We have to look at where they left off to see how far they need to go for this coming season. It is not as simple as they were a 90 win team though. We need to understand what they should have produced. By doing this, we get a “true” indication of this team, then we can gauge how far they have to climb in 2022. It is true SEA won 90 games in 2021 and finished just 5 games behind HOU for the top spot in the AL West. However, both Pythagorean and BaseRuns standings indicate they were the most “lucky” team in MLB and it is not even close. They should have only won 76 games according to Pythagorean which is 14 less than their actual, and BaseRuns suggest they should have won 74 games or 16 games less. This really indicates this team is much further behind. In fact, they would have finished behind the banged-up Angels for 3rd place in the BaseRuns standings.
As of today, SEA projects at 80 wins. This would be a 10 game fall from last season. However, I think this to be an accurate assessment. The Mariners produced -72.9 wRAA (weighted runs above average) and 93 wRC+ (weighted runs created plus) last year. Only TEX was worse at wRAA (-113.9) and it means they were 7% worse than an average offense. It should be obvious this team needs to hit better. They finished last in the AL with a .226 batting average and only DET was worse in strikeouts! Their needs are at 3B, OF, DH for the offense. They need to improve their bullpen and hope their starting pitching can be solid.
SEA addressed the 3B and OF needs in move trade. They were able to get OF Jesse Winker and 3B Eugenio Suarez from CIN. Winker is an ALL-STAR level player. He instantly becomes their best hitter. Carryovers Mitch Haniger and Ty France will be the other batters with OFF WAR projections in double digits. It is good to have three but the drop-off to the rest is dramatic. OF Jared Kelenic is their next best OFF WAR projection at 2.3! Now it is not all bad news. These guys will put a very solid defensive team on the field. They also do have a start prospect in OF Julio Rodriguez. He is MLB’s #4 ranked prospect. He finished in AA last year and is slated to make it to the big leagues in the second half of this season. This team now has many solid to average starters as regular players but is lacking in the top-end performers. Hopefully, Winker and Rodriguez will be those types of guys!
The pitching staff will now have a potential ACE-type pitcher in Robbie Ray. He projects in a range from solid to above average. Unfortunately, aces are better than that. However, he fits the bill as their #1 which will slot the others in better spots. Logan Gilbert should continue to develop, but reliance on Marco Gonzales and Chris Flexen will lead to letdowns. These are both soft tosser types, where Flexen fresh off the KBO outperformed his “stuff”. Regression should be expected there. Gonzales just could not get outs. His FIP and xFIP were over 5.00. He allowed 29 HRs. The bullpen has 3 guys who can be relied on, but they have no real closer. Diego Castillo and Paul Sewald project as their best relief pitchers. This pen will need to deepen. I also expect it will be used a lot. Their starting staff will not go deep into games.
All in all, this is not a bad team but expectations need to be set properly. SEA finished last year chasing a playoff birth but was likely 2 years away. This year they have made good additions and likely are still one year away from being a contender. Their issue will be the Angels. As that team will be better this year too. They will need starting pitching over the next couple of seasons and need Winker and Rodriguez to carry the offense. This team is more of a .500 team for 2022 than a 90 win team of 2021 yet they are better!