Coming into the season, expectations for the Mariners were low. It was expected to be another season in a rebuild, where young players could develop and get experience at the major league level.
The Astros, Angels, and Athletics were all expected to make playoff pushes in the AL West in the spring. As a result, the Mariners didn’t get a single postseason vote in ESPN’s April season preview.
However, Seattle exceeded expectations this season, winning 90 games and remaining in the playoff race until game 162. Despite all the analytics trending against them and a negative run differential, they continued to win baseball games and stay relevant into early October, something that hasn’t happened much over the past two decades.
The season ended disappointingly on Sunday, losing 7-3 to the Angels at home. A win would not have mattered in the playoff race, as both Boston and New York won. Regardless, it was a disappointing end to a great season.
In August, MLB.com ranked their farm system as the 2nd-best in baseball, trailing only Baltimore. Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert are already at the big league level. Other top prospects in Julio Rodríguez and Noelvi Marte are on the way.
There is less than $54 million on their 2022 payroll as of writing, according to Spotrac. That leaves them with plenty of money to go after players in free agency to bolster the starting rotation and add some bats to the lineup.
From the 2021 team, the only principal free agent is Kyle Seager. Seager has spent the last 11 years in Seattle, but the team has hinted at declining his $20 million option.
Assuming the Mariners build the roster this offseason to complement their young rising core, they could not only contend for a playoff spot but the AL West, which they have only won three times in their existence.
They only finished five games behind Houston this season. Houston has multiple important pending free agents, including Carlos Correa, Zack Grienke, and Yuli Gurriel. Their run seems to be ending, and 2021 may be the final ride of the core that *won it all in 2017*.
It’s been a long two decades for Mariners fans. The 116-win team in 2001 seemed destined for greatness, only to fall flat against the Yankee dynasty that October. There have been some close calls since, including finishing one game out of the postseason in 2014.
14 different teams have won it all in the last 20 years, including the Washington Nationals in 2019. Seattle is the only franchise to have not appeared in a World Series. Even younger franchises in Florida/Miami and Tampa Bay have made it to that stage.
It’s been a long two decades, but the rebuild finally appears to be coming to an end, and the time to compete appears to be now. After years of misery and mediocrity, the Mariners are ready to compete for years to come.