SEATTLE — The Seattle Mariners finished last season's pandemic shortened schedule at 27-33, nine games behind the AL West champion Oakland Athletics.
In 2021, they will look to contend in a new look division with a mix of familiar faces and rising stars.
Over the course of the 2020 offseason, the Mariners lost a few veterans in Dee Strange-Gordon, Yoshihisa Hirano, Carl Edwards Jr. and Mallex Smith, but they made some moves to improve areas of need on the roster.
The Mariners bullpen finished the 2020 season with a horrendous 5.92 ERA. General Manager Jerry Dipoto addressed this by trading for reliever Rafael Montero from the Texas Rangers and signing former Angels reliever Keynan Middleton to compete for the closer job. Arguably, the biggest name Dipoto acquired this off-season is former Blue Jays closer Ken Giles, who will not pitch in 2021 as he recovers from Tommy John surgery.
Dipoto also brought back a familiar face to Mariners fans, James Paxton, to stabilize a very young rotation, which is led by former Gonzaga standout Marco Gonzales. The Mariners will likely turn to a six-man rotation this season to protect their young arms over the course of 162 games. The Mariners rotation also figures to include Yusei Kikuchi, Justus Sheffield, newcomer Chris Flexen and either Justin Dunn or Nick Margevicius.
On the position player side, the Mariners get their star right fielder back in Mitch Haniger, who missed last season recovering from injury. He will share the outfield with reigning AL Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis, and Jake Fraley. However, the Mariners have the number four and number five prospects in all of baseball, according to MLB.com. Both Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez will make it to the big leagues at some point over the course of the 2021 season. They are waiting in the wings to claim an outfield spot and both were invited to big league camp for spring training.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the spring has been the play of the No. 100 prospect in all of baseball Taylor Trammell, who has performed very well this spring and may have played his way onto the opening day roster.
The infield will look similar to the end of last season with Kyle Seager and Evan White manning the corners, the double play tandem of JP Crawford and Dylan Moore up the middle and Tom Murphy behind the plate. Ty France, acquired in the Austin Nola trade with the San Diego Padres last season, figures to be the designated hitter.
The AL West looks different this year without the likes of George Springer, Marcus Semien and Andrelton Simmons, but the Mariners will still have their work cut out for them to challenge the Athletics and Astros at the top of the division.