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The focus of the Mariners’ 2019 season was more or less on planning for the future. Well, their 2020 season quite frankly will be that future.
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Seattle underwent pretty drastic roster changes as 2019 rolled along, to the point that the opening day roster didn’t bear a whole lot of resemblance to the more youth-laden one that supplied the lineup throughout September. And a lot of those names that were just getting their feet wet in the big leagues when fall came along, and even some that still spent the final months of the season in the minors, may be with the Mariners as early as day 1 of the 2020 season.
“A lot of them I think are going to start at the big league level, or be there within the next two months,” 710 ESPN Seattle’s Shannon Drayer said in the most recent 710Sports.com Mariners Talk video. “I think that’s what next year is about.”
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The longtime Mariners insider went on to name names, too.
Starting pitchers Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn, who each showed promise in late-season appearances for the M’s and both of whom will be 24 years old for the majority of next season, are at the top of the list.
It should be no surprise that outfielder Kyle Lewis, who popped six home runs as an exciting September call-up, and utility man Shed Long, who Drayer thinks may be Seattle’s opening day leadoff hitter, are also expected to have regular roles in 2020.
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he Seattle Mariners feel really good about their young position players but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t look to supplement that group. In fact, adding high upside players to this group can be exactly what the doctor ordered. During the season, we were very much interested in the Mariners trading for former Yankees’ top prospect, Clint Frazier. Well today, we explore the possibility one more time. Could acquiring another outfield prospect really make sense?
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We have talked about the need for the Mariners to clear out their outfield, so on the surface, it doesn’t seem to make much sense. With Domingo Santana, Mallex Smith, Mitch Haniger, Braden Bishop, Jake Fraley, and Kyle Lewis already getting solid run in 2019, it seems like there isn’t room to add a player like Frazier.
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But the team is likely to shop Santana, Smith, and perhaps even Mitch Haniger. So making room for a player like Frazier may already be in the works. So, it is possible to add Frazier to the mix without blocking anybody for 2020, but is Frazier worth it?
In his first 123 games, scattered across 3 seasons, Frazier is a career .254/.308/.463 hitter, posting a career 100 wRC+, exactly league average. But similar to the Daniel Vogelbach situation in Seattle, his PAs have become so scattered at the big league level, it is hard to tell what he will ultimately be.
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In his most extended look at the big leagues, which was the 2019 season, Frazier hit .267/.317/.489 with 12 home runs in 69 games, good for 108 wRC+. Similar to Vogelbach, Frazier is a below-average defender who may be pigeonholing himself into a future DH only role.
But he is still a good athlete with a strong arm and average speed, so it’s not out of the question that he has the tools to be at least average in the field. Placing Frazier in right with Fraley/Bishop in center and Lewis in LF is possible. So is keeping Haniger in right field and using Frazier as a DH and 5th outfielder type. There are ways to make it work.
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The question comes down to cost and that is a bit of a tricky situation. It is quite clear that Frazier is done with the Yankees and that New York would like to move on from him. But Seattle doesn’t really have the veteran piece that makes sense for Frazier so the two sides may have to look at a prospect for Frazier swap.
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The Yankees farm system has taken some hits over the past few years but it is still strong and they don’t have a ton of holes to fill on their 25 man roster. Finding a deal that makes sense for both sides will be the tough part, but it is possible.
NEXT: 3 Goals to a Successful Off-Season Jerry Dipoto would need to be creative to find a matchup and could potentially require a third team to get it done. Thankfully, if Dipoto is anything, it is creative. And aggressive. Which is why this opportunity still seems plausible. However, with any baseball trade, it is far more likely this just won’t get done.
Perhaps less obvious, however, are first baseman Evan White and relief pitchers Sam Delaplane and Joey Gerber, none of whom have yet to reach the majors.
There’s more one player Drayer mentioned in her discussion with co-host James “Boy Howdy” Osborn, and it’s the name that will turn the most heads: Logan Gilbert, the rangy right-handed starting pitcher who the Mariners drafted with their 2018 first-round pick out of Stetson University.
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The 22-year-old Gilbert, who MLB Pipeline ranks as Seattle’s No. 3 prospect, had an outstanding first pro season in 2019. He finished the year with a combined 2.13 ERA and 0.95 WHIP over stops with Single-A West Virginia (five starts), High-A Modesto (12 starts) and Double-A Arkansas (nine starts).
Drayer acknowledged that anyone who said at the end of the 2018 season that Gilbert would reach the majors in 2020 may have been called crazy, but it seems like a distinct possibility now.
If that does end up being the case, it may also be a sign of things to come with the Mariners, who have appeared to focus on drafting pitchers out of college with higher picks in recent years, including first-rounder George Kirby (Elon University) and second-rounders Brandon Williamson (TCU) and Isaiah Campbell (Arkansas) in 2019.
“That’s going to set the stage I think for George Kirby,” Drayer said of Gilbert’s potential 2020 arrival in the majors. “I’ve said this for the better part of three months right now – I think (the Mariners) are going to move their college pitchers quickly.
“I think one of the reasons why they can do it is a lot of the technology, the training and what they’re doing with biomechanics and everything that they have available to them in the minor leagues right now. I think it is cutting down the time that it takes pitchers – not hitters, pitchers, college pitchers to be more specific – (to get to the majors). I don’t think it’s a matter of, oh, they’ve gotta be down (in the minors) for three years, or get this many starts anymore. I think they’re gonna move quickly.”
Drayer also went into an interesting story about Gilbert and catcher prospect Cal Raleigh, who the Mariners seem to be moving up in the ranks together. It’s worth watching the video just to hear some insight on how the duo actually butted heads at first but have since built a close relationship.
The conversation between Drayer and Osborn about the Mariners’ prospects and the plans for them next year begins around the 15:30 mark in the video embedded below. You can also find it in this audio-only podcast version.