The Seattle Mariners have more than two handfuls of big leaguers on the roster whose contracts expire at the end of the season, meaning many changes will likely occur in the offseason.
The pitching has gotten worse and the offense has gotten better, which will perhaps change the objectives of General Manager Jack Zduriencik. The new Safeco Field dimensions seem to be hurting pitching more than helping the offense, so it's time to put a roster in place that fits the ballpark.
The following projected starting lineup is based on recent performance, player attributes and contract status.
1. Norichika Aoki, CF
2. Nick Franklin, 2B
3. Kyle Seager, 3B
Free-agent outfielder Aoki will give the Mariners their first true leadoff hitter since Ichiro's departure and another left-handed bat in the lineup. Aoki also has some speed and fields his position well, adding much-needed depth to the outfield after Franklin Gutierrez signs a free-agent deal elsewhere.
Franklin and Seager find themselves back in familiar positions—both in the lineup and in the field. Both provide some pop, and Franklin causes fits for opposing pitchers with his ability to hit from both sides of the plate.
4. Kendrys Morales, DH
5. Justin Smoak, 1B
6. Raul Ibanez, LF
Smoak rides a hot second half and another impressive spring into the regular season, where he finally finds consistency at the plate.
After considering retirement, Ibanez returns for a final season in Seattle and splits time between the outfield and designated hitter.
7. Kurt Suzuki, C
8. Michael Saunders, RF
9. Brad Miller, SS
Veteran backstop Suzuki signs with the Mariners to help bring along the still very green Mike Zunino. He isn't a long-term fit, but rather takes some pressure off Zunino and allows him to further adjust to the major leagues.
Saunders rounds out the outfield in wake of Michael Morse's free-agency exit, beating out Dustin Ackley for the final outfield spot.
Miller solidifies himself as the shortstop of the future in Seattle, replacing Brendan Ryan and adding speed to the back end of the lineup.
1. Felix Hernandez, RHP
2. Hisashi Iwakuma, RHP
3. Phil Hughes, RHP
4. Erasmo Ramirez, RHP
5. Danny Hultzen, LHP
King Felix once again takes his reign atop the Mariners rotation after finishing third in Cy Young voting.
Hisashi Iwakuma returns to the rotation a season after solidifying himself as a bona-fide All-Star and once again throws like an ace.
Free agent Phil Hughes is added to the rotation to provide another veteran presence and improves his numbers thanks to playing home games somewhere besides Yankee Stadium.
Erasmo Ramirez closes out 2013 in fine fashion, helping him earn a spot in the rotation out of spring training.
Rookie Danny Hultzen finally makes his long-awaited debut in Seattle after tearing up the minor leagues and putting together a solid spring.