It has been a long time coming, and I mean a long time coming, but the Seattle Mariners are finally looking for their first playoff appearance since 2001. The infamous playoff drought turns old enough to drink this year, and there are thousands of young Mariner fans who have never seen their team in the playoffs. It’s the longest drought across all four major American sports. The second-longest playoff drought in baseball belongs to the Philadelphia Phillies, and their last appearance was 10 years later in 2011. Coincidentally enough, the Phillies are also looking to break their drought this year.
With a hold on the American League Wild Card, the Mariners are in the midst of 20 straight games against teams with losing records. Their playoff spot is all but solidified, though a massive collapse might still be enough to kick them out of it. With that said, it might finally be time to laugh about the most recent rebuild that led us to contention this year.
The Mariners made the decision to enter their rebuild after the 2018 season, as their aging roster likely was going to regress after winning 89 games. Robinson Cano found himself suspended for steroids and Nelson Cruz was 37 years old. The three years to follow were headlined by multiple blockbuster trades that landed the Mariners some of the best talent they have ever had. Star closer Edwin Diaz went to the New York Mets with Cano in a deal that brought Jarred Kelenic to Seattle in the 2018 offseason.
In 2020, the Mariners made another deal with the San Diego Padres, who were looking to snap a 13-year playoff drought. Seattle sent over breakout catcher Austin Nola, as well as two relief pitchers in Dan Altavilla and Austin Adams. Meanwhile, the Mariners received Andres Munoz, Taylor Trammell, Ty France and Luis Torrens. Three of the four are on the big league roster right now:
- Munoz is a fireball relief pitcher who can hit 102 miles per hour on his fastball.
- France is the Mariners’ all-star first baseman.
- Torrens has largely been the backup catcher to Tom Murphy and Cal Raleigh.
- Trammell is an outfielder who was just sent back to Triple-A to hopefully continue to develop.
Off the back of those two trades, the Mariners added talent over the course of 2022, featuring the 2021 AL Cy Young winner Robbie Ray, outfielder Jesse Winker, third baseman Eugenio Suarez, second baseman Adam Frazier and eventually All-Star pitcher Luis Castillo. Suarez broke out in a huge way, hitting 30 home runs while playing elite defense. Castillo and Ray have been anchors for the rotation. Winker has been less impressive, but has shown his heart both on and off the field.
These trades and acquisitions don’t even touch on the biggest story: Julio Rodriguez. Julio has been the frontrunner for AL Rookie of the Year since May, already securing himself a lucrative 8-14 year contract. His elite defense, speed and plate discipline have allowed him to become just the third rookie ever to post a 25-home-run, 25-stolen-base season. He is the truest definition of a five-tool player: hitting ability, power, running, fielding and throwing. He is a superstar and barring catastrophe, will be one of the faces of the MLB for the next decade.
Mariner fans have not quite allowed themselves to enjoy the seemingly inevitable postseason berth, not while they have even the slightest chance of missing the playoffs. As of Sept. 21, they are tied for the second of three Wild Card spots, though the Baltimore Orioles are still 4.5 games away from that threshold. With every passing day, Mariner baseball in October becomes that much closer to a reality.