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Seattle Mariners 2024 outlook: Is this a team on the cusp of not only the postseason but of greatness?

Seattle Mariners
Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Mariners are a confounding team. After making the postseason for the first time in 20 years in 2022 and taking a scoreless tie with the Houston Astros to 17 innings before losing 1-0 in an elimination game, the M’s failed to reach the postseason again in 2023. They finished 88-74, which isn’t a bad record by any means, and just so happens to be right in line with the 54% of games that team president Jerry Dipoto is aiming for.

Still, there were higher hopes for Seattle last season, and they held their fate in their own hands down the stretch. On September 21, the Mariners were a half-game behind the Houston Astros for the AL West lead, tied with the Texas Rangers. They had two series with Texas and one with Houston left on the schedule, and proceeded to lose the first four games of that ten-game stretch, putting them four back of Texas at that point.

By the time the Mariners put some wins on the board, it was too late. They had missed the postseason by two games.

Expectations still surround this team with a starting rotation that is among the best in baseball, coupled with MVP candidate Julio Rodríguez, Big Dumper behind the dish, and J.P. Crawford sneakily being one of the best shortstops in baseball. The question is whether the Mariners have made enough moves to shuffle the roster around into something that yields playoff baseball in the Greater Northwest.

Seattle Mariners additions and subtractions

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Jerry Dipoto likes to make moves. Lots and lots of moves. One November morning he woke up and decided to trade third baseman Eugenio Suárez to the Arizona Diamondbacks. A couple weeks later it was Jarred Kelenic to the Atlanta Braves. Sometimes there’s a method to the way Dipoto works, and other times it’s just madness. With the loss of Kelenic, Seattle traded for Luke Raley from the Tampa Bay Rays with the hope that he can continue to produce like he did last season.

The Seattle Mariners also lost Teoscar Hernández in free agency to the Los Angeles Dodgers and made another trade, this time with the San Francisco Giants, to bring back Mitch Haniger. In case one Mitch was enough, they signed Garver, Mitch for good measure. Seattle included Robbie Ray, who is not expected to pitch until midseason, in that Haniger trade.

José Caballero was sent to Tampa in the Raley deal, and reliever Justin Topa was included in the trade that brought in Jorge Polanco. They also brought in Luis Urías to play third base, but he’s dealing with a shoulder issue that could see him begin the season on the IL.

All in all, the Mariners made a ton of moves, but the big question is whether or not they’re a better team in a top-heavy AL West. Last season they received 10.7 WAR from players that are no longer with the club, like Hernández (1.8), Suárez (3.2), Kelenic (1.3), Topa (1.1), and Caballero (2.2), while the players they’ve brought in are projected for 9.1 wins above replacement. That’s a drop-off of -1.6 WAR, which is the wrong direction to be headed when you need to make up ground.

Seattle Mariners 2024 outlook

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Credit: Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

FanGraphs has the Mariners projected for an 85-win season, while Baseball Prospectus is a little more precise with an 84.6-77.4 year, so both projections have them with roughly the same record. That’s the good news. Where it gets interesting is where each site places that 85-win season. FG has them as the sixth-best team in all of baseball, but still a bit behind the 91-win Houston Astros. BP has the Seattle Mariners finishing as the eighth-best team in the American League.

No matter which way you slice it, the Mariners should be in the thick of the hunt for October, but with a team on the cusp not only of the postseason but of greatness, you would have liked to have seen the front office make a couple more big moves to really solidify the team’s position.

The pitching staff is going to be really good, if not dominant. The offense has some potential, but they’re banking on Raley not being a flash in the pan, and Haniger to stay healthy for the first time since 2021. The top-end talent on the roster is certainly there, but it’s the depth that’s a little worrisome.

Seattle Mariners player to keep an eye on in 2024

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Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The team’s biggest loss from last season was Suárez, who put up 3.2 wins. Third base is also the biggest question mark for the Seattle Mariners heading into the 2024 season, which makes Luis Urías the guy to keep an eye on this season. After dealing with some shoulder inflammation, he returned to the field last week.

Urías is a career .234 hitter with a .333 on-base while racking up a 99 wRC+. Last season with the Brewers and Red Sox, he hit just .194 with a .337 OBP and an 83 wRC+ in 52 games. He showed the ability to not chase pitches and also walk at a high clip, but those were his only two plus skills last season. He also provided -3 outs above average in the field overall, though he was a +3 defender at third base.

One scenario that Seattle could end up utilizing is to platoon Urías with a left-handed option, say, Josh Rojas, and let the two of them Voltron their way into being a net positive for the club. Even with the down numbers overall, Urías still hit .229 with a .386 OBP and a 105 wRC+ against southpaws last season. Rojas hit .249 with a .305 OBP and an 81 wRC+ against righties. Combined, they could end up producing something fairly similar to the line Suárez is projected for this year with a .227 average, .319 OBP and a 99 wRC+.

The option that Seattle is opting for is set to cost them $3.2 million less. The Mariners will need some improvement from somewhere this year in order to take that last step into postseason contention, and third base is somewhere they at least need to tread water, if not get a little more production. At the very least, Seattle’s strikeout rate should improve a little from the move. The team ranked 29th in K% last season at 25.9%, and Suárez (30.8%) and Hernández (31.1%) were both big contributors there.

Jason Burke covers MLB for Sportsnaut. Follow him on Twitter.

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