for a Gold Glove-winning second baseman in Gordon to play center field, a position he has never played, a bit perplexing.

“The Dee Gordon answer in center field was pretty much a cost-efficient way of getting a guy that they think can profile athletically to play that position,” he said. “… This is a team that, apparently, is ready to win now. You don’t have a player like Robinson Cano who’s making what he’s making or Felix Hernandez making what he’s making – even Mike Leake’s contract is gigantic. You don’t have guys on a roster like that (on a team) that is rebuilding. This is a team ready to win now and your starting pitching staff is looking out to center field at a guy that’s never played the position before. It made no sense to me, I think it’s a stretch, especially when you consider all the guys who are out there on the market.”

Listen: Mariners Hot Stove Show, Jan. 17

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