Originally written on The Outside Corner  |  Last updated 11/20/14
It was the same old story in 2012 for the Mariners. Another season of major disappointment including an embarrassing 17-game losing streak and pathetic offense sparked something of a sea change in Seattle who come into 2013 with a re-configured ballpark and a re-stocked, hopefully, lineup. They are still stuck in the ultra-competitive AL West, but the M's think they might finally be on their way to respectability. Mariners on TOC End of Season Postmortem Hope for the Hopeless 2013 Season Preview You May Say I’m a Dreamer (11;30 AM) 2013 Burning Question (12:45 PM) This Is My Nightmare (2:00 PM) X-Factor (3:15 PM) Top Ten Prospects (4:30 PM) Depth Chart (as of 2/12) C: Jesus Montero 1B: Kendrys Morales 2B: Dustin Ackley SS: Brendan Ryan 3B: Kyle Seager LF: Michael Morse CF: Franklin Gutierrez RF: Michael Saunders DH: Raul Ibanez/Jason Bay SP: Felix Hernandez SP: Joe Saunders SP: Hisashi Iwakuma SP: Erasmo Ramirez SP: Blake Beavan CL: Tom Wilhelmsen New Faces The Mariners seem to have finally grown weary of having the weakest lineup in the American League, if not all of baseball. Their master plan unfolded early as the organization made the decision to move the fences in at Safeco Field to give the offense a boost. It only makes sense that the front office doubled-down on that decision by aggressively pursuing just about every power bat on the free agent and trade market. Alas, their pursuits were not as fruitful as they hoped. Scorned by the likes of Josh Hamilton, Mike Napoli and Nick Swisher, Seattle focused on the trade market only to be rejected like a nerd asking out the Prom Queen by Justin Upton. To their credit, Seattle kept scouring the market and finally found what they were looking for, or at least a reasonable facsimile of it, in Michael Morse and Kendrys Morales who in one fell swoop give the Mariners a new heart of the order. Not quite satisfied with that, Seattle continued their bizarre desire to corner the market on veteran 1B/DH types and brought in Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay to give the lineup some depth. They also added Kelly Shoppach as a veteran insurance policy for Jesus Montero at catcher and veteran workhorse Joe Saunders to eat some innings in the rotation. Departures In order to acquire Michael Morse, the M's had to forfeit catcher John Jaso, who was arguably (and it is a pretty one-sided argument) their best offensive player last season, which really made the trade something of a lateral move for Seattle or even a step back when you consider that it now forces Jesus Montero into a full-time catching role that he just isn't suited for. Oft-maligned catcher Miguel Olivo was also shown the door to the surprise and chagrin of approximately no one. The only other notable loss for Seattle was veteran starter Kevin Millwood who had been a solid, innings-eating veteran presence that they have yet to replace in their promising but young rotation. Impact Rookies On Opening Day, there isn't likely to be much in the way of rookies worth watching, but that is something that could change in a hurry. Nick Franklin is their top infield prospect and he could force the Mariners to finally put Brendan Ryan's stellar glove and miserable bat on the bench by the All-Star break. They also have a triumvirate of fantastic starting pitching prospects in Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker who all could see time in the bigs this year with Hultzen being the most likely to earn the first call-up and possibly even a rotation spot out of training camp. However, the big prospect that everyone is eagerly anticipating is last year's first round pick, catcher Mike Zunino. The hype machine around Zunino keeps getting louder and louder. The initial thought was that he would be a late-season promotion in Seattle, but with his extremely polished game and the Mariners' glaring need for a catcher that can actually catch, there is now talk that Zunino could steal the starting gig with a strong training camp, assuming Seattle doesn't try and keep him in the minors until June so that his service time clock doesn't start too soon. Position Battles Calling these position battles is something of an insult to the word "position." Seattle has a boatload of hitters that all play first base and/or left field but really should only be DHing. Morse, Morales, Montero, Bay, Ibanez and Smoak will all be engaging in a battle royale for playing time at those three slots. You could even throw Michael Saunders and right field into the mix if Seattle decides that they no longer care about outfield defense. Morse will certainly find a full-time role somewhere, but the others could find themselves in platoon situations if nobody separates themselves from the pack. As mentioned in the section above, there could also be competition at shortstop and catcher if the Mariners decide to push the issue with their youngsters. In the rotation, four spots are pretty much spoken for. Blake Beavan and Hector Noesi are the main contenders for the final rotation slot, but those young arms are going to start breathing down their neck before long. Injury Concerns Center fielder Franklin Gutierrez is a constant injury concern as is Kendrys Morales and his surgically reconstructed ankle. Outside of them, the Mariners look to be in very good shape. So they have that going for them, which is nice. Burning Question Is the decision to move the fences in at Safeco going to be enough to ignite the team's offense or a final act of desperation? Best Case The moved in fences help Morse go into Beast Mode all season long, Kendrys Morales is finally healthy and returns to his pre-injury form, Dustin Ackley bounces back from his sophomore slump and a fleet of rookies led by Mike Zunino make the Mariners the surprise team of the season. They grab a wild card spot to give the team its first playoff berth since 2001 and actually become a viable destination for free agents in the off-season. Worst Case All of the Mariners' off-season moves backfire. Morales' leg breaks down and Morse's power is sapped by Safeco field, even with the fences moved in. Similarly, the brutal offensive environment ruins Mike Zunino and Nick Franklin. Meanwhile on the pitching side, Erasmo Ramirez turns out to be a flash in the pan and none of the Mariners' top pitching prospects prove to be ready to contribute in 2013. The team crashes and burns into a 65-win season prompting Felix Hernandez to finally demands a trade in the wake of his extension falling through because of his elbow concerns. Realistic Prediction It looks like GM Jack Zdurnieck is plotting to get the Mariners into a "win now" mode. His moves definitely aren't going to make them contenders this year, but they should push them towards no longer being the whipping boys of the AL West (having Houston in the division now helps with that too). The hope would be that the likes of Morse and Morales combined with the wave of new talent that is due to arrive this year and next can put Seattle in a position to go all-in and challenge for the AL West crown in 2014. The current roster probably isn't good enough to do much better than .500, but even hitting that mark would be a big step forward for the club and give them a much-needed dose of confidence as they prepare to make a more serious run at being a winner in the coming years and possibly even give the team enough positive vibes that they won't be so rudely brushed aside by their free agent targets next winter. [follow]
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Aldon Smith was reportedly drinking with Ray McDonald

Johnny Manziel ruled out for Week 17 with injury

Dwyane Wade hopes Heat fans give LeBron a warm reception

Adam Silver: No NBA team is tanking

Penguins having three more players tested for mumps

Jay Cutler is not the answer for the Titans

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

Josh Smith released by Detroit Pistons in surprising move

13 amazing NFL stats from Week 16

JJ Watt's bloody face defines 2014 campaign

Dominic Raiola insists he didn't intentionally stomp opponent

Jets call themselves the best 3-12 team in NFL history

Cam Newton calls out 'classless' Panthers fans

Brandon Marshall: Raiola mocked my mental illness

Don't mess with Seahawks punter Jon Ryan

Niners OT asked Manti Te'o about his fake girlfriend

Darren Sproles' wife Michel fires back at Eagles critics

Steve Smith expects 'couch quarterback' criticism

WATCH: Tennessee walk-on gets scholarship as bowl gift

Raiders player gives game check to young girl in need

Game of the week: Detroit Lions vs. Green Bay Packers

Yankees pay for education of slain officer's children

Breaking up the Brooklyn Nets

Brady: Edelman might be Pat's Most Dependable Player

Who can fight off the Golden State Warriors in the West?

All Sports News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

Brandon Marshall unloads on Raiola

Did Aldon Smith violate probation?

Johnny Manziel ruled out for Week 17

An appreciation for Marshawn Lynch's crotch grab touchdown celebrations

D-Wade: Heat fans should cheer LeBron

Niners OT asked Te'o about fake girlfriend

Sproles' wife fires back at Eagles critics

Game of the week: Lions vs. Packers

'Manny' is the must-watch documentary about Manny Pacquiao

Breaking up the Brooklyn Nets

13 amazing NFL stats from Week 16

JJ Watt's bloody face defines 2014 campaign

Today's Best Stuff
For Bloggers

Join the Yardbarker Network for more promotion, traffic, and money.

Company Info
Help
What is Yardbarker?

Yardbarker is the largest network of sports blogs and pro athlete blogs on the web. This site is the hub of the Yardbarker Network, where our editors and algorithms curate the best sports content from our network and beyond.