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Seattle Mariners
Team Page | Roster | Spring Training Schedule | Regular Season Schedule
On this page: Arrivals | Departures | Spring Cleaning | Team Breakdown | Prospects | Predictions


   Love at first sight: Lou Piniella (right) is fond of his new leadoff hitter Ichiro Suzuki. AP

By Jimmy Traina, CNNSI.com

For the third consecutive year, the Seattle Mariners enter spring training with one fewer superstar. The M's should be used to the defections by now, and adjust accordingly when it comes to chemistry and clubhouse camaraderie. Making up the lost production on the field, however, could be a much different story this year.

At the trade deadline in 1998, Seattle dealt Randy Johnson to Houston. Johnson was slated for free agency following the season and the Mariners were convinced they'd be unable to sign him. They decided not to wait as long with Ken Griffey Jr. Griffey was to become a free agent after the 2000 campaign, and the Mariners had little hope of signing him to an extension. Griffey was jettisoned to Cincinnati just a couple few weeks before spring training began last year. Then, on Dec. 11, 2000, free-agent shortstop Alex Rodriguez signed the biggest contract in sports history (10 years, $252 million) with the Texas Rangers.

Whereas the Johnson deal brought two starting pitchers (Freddy Garcia and John Halama) and a starting infielder (Carlos Guillen) in return, and the Griffey trade netted them a starting center fielder (Mike Cameron) and a valuable pitcher who can start and/or relieve (Brett Tomko), the Mariners have nothing to show for losing perhaps the best shortstop in major league history.

 
Top Guns
Mariners 2000 team leaders
Avg.  Edgar Martinez  .324 
HR  Alex Rodriguez  41 
RBIs  Edgar Martinez  145 
SB  Rickey Henderson  31 
Wins  Aaron Sele  17 
ERA  Paul Abbott  4.22 
Ks  Aaron Sele  137 
Saves  Kazuhiro Sasaki  37 
 
Go Figure

41, 132

Home runs and RBIs Seattle lost when Rodriguez went to Texas.
 
 

A-Rod's move to the Lone Star State may dull the euphoria of last year's run to the American League Championship Series, but since the Mariners still possess two rare assets in major league baseball -- depth in the starting rotation and a solid bullpen -- there still is some hope for Seattle this season.

The Mariners bring back virtually everyone from a staff that was second in the American League in ERA (4.53) and allowed opposing batters only a .262 average. The starters won 71 games, tied for second most in baseball. The rotation should also get a boost from Garcia, who missed three months of last season with a broken leg.

Aaron Sele, who has averaged 18 wins in the past three seasons, and Jamie Moyer, who won 13 games last season despite a horrid 20-day stretch last August during which he went 0-5 with an 11.08 ERA, join Garcia in the rotation. Halama and either Paul Abbott or Brett Tomko will fill out the other two spots in the rotation.

Kazuhiro Sasaki developed into a top-notch closer for the Mariners last season, converting 37 of 40 save opportunities. Sasaki only got better as the season progressed, allowing just two earned runs over his final 19 innings. Gone is the erratic Jose Mesa, and back is former Mariner Jeff Nelson.

Offensively, the Mariners could struggle, especially if age catches up with them. DH Edgar Martinez, who led the AL with 145 RBIs last season and had a career-high 37 home runs, is 38. Right fielder Jay Buhner, 36, has suffered through a myriad of injuries for the past three seasons. Seattle also relies heavily on the versitle Mark McLemore and outfielder Stan Javier, who are both on the wrong side of 35.

The Mariners hope new leadoff hitter Ichiro Suzuki can jolt the offense. The 27-year-old outfielder comes over from Japan, where he won seven consecutive batting titles. Free-agent Bret Boone will add some pop at second base, and Carlos Guillen takes on the unenviable task of replacing A-Rod at shortstop. Seattle has had big expectations for Guillen each of the past two years but injuries have limited him to a total of 97 games.

Arrivals
Pos.  Player  From  Via 
INF  Manny Alexander  Red Sox  Free Agency 
INF  Carlos Baerga  DNP  Free Agency 
2B  Bret Boone  Padres  Free Agency 
LHP  Norm Charlton  Reds  Free Agency 
RHP  Jeff Nelson  Yankees  Free Agency 
OF  Ichiro Suzuki  Japan  Free Agency 

Departures
Pos.  Player  To  Via 
SS  Alex Rodriguez  Rangers  Free Agency 
RHP  Jose Mesa  Phillies  Released 
OF  Rickey Henderson  TBA  Released 
Joe Oliver  Yankees  Free Agency 
RHP  Frankie Rodriguez  Reds  Released 
OF  Raul Ibanez  Royals  Free Agency 

Spring Cleaning
 
Mike Cameron
  • Say what you want about the Rickey Henderson, he still scored 58 runs and stole 31 bases in 92 games with the Mariners last season. While Suzuki is expected to be an upgrade at the top of the lineup, Henderson (a free agent who still has not been picked up) was still a threat. Mike Cameron, who did an admirable job replacing Griffey in center field, will need to use his speed more and increase his stolen base total (24) from last year.

  • Who will emerge behind the plate? Dan Wilson had a terrible season (.235), Tom Lampkin is a career .240 hitter and Chris Widger is coming off a subpar season (.233) in which he was hampered by a hand.

  • Is Seattle a possible destination for Sammy Sosa? The slugger's contract is up at the end of the season, and Sosa could be shipped out of the Windy City before the trade deadline. If Buhner goes down with yet another injury, Sosa would be a perfect fit in right field, and would give the Mariners a weapon to compliment Martinez. Even if Sosa isn't brought in, a trade for another big bat is likely.

  • David Bell needs to regain his 1999 form. The Mariners lineup has several question marks, and Bell is one of them. In '99, he hit 21 home runs and drove in 78 runs. Last season, he had just 11 homers and 47 RBIs.

  • Right-hander Gil Meche underwent arthroscopic surgery on his pitching shoulder in early February and will be sidelined for at least six months. Meche, 4-4 with a 3.78 ERA in 15 starts last season, was slated to compete for a job in the rotation.

  • Team Breakdown
    Projected Lineup  Projected Rotation 
    RF  Ichiro Suzuki  RHP  Aaron Sele 
    SS  Carlos Guillen  RHP  Freddy Garcia 
    1B  John Olerud  LHP  Jamie Moyer 
    DH  Edgar Martinez  LHP  John Halama 
    LF  Jay Buhner  RHP  Paul Abbott 
    CF  Mike Cameron  Bullpen  
    2B  Bret Boone  RHP  Kazuhiro Sasaki (closer) 
    3B  David Bell  RHP  Jeff Nelson 
    Dan Wilson  RHP  Arthur Rhodes 
    Key Reserves   RHP  Brett Tomko 
    OF  Al Martin  LHP  Rob Ramsay 
    Chris Widger  RHP  Jose Paniagua 
    OF  Stan Javier  RHP  Joel Pineiro 
    UT  Mark McLemore  LHP  Jordan Zimmerman 
    Prospects to Watch
    RHP Joel Pineiro -- The 22-year-old was up for a cup of coffee with Seattle last season, and went 1-0 with a 5.59 ERA in eight appearances. Control, usually one of Pineiro's strong suits, abandoned him during his stint with the Mariners, as he walked 13 batters in 19 innings. The right-hander started the year at Class AA New Haven and was quickly called up to Tacoma, where he opened some eyes, going 7-1 with 2.80 ERA. Pineiro has a chance to stick around in the Mariners' bullpen, although down the road he will probably return to the starting rotation.

    LHP Ryan Anderson -- The Mariners just learned their top pitching prospect Ryan Anderson will miss the season because of a torn labrum. Recovery generally is a minimum of six months. Anderson spent last season at Class AAA Tacoma, going 5-8 record with a 3.98 ERA in 20 starts. He struck out 146 in 104 innings.

    SS Antonio Perez -- One of the prospects who came over from Cincinnati as part of the Ken Griffey Jr. trade, Perez is just 20 years old. With Rodriguez gone and Guillen often on the shelf, Perez is someone to keep an eye on. He showed good power at Class A Lancaster last season (17 home runs, 63 RBIs) and has terrific speed (28 stolen bases). He's also an above-average defensive shortstop.

    2B Willie Bloomquist -- Though he came in with very little experience, Bloomquist opened up some eyes at spring training last year and was the surprise of camp. He continued that impressive showing in the minors at the start of the season, hitting .379 with 51 RBIs in 64 games with Class A Lancaster, but struggled offensively after being called up to Class AAA. Boone signed a one-year deal in the off-season, so if Bloomquist can put together a solid year, he could be called up in 2002.

    Best-Case Scenario
    Garcia and Moyer pitch like they did in '99 when they won 17 and 14 games, respectively, while Sele repeats last year's performance.

    Arthur Rhodes stops having nightmares about the towering, game-winning blast David Justice hit off him in Game 6 of the ALCS and finds some consistency, while Nelson and Sasaki do what they did in 2000. The bullpen remains one of the tops in baseball.

    Offensively, Martinez performs like Martinez, Olerud performs like Olerud, Guillen stays injury-free, Buhner plays 145 games and Suzuki lives up to the hype.

    Worst-Case Scenario
    Age and injuries could be manager Lou Piniella's biggest problem. An injury to Martinez could be too much for the offense to overcome.

    Suzuki's adjustment to the majors follows the course of Hideki Irabu's instead of Sasaki's.

    The Mariners open the season dropping two of three to the young, scrappy Athletics. Then A-Rod and the Rangers come to town for three games. Rodriguez goes 8-for-14 with three home runs and seven RBIs as Texas sweeps the series, dropping Seattle to 1-5. Then it's out to Oakland for another three-game series with the A's.

    Bottom Line
    The Mariners' may not be on the same level as level of the Yankees, Indians or White Sox, but pitching will keep Seattle in the hunt for a wild-card berth. Sweet Lou is one of the best managers in baseball at drawing every possible ounce of effort out of his players, and if GM Pat Gillick can swing a deal for a slugger, the M's could contend with Oakland for the West title.



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