The Mariners spent an all time high on player payroll in 2008 and spent it so atrociously that they won only 61 games with it and got a brand new front office. As it turns out, it was probably worth it as they now employ one of the better-run offices in baseball and are heading back into contention far faster than anyone possibly could have imagined. Still, the new regime has to bear some crosses from the past one in terms of reduced financial flexibility. After that peak in 2008, the 2009 Mariners dropped about $20 million in payroll and this year’s team is down a little over another $10 million.
The Mariners went from 61 wins to 85 last year. Will the loss of an additional payroll project to hurt the Mariners this season? According to our notable projection systems, it looks like it will have some impact though perhaps not a great one. FanGraphs readers and CAIRO both have the Mariners at 83 wins for 2010 while CHONE is more pessimistic at just 78 wins.
Run prevention is going to be the name of the game for Seattle this season. Fronted in the rotation by Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee and possibly joined later on by Erik Bedard, the Mariners can boast some seriously good arms. The bullpen is no slouch either with power arms galore and breakout candidate Brandon League, discussed previously on FanGraphs with regards to his added splitter.
Kenji Johjima departs from the catching platoon, replaced by Adam Moore, which should make pretty much no difference. Casey Kotchman at first base will get a chance to get his career back on track and at the least will provide more solid defending than the Mariners have seen there in a long time.
Newly signed Chone Figgins is making the switch back to second base where he’ll be an asset and Jack Wilson mans shortstop from now until he–no, wait, he just got hurt again. Jose Lopez moves from second to third where the Mariners say that his body type plays better but more likely meant his trade value as they await Dustin Ackley.
Franklin Gutierrez and Ichiro Suzuki need no more fanfare, except they do, but I will not take time here to add on. Left field is a sticky situation, along with DH, with several mediocre candidates vying for time in between Milton Bradley suspensions.
The Mariners, as built on paper, are going to contend in what looks to be a slightly watered down AL West division. Given the savvy front office and talent in house, do not be surprised if the Mariners hang around contention for the foreseeable future.
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