2010 Seattle Mariners Handicapping Preview

Ray MonohanContributor IMarch 25, 2010

SURPRISE, AZ - MARCH 10:  Ichiro Suzuki #51 of the Seattle Mariners at bat during a Spring Training game against the Texas Rangers on March 10, 2010 at Surprise Stadium in Surprise, Arizona.  (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

Teams have reported to 2010 Major League Baseball training camps and it’s time to start our team-by-team baseball gambling previews for the year. 

Few teams enter 2010 with more excitement and optimism than the Seattle Mariners do. While they’re no sure thing to make the playoffs, they followed up a competitive 2009 with a busy offseason in which they made several big-name acquisitions. Will the wheeling and dealing vault them to the top of the American League West?

Seattle already did a good job limiting opposing runs last season. After all, it had a bona fide ace in Felix Hernandez, the electrifying youngster who finished second in Cy Young voting after winning 19 games and still has room to grow. The Mariners also boasted some of the majors’ best defense, particularly in the outfield with Franklin Gutierrez and Ichiro Suzuki.

But their starting rotation lacked depth after they dealt Jarrod Washburn and Erik Bedard’s health once again got the better of his talent.

Enter Cliff Lee. Seattle acquired the efficient lefty and 2008 AL Cy Young winner in a three-team trade with Philadelphia and Toronto this past winter. He joins King Felix to give Seattle one of baseball’s top one-two punches. The scary part is that Lee could even get better now that he has a pitcher’s park, Safeco Field, behind him along with superb defense.

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Ryan Rowland-Smith also made strides last year and Seattle needs him to hold the fort as the No. 3 man, at least until Bedard returns around the All-Star break.

It’s a good thing Seattle’s defense and pitching look strong, as their offense isn’t very powerful. Newly signed Chone Figgins can at least get on base and will join with Ichiro to form a nice tandem of table setters. Milton Bradley, acquired from the Cubs, can be a run producer when healthy.

He’ll be expected to contribute in the middle of the order alongside the underrated Jose Lopez, who knocked in 96 runs last year. 

Another fresh face, Casey Kotchman, still hasn’t come into his own offensively, but he has a good eye and plays outstanding defense at first base.

Overall, though, unless you count Lopez, Seattle lacks a true masher. If only Ken Griffey Jr., slated to DH, was 10 or 15 years younger.

In the bullpen, David Aardsma took a huge leap forward last year and will once again have closing duties all to himself.

With Mark Lowe and newcomer Brandon League, who did a great job in Toronto last year, Seattle should do a decent job bridging the gap to Aardsma in the ninth.

If Texas and Los Angeles are boom/bust teams in the West, Seattle is the opposite – a straight line with a high floor but modest ceiling. It’s tough to imagine these guys winning fewer than 85 games, as their top-end arms and defense are just too good, but the lack of pop in the offense also should cap their win total around 90 games.

The Mariners are safe bets to contend but you have to think enough will go right for either the Rangers or Angels that Seattle will wind up second.

Mariners Prediction: Second, American League West 

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