The 114th World Series is in the books, and for the 42nd time in 42 opportunities, the Mariners were elsewhere. They are in a daunting stage on what is often called the “win curve”, with an aging roster and stardom more than superstardom from their prime players. As a result, a World Series appearance seems as distant as ever. But one day, assuming baseball continues to be played, their ship will come in. As the Red Sox celebrate on the ground-up bones of the Dodgers, the Mariners must make a number of decisions on how to proceed with their roster. Even as the current 25-man is a mystery, there are players within the organization who could be part of the Mariners next (first) World Series contender. It is an unlikely thought, but so much can change in five years, much less ten, when some of the names on this list may be entering the prime of their careers. Both Boston and Los Angeles built cores around players acquired from all manner of places, so in that mindset, let’s look at which Mariners have the best shot at a World Series appearance in Northwest Green.
The Once and Future Core
OF Mitch Haniger, LHP Marco Gonzales, RHP Edwin Díaz
Seattle’s best position player and baseball’s best relief pitcher are joined by one of the top-25 pitchers in MLB in 2018, as Marco Gonzales spent his first year back from Tommy John exceeding even the most enthusiastic expectations for him. They’re joined by the best reliever in Mariners history, who is coming off one of the most dominant seasons in MLB history. As the Mariners’ three best players, all under contract through 2022 (Haniger & Díaz) and 2023 (Gonzales), if the Mariners are to be competitive in the next few years it will be thanks to these three. Cost-controlled players in or entering their prime have been the cornerstone of championship-quality rosters, and the three above are the best Seattle has in both regards. Seattle lacks the world-beating stardom of Mookie Betts or Alex Bregman, but a breadth of above-average production was what Seattle had at their peak this year, and sustaining that through a playoff run means better results from…
The Committed Veterans
INF Robinson Canó, SS Jean Segura
Your contract matters in this evaluation as much as your quality, but fortunately for the Mariners both their middle infielders have plenty in the tank. Much like Ryan Braun and Dustin Pedroia survived the Brewers and Red Sox various iterations, Canó and Segura could feasibly be part of a Mariners contender should one emerge anytime between 2019 and 2024. Seattle lacks the budget of the Red Sox or Dodgers, but Canó and Segura both offer superior production at this stage to many players in their primes. If the close friends that have manned the middle infield for the past two years can age gracefully, the Mariners could see a burst of contention in the twilight of their careers, especially if they get something special out of…
The Next Wave
OF Kyle Lewis, 1B Evan White, OF Braden Bishop
The first two on this list have spent two or three years representing the best possible hope of future stardom for the Mariners, but by the metrics of most major evaluators those hopes are a long shot. Lewis has drawn cautiously optimistic reviews from scouts, who say the explosiveness he displayed before his brutal injury has finally returned, and that 2018 was more about playing healthily than the results on the field. 2019, then will be a year of massive import, because if he remains in the organization it’s difficult to envision the next three-to-five years of Mariners baseball as successful unless Lewis reaches his promise. White and Bishop offer a chin-high floor to counter the basilica-style ceiling of Lewis. Both players have shown promise to be contributing regulars at the MLB level for years to come, and each is the type of player who offers depth and versatility to allow the rest of the roster to thrive. That means the best shot at stardom lives even further out from now, among…
The Stars in the Distance
OF Julio Rodriguez, INF Noelvi Marte
Seattle’s top two international signees of the past two seasons could arrive anywhere between 2021 and 2025. The starting lineup if and when Marte debuts as a Mariner is as likely to have none of the players on this list as it is any of them, but by that same coin the league itself could look vastly different. Rodriguez already made an impressive statement in his first season, and will come stateside next year, likely in Short Season A-Everett or Low-A West Virginia. Marte will begin his professional career in the Dominican Summer League in 2019. For comparison, 3B Rafael Devers signed with Boston before Robinson Canó signed his deal with the Mariners, while Xander Bogaerts was inked the same year Dustin Ackley was the Mariners’ 1st round draft pick.
Honorable Mentions: LHP James Paxton, INF/CF Dee Gordon, C Mike Zunino, 3B Kyle Seager RHP Mike Leake, RHP Sam Carlson, RHP Logan Gilbert
Leake’s inclusion is a result of his contract as much as anything, as the Rick Porcello of the Mariners staff is unlikely to move the needle one way or another but should be in the conversation for his presence on the MLB roster if nothing else. Paxton, Gordon, Seager, and Zunino have the ability to tilt Seattle into a contender, but health and productivity must be there for each. As for Seattle’s two top starting pitching prospects, well, TINSTAAP forever.