The Seattle Mariners postseason drought has been the longest streak without an appearance in the MLB. However, in 2022, the team has its best chance of returning to the playoffs in recent memory.
The Mariners Are One of MLB’s Most Exciting Teams, Will This Be The Year they Return to the Postseason?
One of MLB’s most exciting teams doesn’t get as much attention as most of the other contenders in the league. The Mariners have the longest streak without a playoff appearance in the MLB, at 20 years, but this could be the season Seattle returns to the postseason.
A long rebuild has culminated in an opportunity for Seattle to contend for a World Series over the next few years. How did they get here, and can they compete to win the AL this season?
The Mariners postseason rebuild began after the 2018 season. In that season, the team finished third in the AL West and was 89-73, but multiple important players departed the organization in the offseason. In 2019, Seattle was 68-94 and finished last in the division.
However, in that 2019 season, important parts of the team’s future began to arrive on the MLB roster. J.P. Crawford played his first season in Seattle after an offseason trade, and Mitch Haniger had a solid start to the season after an excellent 2018.
By 2020, the Mariners had improved to 27-33 in the shortened Covid-19 season. Seattle finished third in the AL West, and seemed poised to compete for the playoffs in 2021. Jarred Kelenic emerged as one of the best prospects in the sport, and pitchers such as Logan Gilbert were nearing their major league debuts.
In 2021, Seattle had a chance to reach the postseason on the final day of the season. However, a Yankees win over the Rays, and a 7-3 loss to the Texas Rangers, on the final day meant that the Mariners failed to reach the postseason yet again.
Despite missing the playoffs, the Mariners were determined to build the roster in the offseason. Robbie Ray, the 2021 Cy Young award winner, signed with the team. Ty France had established himself as a fantastic first baseman, and Julio Rodriguez was arguably the best prospect in the sport. The lineup got even better after a trade with the Reds that saw Jesse Winker, a 2021 All-Star, and Eugenio Suarez join the team.
This season, the Mariners had a disappointing start to the year. However, a strong performance, and a 14-game winning streak, meant Seattle entered the week of the trade deadline in a position to reach the postseason as a Wild Card.
The Mariners’ Opportunity to Reach the Postseason
Seattle’s major move at the trade deadline came earlier than most of the other trades in the league, but it was significant. The team added Luis Castillo in exchange for some of the organization’s top prospects.
Castillo was the best pitcher available at the deadline. The 29-year-old has one of the best changeups in the league. He had a 2.86 ERA in his time with Cincinnati before being traded to the Mariners, and will significantly strengthen the Mariners starting rotation.
Julio Rodriguez, who began the season with the team after an excellent performance in Spring Traning, is the favorite for AL Rookie of the Year. Rodriguez already has 4 WAR this season, is batting .271/.334/.482 in his first season in the MLB, and has 18 home runs and 19 doubles. In addition, he is sixth in the MLB in outs above average among center fielders.
Gilbert has a 3.09 ERA and has established himself as one of the best young starters in the league. George Kirby, one of Rodriguez’s main competitors for Rookie of the Year, joined him in the rotation this season. Kirby has a 3.56 ERA this year, is in the 98th percentile in the MLB in walk rate, and has limited hard contact all season long.
The team’s bullpen is seventh-best in the AL in bullpen ERA this season but is only 0.14 behind the Rays for fifth best in the American League.
It is possible that the Mariners haven’t even been able to play a game with their best lineup yet this season. Haniger has missed most of the season due to injuries, and has only played nine games, but is nearing a return. Kyle Lewis, the 2020 Rookie of the Year, has dealt with injuries over the last two years but returned to the lineup during the last few weeks.
Once Rodriguez, who is also on the IL, and Haniger return from the IL the Mariners will have an extremely good lineup over the last few months of the season. Haniger, France, Rodriguez, Lewis, Winker, Suarez, and J.P. Crawford, who is having a career-best offensive season, will provide excellent offensive production over the last two months of the year.
The Mariners rotation is already excellent, and will only get better after Castillo joins the team. Only one starting pitcher who has started more than 20 games for the team has an ERA over 4.00, Ray, who could finish the season extremely well after the success he had last year.
As a result, Seattle has its best chance in recent memory to return to the playoffs since the lineup included Ichiro Suzuki and Edgar Martinez. The Mariners postseason would happen if the season ended today, and have 56 games left this season between them and the franchise’s first postseason appearance since 2001.