Mariners Exit All-Star Break in Prime Playoff Position

Photo by mandolux is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

The Seattle Mariners have been enjoying a well-deserved break after winning 14 games in a row up to the All-Star break. It isn’t ideal to have your momentum forcibly halted like that, but the team should be very proud of themselves for the work they’ve put in thus far.

While most of the Mariners were resting, two of them had activities to participate in. Rookie superstar Julio Rodriguez and first baseman Ty France were both named to the 2022 American League All-Star team, with the former also making the home run derby. Julio ended up performing admirably in the derby, hitting 81 home runs in total; which is the second-most of all time. He did come up short in the finals to Washington Nationals superstar Juan Soto, but he put his name on the map in a big way. Neither player managed to get on the board during the All-Star game, though the American League did end up beating the National League for the ninth year in a row.

From here, however, the action is only just beginning. The Mariners, currently holding the second wild card spot in the American League, are in prime position to make a push for their first playoff berth since 2001. The offense has been adequate, often scoring just enough to allow their excellent pitching to carry them to victory after victory. It’s legitimately hard to find a point of complaint during a 14-game winning streak, but that might change soon. In the 20 games after the All-Star break, they will play 13 against the Houston Astros and New York Yankees; the best two teams in the American League. It will be the ultimate test coming out of the break and will almost certainly shatter the incredible streaks they’ve put up in the last month.  However, even if they come out of that stretch winning six or seven of those games, they should still be in a great position. The schedule lightens up significantly down the stretch, with the last 20 games of the season being against teams under a 0.500 winning percentage.

The next big mark on the Seattle schedule will be how they handle the trade deadline. Coming up on August 2, the Mariners have a couple of weeks to decide if they want to buy at the trade deadline. There are a couple of premium targets on the market:

·        Frankie Montas and Luis Castillo are the top starting pitchers that will likely be dealt by the deadline. The Mariners recently sent rookie George Kirby down to the minor leagues, citing a desire to limit his workload early into his young career. As a result, the Mariners are lacking a definitive fifth starter in their rotation.

·        Superstar Juan Soto (yes, the home run derby winner) recently declined a 15-year extension with the Nationals, and the rumors are now that the Nats are trying to trade Soto by the deadline. His asking price would be insane, but the Mariners have the capital on paper to make it happen. It’s hard to imagine that Seattle would want to part with those assets, but Soto is an elite player and General Manager Jerry DiPoto is known for his very quick trigger finger when it comes to trades.

·        Second base is seemingly the weakest point of the Seattle lineup, swapping between a struggling Abraham Toro and Adam Frazier, who hasn’t lived up to his expectations. Frazier has been torrid lately, so there’s plenty of reason for Seattle to put their faith in him down the stretch, but veteran second basemen are notably cheaper than other positions so it wouldn’t surprise me if DiPoto picked up a more reliable bat to replace Toro.

In addition to trades, Kyle Lewis and Mitch Haniger will likely return after the break or somewhat soon. Those two provide an immeasurable boost to the lineup and will likely bring more stability that the Mariners will want when they inevitably start losing the occasional game.

It’s shaping up to be an exciting season for Mariner fans, with a lot more season to go. The return from the break will be crucial, so keep a close eye on that first series versus Houston.