2013 Season Preview: AL West

By Dan Haefeli
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Seattle Mariners (75-87)

Key Additions: 2B Robert Andino, OF Raul Ibanez, P Jeremy Bonderman, 1B Mike Jacobs, 1B Kendrys Morales, OF Jason Bay, C Ronny Paulino, OF Michael Morse, P Kameron Loe, P Jon Garland, P Joe Saunders, C Kelly Shoppach

Key Subtractions: SS Munenori Kawasaki, OF Trayvon Robinson, OF Chone Figgins, P George Sherrill, P Kevin Milwood, C Miguel Olivo, P Jason Vargas, C John Jaso, P Shawn Kelley

Mar 3, 2013; Surprise, AZ, USA; Seattle Mariners left fielder Jason Bay (12) at bat during the second inning against the Texas Rangers at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Despite not making any sexy roster moves, the Mariners were aggressive in the offseason, trading pitcher Jason Vargas to the Angels for power hitting first baseman Kendrys Morales and sending catcher John Jaso to Oakland in a three-way trade that netted them Michael Morse. Both players figure to anchor a lineup that only saw two players (3B Kyle Seager and CF Michael Saunders) post an OBP over .300 or a SLG over .400. Behind them, the team made a pair of inexpensive signings in Jason Bay and Raul Ibanez, with the hopes that one of them can help improve the majors’ 24th-best outfield (by fWAR). Ibanez may still have some left in the tank after hitting 19 home runs for the Yankees, and Bay is hoping to salvage his career following three disappointing-to-dismal seasons with the Mets. After following the Mets in moving in their outfield walls, Seattle is growing somewhat desperate for enough offense to compete with the juggernauts atop their division.

The Mariners signed Joe Saunders (likely to replace Vargas) and reclamation projects Jon Garland and Jeremy Bonderman (neither of whom pitched in the majors last season). The story of the Mariners’ rotation is and will be $175-Million Dollar Man Felix Hernandez, but a battle over the back of the rotation will lead to one of Garland, Blake Beavan, and Erasmo Ramirez opening in either the bullpen or AAA Tacoma.

Rookie to watch: Daniel Hultzen

Hultzen’s numbers last year are caught somewhere between mind boggling and shocking in their disparity. He was dominant in AA, posting a 1.19 ERA, 79 strikeouts, and a 0.929 WHIP in 75.1 innings over 13 starts. Upon his promotion to AAA Tacoma, everything went awry. His WHIP more than doubled (largely due to an unfathomable 8.0 BB/9) and his ERA jumped to 5.92. It’s unrealistic to expect Hultzen to make a quick jump to the major league rotation, but his AA numbers alone are intriguing enough to suggest that something could be there. If he can fix his control problems and put up numbers in the first half of 2013 that he did in 2012, it would be hard to keep him stashed in Tacoma too much longer. The Mariners’ top pick in 2011 (#2 overall) could end up a future fixture behind King Felix, but he needs to show the organization that he can remain consistent and confident in the higher levels.