Seattle Mariners 2018 Season Preview
The Seattle Mariners’ outlook for the 2018 season mirrors that familiar adage of looking at a glass of water, and characterizing it as being half empty or half full.
The optimist would say that the 2018 version of the Mariners roster looks similar to last year’s version, in that there are no glaring weaknesses. The pessimist would say that there are also no outstanding strengths, either.
The Dee Gordon Big Deal
The optimist would say that the arrival of second baseman Dee Gordon, the team’s signature move of the offseason, is a big deal. The pessimist would say that that he was a redundant acquisition, because the Mariners already have a stud second baseman in Robinson Cano. The optimist would say that the Mariners could make up those handful of games they fell short of the second Wild Card in the American League. The pessimist would say that a lot of other teams also got better, so that won’t be any easier than it was last year.
The optimist would tell you that Gordon is a Gold Glove second baseman, with the speed to be a real asset in the batting rotation, and on defense. The pessimist would tell you that Gordon moving to the outfield could be a recipe for disaster, similar to what we saw when the Minnesota Twins tried the same thing with Miguel Sano.
Felix Hernandez in the rotation
The optimist would point to the fact that the Mariners still have Felix Hernandez in the rotation, and that he throws a lethal change up pitch that confounded hitters for much of 2017. But the pessimists would say that Hernandez’s decline is very noticeable, to the point where he might not even be the best pitcher on his team anymore (James Paxton might have overtaken the ace spot in Seattle’s pitching rotation). Hernandez finished 2017 with a 4.36 ERA in his 16 starts, compared to the 3.21 ERA he accumulated in the prior three seasons.
The optimist would say that Hernandez, at this point in his career, could be a nice sidekick to Paxton’s new role as the lead dog in the rotation. The pessimist would tell you to not put too much stock in to Paxton, because while he did have a breakout season in 2016, he struggled with injuries in 2017, and is coming off the highest home run rate of his career.
Cano continues to put up
The optimist would tell you that Cano continues to put up consistently productive numbers as a hitter, and at age 35, he’s showing no signs of slowing down. The pessimist would tell you that Cano can no longer be considered one of the elite hitters in the game, considering he had the third-lowest WAR of his career since 2008 last year, and that age 35 is a time when a lot of players start to see a startling drop-off in play.
Take that next step forward
In summary, the optimist would tell you that Mariners General Manager Jerry Dipoto worked very hard to put together a team that’s ready to take that next step forward. But the pessimist would tell you that “newer” doesn’t always mean “better,” and that while this team has expectations to make it to the playoffs, those expectations could be just as much of an anchor as they could be a propeller.