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How Does the Mariners Lineup Look After Busy January?

After spending the first two months of the offseason actively trading away assets, fans of the Seattle Mariners wondered when they would begin to add meaningful pieces, if at all. Mariners top brass preached patience to fans as after the start of the new year, they began to make good on their promise to start adding talent.

Since December 24, the Mariners have made these notable moves:

  • Signed Mitch Garver
  • Acquire Luke Raley from Tampa Bay
  • Acquired Mitch Haniger from San Francisco
  • Acquired Jorge Polanco from Minnesota

In a flurry of trades, the team has not only filled out its outfield but has made significant strides to bolster its lineup with Garver and Polanco. There has also been a myriad of minor league signings and less notable trades, but things are looking up for the Mariners heading into Spring Training in a few weeks. How does the lineup look now in the wake of Polanco joining the team?

  1. J.P. Crawford, SS ( 5.1 WAR) Crawford took a large step forward in 2023 when he posted a 134 wRC+ while slugging a career-high 19 home runs and also led the league in walks with 94. The veteran has been a constant in the lineup since 2021 and the team is surely banking on Crawford being able to replicate his 2023 production at the plate. Strikeouts did rise, but he is still a quality contact hitter who has added power to his repertoire. His defense has taken a step back since winning a Gold Glove in 2020, but he remains the best option at shortstop and showed some improvement last season.
  2.  Julio Rodriguez, CF ( 5.4) The star of the Mariners, Rodriguez followed up an incredible rookie campaign with a fourth-place finish in the AL MVP race. In 155 games he swatted 32 home runs, drove in 103 runs, and also smacked 37 doubles. Entering his age-23 season, Rodriguez is already one of the top players in the games in all aspects. He has power, speed (as evidenced by his 37 stolen bases last year), and great defensive attributes. There is a reason he was tabbed in the number two slot by MLB Network in their Top 10 Center Fielders Right Now.
  3. Jorge Polanco, 2B (2.0) One of the top bats on the trading block, the Mariners filled a gaping hole at second base and now have a reliable option to employ in 2024. Polanco dealt with some knee and hamstring troubles early last season but managed 14 homers over 80 games, posting a .255/.335/.454 line through 343 trips to the plate. When healthy Polanco has been as steady as they come thanks to an ability to limit strikeouts and draw walks. His $10.5 million salary seems like a bargain for his caliber of player and he’ll now bring stability to a position that has been a weakness for several years.
  4. Mitch Garver, DH (2.1) In their quest to find bats capable of making contact, the Mariners turned to Garver to fill the DH role for the coming season. As a catcher, Garver has had limited playing time over his career with the Minnesota Twins and the Rangers, but injuries also played a role in that. Still, 2023 was a productive season after he slashed .270/.370/.500 with 19 home runs in 87 games. He brings quality bat-to-ball skills and plenty of pop and some defensive versatility behind the plate and first base, but to justify his contract and make an impact, the Mariners are betting on him being able to play 100+ games next season.
  5. Cal Raleigh, C (3.2) The Big Dumper has been one of the best power hitters on the Mariners the past two seasons. While he isn’t going to hit for a high average, Raleigh has proven to be a bonafide slugger, belting 30 home runs last season. His .456 SLG was second only to Rodriguez last season, giving the Mariners a much-needed offensive threat to slot in the second half of the lineup. While the team has tried to reduce the number of strikeout tendencies, it could be to compensate for Raleigh’s contributions. He is going to strike out a fair share, but his power and stellar work behind the plate is worthwhile to build around.
  6. Ty France, 1B (0.7) After turning in an All-Star first half in 2022, France has struggled since the start of August 2022. Since then, he has a .242/.319/.366 line through 890 plate appearances and finished well below his expected stats for 2023. He managed just 12 home runs in 158 games last season but still turned in a respectable .703 OPS and 99 OPS+. France led the league in hit-by-pitches last season with 34, which could have taken a toll, and his plate discipline as historically been good. If France can rebound in 2024, it’s going to be a big boost for the Mariners.
  7. Luke Raley, LF (2.5) In need of new outfield help, the Mariners went out and got Raley from the Rays. Raley finally got his first extended period in the big leagues last year with the Rays. He played in 118 games in 2023 with a batting line of .249/.333/.490, which translated to a 130 wRC+. Strikeouts were a problem as he did so at a 31.5% clip, but he still managed 19 home runs and walked at a 6.9% clip. He has received positive marks for his outfield defense and a change of scenery after getting squeezed out of a crowded Rays outfield could help him address the shortcomings. A further chance to be a regular everyday starter could do wonders for the 29-year-old.
  8. Mitch Haniger, RF (-0.3) The Mariners brought back a familiar face in a trade with the Giants. Haniger was with the Mariners from 2017 to 2022 before leaving in free agency and signing with San Francisco. During his first stint with the Mariners, he hit 107 home runs in his 530 games during those seasons, slashing .263/.337/.480 for a wRC+ of 124. Injuries did limit him at times, including missing the entire 2020 season, but he was always a force when he was healthy on the field. Injuries hindered him in the first year of the three-year, $43.5 million contract he signed with the Giants. He only played 61 games and hit a meager .209/.266/.365 with six home runs when he was in the lineup. He may be slotted in as the regular right fielder, but he could also benefit from a platoon situation with other outfielders battling for a spot on the bench and in the outfield. Still, a familiar face that had success could help the Mariners in 2024.
  9. Luis Urias/Josh Rojas, 3B (-0.2 /0.8) Initially, it was projected that one of these players would handle second base while the other played third base, but now it appears that they will combine into a platoon at third base in the wake of the Polanco trade. Urias, acquired from Boston in November, had a rough 2023 season. He hasn’t exactly been the best player around during his big-league career but he did show some quality signs during his time with Milwaukee. In his career he has often hit better against left-handed pitching, posting a .796 OPS against lefties. Rojas on the other hand has historically done better against right-handed pitching but has also shown an ability to hit leftes as well. His 20 career home runs off the opposite-handed pitcher do point to benefiting from the platoon, but at the end of the day the Mariners are essentially using two players to make up one player. Their defensive versatility will be helpful, but look for the M’s to ride the hot hand at times

The Mariners are projected to win anywhere between 85-90 games, at least they were early in January. Since then, one could reason that the team is capable of competing for the division title and winning over 90 games. In order to do that, however, they need the acquisitions to not only be productive but to stay healthy. Injuries have been a concern with a number of their acquisitions, but when they are on the field they have been quite effective. If the gamble pays off, the Mariners could return to the postseason and be able to avoid dealing from their surplus of quality starting pitching.

 

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