Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
It is difficult to get excited about the 2014 Seattle Mariners right now. Certainly a great deal can change between now and spring training, but fans have gotten used to disappointment in recent off-seasons.
People talk, rumors circulate, Jack Zduriencik says all the right things and ultimately the Mariners end up with an uninspiring lineup. At least that has been the way things have gone in recent years.
For the moment, let us assume that the Mariners do not make any big moves in the offseason. Matt Kemp stays with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Jacoby Ellsbury goes back to the Boston Red Sox. Shin-Soo Choo signs with a team like the Detroit Tigers. Dexter Fowler stays with the Colorado Rockies. Brian Wilson continues to grow his beard, but not in the Emerald City.
If all the speculation falls by the wayside, the 2014 Seattle Mariners lineup could look something like this:
C: Mike Zunino
1B: Justin Smoak
2B: Nick Franklin
3B: Kyle Seager
SS: Brad Miller
OF: Abraham Almonte
OF: Dustin Ackley
OF: Stefen Romero
DH: Jesus Montero
Bench: Michael Saunders, Raul Ibanez (yes, one more year), Cheap veteran catcher
Exciting, right? Not exactly. As much as this lineup may not inspire hope in the faithful fans, it is a reality that might need to be embraced at some point. All the free agent talk could turn out to be, well, just talk.
There are obviously questions up and down this lineup. In theory, if this young core were to finally “arrive” in 2014, it would be an achievement of affordable franchise development. Unfortunately, hitting has been inconsistent at best and there are some indications that certain players may have already reached their ceiling.
None of these players hit over .265 in 2012. Not good.
When you look at the offensive production of the 2013 Seattle Mariners, there is a simple problem. The team just didn’t get on base. The home runs were there (second in MLB), but the team batting average was 28th and the on-base percentage was 26th.
Translation? This team will succeed if they can figure out how to walk and hit singles, not put balls in the seats.
Feel like being optimistic? Perhaps Stefen Romero and Abraham Almonte will inject some youthful energy into this stagnant lineup. Maybe Jesus Montero regains some of his hitting confidence and lives up to some of the now fading hype. Perhaps Nick Franklin and Mike Zunino have “breakout” seasons.
Unfortunately, this is not a lineup that on paper is going to scare anyone. Success can be contagious, but this franchise has not experienced a great deal of offensive swagger in the last few seasons.
We don’t know what is going to happen being closed doors in the next few weeks. This may be the year where the Mariners lose patience with their young core and start to change the long-term strategy. Plenty of fans are not going to hold their breath and wait for big announcements.
Something has to change. Either this lineup has to experience some sort of hitting epiphany, or there needs to be a serious shakeup. The next month will tell us a lot about the direction of this franchise.