Reinforcements are coming, and their impact may be greater than you think
After two disappointing losses at the hands of the New York Yankees it is hard not to think something needs to change. A few changes are on the way, and they are more valuable than you think.
The Mariners are 10-0 against last-place teams so far this season, while only mustering an 18-27 record against the rest of their opponents. After two dreadful blowout losses at the hands of the Yankees and three in the last five days, Seattle will turn to George Kirby tonight as they look to steal the third game of the series.
Much of their performance over the course of this season has been maddeningly inconsistent and frustrating, but there are some reasons to be optimistic.
Seattle has played most of this season without a few significant players, some that make a large impact both in the clubhouse and on the field. As these players become healthy the Mariners will be at full strength, allowing this team to play as they were intended.
Let’s take a look at a few of these additions and why they are important to a turnaround for the 2023 Seattle Mariners.
I get it, not many fans are in love with Dylan Moore or his production on the field. A slash line of .224/.368/.385 will do little to appease those who are frustrated with the lack of offense, but there is more to him than that.
Dylan Moore is a leader in this clubhouse, and not having him has likely been a blow comparable to losing Tom Murphy last season. Moore has an excellent work ethic and has become a guy that other players follow.
It is easy to forget that the 30-year-old infielder is the second longest-tenured player on the roster besides starting pitcher Marco Gonzales. He is a calm and hard-working presence in the locker room, something I noticed quickly during my time in the clubhouse.
Moore often took time before the games to walk barefoot in the outfield, a calming ritual he has adopted over the years. In addition to his leadership, the Florida native has a toolbag of skills Seattle has a hard time living without.
Moore is a capable if not plus defender all over the diamond, including all four infield spots. His arm hurts his ability in the outfield, but he is more than capable of filling in out there as well.
His speed on the basepaths has been a weapon over the years, and his bat produced a 126 WRC+ last season.
Maybe most importantly, Dylan Moore is a safety net for Manager Scott Servais to play all over the field. I noticed how badly the team struggled without him last year, and I don’t believe that is a coincidence.
His ability to give nearly any player on the roster a needed day off should not be overlooked, and Seattle will be better with him on the roster.
The Mariners have already blown 9 saves in 2023 according to Bet MGM. In the entirety of 2022, they blew 15 saves. This team has had a tremendous bullpen in 2023, but they are missing certain elements that can help them beat good teams.
Seattle has produced good numbers out of the bullpen so far this year, but they lack high-leverage options. For much of the season, Servais has operated with Taylor Saucedo and Chris Flexen in his bullpen, two guys he has been reluctant to use for most of the campaign. This has led the club to overwork many relievers, most notably Penn Murfee (IL) and Trevor Gott (27 appearances).
While they have many guys performing well, most of their bullpen arms would be considered middle-relief options. Matt Brash was considered a high-leverage option before the season started, but his inconsistency has left Seattle with limited trustworthy late-inning options besides Paul Sewald.
Getting Andrés Muñoz back would be a godsend for the Mariners. Muñoz dominated in his first rehab appearance, striking out two in a scoreless inning of work.
When healthy Muñoz is one of the best relievers in all of baseball, a high-leverage weapon used to stifle the best part of a lineup in baseball. Without him Seattle has been forced to use Sewald almost exclusively in the ninth as a traditional closer, playing matchups with the heart of the opposing team’s orders.
Not only does having another high-leverage option give the Mariners better options late in games, but it will allow Seattle to rid itself of a roster spot that hasn’t helped them much this year. I expect Chris Flexen to be designated for assignment with the return of the 24-year-old flamethrower.
Flexen has been sparingly used, but some speculation about the details of his contract has led many to believe he can be optioned sometime in early June. Freeing up this roster spot allows for relievers to get more days off, and theoretically be used in their intended ways.
In the simplest of terms, Muñoz is one of the best relievers in baseball and will immediately slide in as the best arm in this bullpen.
Prelander Berroa is almost ready, and much like Andrés Muñoz he has a chance to be a welcomed high-leverage option for Seattle this summer. The Mariners’ bullpen has been great, but it has been somewhat thin and populated with middle relief types.
Berroa is not this. He is an upper 90s flamethrower with a slider that carries sharp, downward tilt and generates plenty of swing and miss. His ceiling may be somewhere in between what we saw from Matt Brash last year as a reliever, and 2016 Edwin Diaz.
He can be a spark for this team, and I expect him to be added to the active roster sometime in the next two weeks.
The 23-year-old has made 7 appearances in relief for Double-A Arkansas, throwing 9.1 innings. In those 7 relief appearances, he has given up just two runs, both coming in his last outing where he struggles to throw strikes.
If Berroa can stay away from the walk he has a chance to be a dominant high-leverage reliever, one that can slot in and impact this team in a major way immediately.