Spring Training is less than two days through and already people are slamming the panic button. Sure, Hisashi Iwakuma is out for 4-6 weeks and he could be out for longer than that given the history of guys who have had these kinds of injuries. Sure, Taijuan Walker has shoulder soreness and could go all Danny Hultzen on the Mariners. Franklin Gutierrez is out for the season. I know that given the Mariners' history of disappointments, everyone rushes to panic even when the circumstances aren't that bad. Let's just take these situations as they we know them at face value.
Iwakuma is out for 4-6 weeks, and even if he takes the long route and isn't back for 6 weeks, he would resume throwing on March 26th. He'd miss a few starts, sure. But if what the M's are saying is true, then he won't miss a number of starts that would significantly impact the win total of the 2014 Seattle Mariners. Maybe he makes 30 starts instead of 33. Those three starts would go to a player who wasn't projected to be in the rotation anyway, the "sixth" starter if you will. Probably someone like Erasmo Ramirez, Scott Baker, or maybe even Blake Beavan. Once again, even if you take the worst of these three starters and Blake Beavan makes three starts to replace Iwakuma, Blake Beavan isn't significantly bad enough that those three starts would move the win needle back enough to impact the season as a whole. This is not a season-destroying injury if you take what the Mariners are saying for truth.
Taijuan Walker has shoulder soreness and is "still playing catch" regularly. He is only a "few days behind" according to Lloyd McClendon. If we take this at face value, it means just about nothing. He's fine. He'll be working out just like everyone else in a few days and nobody will remember this by the time the season is underway. However, people are obviously concerned about how Danny Hultzen couldn't get loose for a start and then ultimately was placed on the DL and had to have surgery on his rotator cuff. Ryan Divish already touched on this a little bit, but Taijuan did not injure his rotator cuff. And while shoulder soreness is certainly a cause for concern, it is not a cause for utter panic. I would expect that the Mariners would have taken much more drastic action if this was the case.
In the case of Gutierrez, people weren't banking on his success this year regardless. I know it's always sad to see him go, but it doesn't really change the course of the season at all. Obviously, you've got to feel bad for the guy. He was amazing when he was healthy. And the poor guy just couldn't get healthy. But the Mariners weren't relying on him to play every day this year.
Sure, the Mariners have burned us before. But nothing ever goes completely as planned for any team. You're never going to bat 1.000 over the course of 162 games. People will get injured. Players will under-perform. But you also need to remember the actual worst case scenario doesn't actually happen. Let's take the 2013 Mariners as an example. Sure, Tom Wilhelmsen forgot how to pitch effectively. Carter Capps too. Jesus Montero was awful, then injured, then suspended for PED's. Casper Wells lost the 25th-man spot to Jason Bay, who in turn was terrible. Michael Morse couldn't stay healthy, and then couldn't hit. Raul Ibanez was thrust into an every-day role out of need. These are terrible things that happened that most people were not accounting for when the season begun. And sure, you could use that and say that everything is obviously going to go wrong for the 2014 squad too.
The one thing people don't seem to think about is the fact that good, shocking things happened to the 2013 Mariners as well. Danny Farquhar turned out to be an amazing pickup for Ichiro, and now is probably the Mariners' best bullpen arm. Brad Miller accelerated through the minors quicker than expected and is now projected to be the best shortstop in the American League in 2014. Hisashi Iwakuma finished third in Cy Young voting. Abraham Almonte showed that he might be more than just "organizational depth." Nick Franklin was good enough to oust Dustin Ackley out of second base. These were all things most people didn't expect when the season began.
Every year has its fair share of pleasant surprises and overwhelming failures. No season for any baseball team is going to be completely devoid of either one. What we've seen so far are three negative surprises. And while it's natural to overreact and assume the worst case scenario, there's no point in doing so. The worst case scenario doesn't happen very often. Assuming the complete average scenario, Taijuan Walker is on the Opening Day roster and Iwakuma is only a couple weeks behind, if at all.
And while it's perfectly reasonable to argue that even the possibility of starting 2014 with a starting rotation resembling Felix/Paxton/Erasmo/Baker/Beavan makes you squirm, it shouldn't have to come down to that. I still believe and hope that the Mariners add at least one more legitimate big league starter to the mix, preferably two, in order to mitigate the risk.
But for now, stash that panic button back where you found it.