The addition of Jesus Montero has a lot of people thinking positive thoughts about the top of the Mariners line up this coming season. Having Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero and (healthy) Justin Smoak in the middle is actually exciting. A reinvigorated Ichiro Suzuki at the very top would be stellar as well as would a back-to-2009 strengthened Franklin Gutierrez. A Casper Wells and Mike Carp platoon in left field would be fun too if their 2011s continue. And, hell, why not have Montero as the primary catcher and rope in Prince Fielder to DH? Imagine that batting order were things to break right. Instead of worst in baseball, that could be legitimately threatening!
That's the optimism for 2012 and that's great. I don't like writing pessimistic posts. Doing so could have use if there was a means of inspiring people to focus on something and change course like with yesterday's quite effective SOPA awareness campaign, but when it comes to the Mariners and baseball, we are mostly all collectively passive onlookers. For instance, I don't think a fan effort to have the team spend more money on payroll would accomplish anything. Lacking a potential positive outcome makes me want to avoid negative topics. Since baseball is an entertaining diversion, I prefer to not dwell on depressing* characteristics of the team unless there's a way to poke fun at them or perhaps if I find them noteworthy in some way.
*Note, only depressing if you care way too much.
But my thoughts today turned to the pessimistic. Looking at the Mariners current roster and minor league starters, it struck me how little MLB-quality depth there is on the hitting side. Specifically, I was examining backup starters in case of a major injury at some positions and I got that "uh oh" feeling when I began outlining it. Taking Montero, Smoak, Ackley, Brendan Ryan, Kyle Seager, Wells, Gutierrez, Ichiro and Carp as the nominal starters, what players are around to step up in case of a prolonged absence? There's Miguel Olivo and John Jaso at catcher. That's legitimate insurance there. Outside that position though it's (pause) yeah. Luis Rodriguez and Munenori Kawasaki are the middle infielders. Chone Figgins is remarkably still on this team and Alex Liddi might also be there at third base. There's a lagan of outfielders in Carlos Peguero, Michael Saunders, Darren Ford and Trayvon Robinson, but counting on them is troubling.
No doubt that there are better prospects on the way. The Mariners in A and AA-ball hold some promise and many of the regulars on the Major League team are quite young so come 2013, the depth chart should probably be far improved. And no doubt that 2012 is probably not the Mariners' year, solid bench or not. But if the team craters again this season though, I imagine that the bench having to shoulder too much of a burden will play a role.