This is not the 25-man roster that the Seattle Mariners will end the regular season with, namely because nobody ends the regular season with a 25-man roster. September call-ups happen, and then playoffs, maybe, and a playoff roster isn’t any old 25-man roster. If and when the Mariners set a playoff roster there will or should be a parade. The news today is that the Mariners have made their season-opening roster official, and while there are a few surprises, there aren’t really any surprises that weren’t widely known a few days ago. What follows is that roster. Following that, you likely feel a little subdued excitement.
Two of those names pop out at you because they belong to a couple of the very best baseball players in the universe. The M’s may well have the best pitcher alive, and they can probably make that same claim at second base too. The third baseman is awesome, and so’s the shortstop, probably. Three rotation spots go to the youth of today, and the bullpen features a pair of dominant closers to go with a few fireballing setup guys. There’s youth and upside behind the plate and in the outfield, and even on the bench, somehow. Looking at this roster, it’s easy to get excited.
But it’s also easy to temper that excitement. All that youth could bust as easily as it could excel, and there’s no telling how many of these guys will go all Jesus Montero before season’s end. Morrison and Smoak in particular are just about out of time to prove that they’re not the total garbage they’ve appeared to be thus far in their careers, but they’re both expected to play prominent roles on this team. The once-projected starting right fielder is now the starting DH and remains a ticking injury time bomb. The starting catcher should be in AAA and the fourth starter should be in AA. There’s a second baseman playing left and the utility guy is a bad defender at every single position. Upside all over the place, sure. But as long as we’re being honest, there’s downside everywhere, too.
This roster could win 95 games, this roster could lose 95 games. You could play the upside/downside game with every roster in the bigs, except probably Houston, and reasonably conclude that yeah, the range of possible wins is insanely huge. Look at the 2012 and 2013 Red Sox, for one. The 2010 and 2011 Diamondbacks, for another. The 2010 M’s were supposed to make the leap to contention, but instead they flatlined. There’s no way to look at this roster and know a damn thing about how the season’s going to go. All we have are educated guesses, and our best guess right now is that the team will be okay. Not great, and probably not awful. Just okay.
Notably absent from this roster are Hisashi Iwakuma, Taijuan Walker, Stephen Pryor, and Nick Franklin. Those first three are all on the DL, though Walker and Pryor have already been sent off on their minor league rehab assignments. Iwakuma is throwing again, and it’s not inconceivable that all three of them will be back in the majors by May 1st. Unlikely, but certainly possible. Franklin, on the other hand, is in AAA, kinda-sorta learning to play right field and waiting for someone to get hurt. Of course, he’s still a valuable trade piece, but his shine will start disappearing quickly unless he plays well. Of course, the team’s going to want to keep running him out there at short to maintain his value to the Mets and other such squads, but they’re going to want him in right for their own purposes. This is a situation to watch going forward.
Who knows how many of these players will be around in September. Who even knows who’ll be here in June, really. Baseball is fluid and rosters are ever-changing. But barring something weird and unforseen, this is the roster that will open the season on Monday. Because the Mariners play regular season baseball on Monday, which is tomorrow. Baseball is back tomorrow. Baseball! Tomorrow! Wow!!!