We break down your 2009 Seattle Mariners, position-by-position, with the start of the MLB regular season fast approaching. In our first installment, we took a look at the infielders. In our second installment, we examine the outfield situation.
Projected Starters: LF Ken Griffey, Jr./Endy Chavez; CF Franklin Gutierrez; RF Ichiro Suzuki.
Bench: Chavez, Wladimir Balentien/Mike Morse.
Fighting for a spot: Balentien/Morse, Mike Wilson.
40-man roster players in the minors: Greg Halman.
Outside of the playing time situation in left field, not too much going on in the outfield. Gutierrez and Ichiro were starters before Spring Training, and Chavez was signed early in the offseason with the intention of being a stopgap starter until a younger player emerges.
With Griffey on board, Chavez’s role has diminished to some degree, and it remains to be seen how much of a hit his playing time will receive if Griffey refuses to DH.
The Griffey situation also affects the bench. If Junior is your everyday DH, then both Balentien and Morse have a better shot at making the Opening Day roster. If Junior splits PT in left field with Chavez, then chances are only one of Balentien and Morse head north with the club.
Had the Mariners signed Griffey early in the offseason, Chavez probably wouldn’t be with this team right now. But because of his contract, and the defense and speed he brings to the table, he’ll be with the ballclub all year long barring a trade. It’s unfortunate for the younger guys, but that’s the way it works.
Outside of Balentien and Morse, Mike Wilson is another intriguing figure who is fighting for a chance to be on this team. Wilson is a 25-year-old slugger who ate up Double-A pitching last season, belting 27 home runs in 119 games . The Mariners originally added him to the 40-man roster in November, then released him upon signing Griffey. Following his release, the M’s resigned Wilson to a non-guaranteed Minor League deal and invited him to Spring Training. Wilson will likely start the season in Triple-A, but his strong performance in the Spring warrants keeping an eye on him.
The only other player of note here is Greg Halman, a highly talented 21-year-old who spent last season split between Single- and Double-A. A native of the Netherlands, Halman played for his country in this year’s World Baseball Classic, batting in the middle of an otherwise weak Dutch lineup. The center field prospect is on the 40-man roster, though will likely spend all of 2009 seasoning in the minors. Look for Halman to make a splash next Spring.