With each passing day, we get closer to the start of the 2023 Major League Baseball season, with Spring Training starting on Feb. 24, ahead of Opening Day on March 30. The Seattle Mariners are fresh off their first playoff appearance since 2001 and are hoping to make another run this year, adding pieces to a roster without losing much value in return.
With Luis Torrens entering free agency, the Mariners’ catcher room has been predictably narrowed down to Cal Raleigh and Tom Murphy, who can hopefully put together an injury-free season after struggling with that lately. Should one of them go down, utilityman Cooper Hummel was acquired by the Mariners in a trade this offseason for Kyle Lewis and is the frontrunner to step in as a replacement.
Ty France, J.P. Crawford and Eugenio Suarez will remain the starters at first base, shortstop and third base, respectively. They are joined at second base by Kolten Wong, who came over from Milwaukee for Jesse Winker and Abraham Toro. Wong has been an almost exactly average hitter for his eight-year career so far, adding a defense that won him two gold gloves at second base. Also returning to the infield is Dylan Moore, who the Mariners recently signed to a three-year extension that ties him to the team through the 2025 season. His positional versatility and unmatched effort more than make up for the sometimes-lackluster batting ability, and he is always a welcome presence on the team. Joining the club is the veteran infielder Tommy La Stella, who has bounced around the league but was an important member of the 2016 Chicago Cubs in their World Series victory.
Julio Rodriguez needs no introduction as the reigning Rookie of the Year and Seattle’s starting center fielder, joined by other familiar faces in Jarred Kelenic and Sam Haggerty. 35-year-old AJ Pollock projects to be the starting left fielder after signing a one-year deal with the team. Pollock is coming off a down year in Chicago after a full decade of above-average contribution with the Dodgers and Diamondbacks, including a World Series win in 2020. The biggest transaction will also likely be starting in the outfield, as the Mariners traded for Teoscar Hernandez from the Toronto Blue Jays. Hernandez has hit 130 home runs in his seven-year career, leading him to two Silver Slugger awards for right field in 2020 and 2021.
The starting rotation will likely mimic last year’s, barring any surprises this spring. Luis Castillo signed a five-year contract after his impressive showing with the team last year. Robbie Ray should take up the mantle of the number two, followed by a pair of young studs in Logan Gilbert and George Kirby. Marco Gonzales again is expected to round out the rotation as the longest-tenured Mariners player on the team.
The bullpen will also remain largely familiar faces. Paul Sewald, Diego Castillo, Andres Munoz, Chris Flexen and Penn Murfee all remained with the team through the winter and are practically locks for the team. Assuming every player mentioned so far is locked into the roster, that would leave two more bullpen arms to join the club. Matt Brash, in all his ups and downs we witnessed throughout last season, seems like a frontrunner for his spot. He should, in theory, be joined by Matt Festa and his strikeout fiesta, looking to don a Mariner uniform for the fourth straight year. Of course, bullpen pitchers are often volatile, so it wouldn’t be too surprising to see any one of these players disappear for whatever reason.
The Mariners didn’t partake in the major signings this winter, which upset quite a few people. But there’s still reason to believe that this team has meaningfully improved upon a roster that was already capable of going deep in the playoffs. Could this finally be the year the Astros are unseated as the division champs? Probably not, but wouldn’t that be fun?