The Seattle Mariners arrived a year earlier than expected and fought for a playoff berth until the last weekend of the season.
They finished with a very good 90-72 record, good for second in the American League West division.
The Mariners are about to make some noise for the next half decade or so.
With money to spend, players to sign, and prospects to develop, Seattle’s time is coming.
Here are three reasons why fans can be optimistic about 2022.
3. They Have An Ace
When the Mariners signed Yusei Kikuchi a few seasons ago, they hoped he would eventually develop into an ace.
After a couple of uneven campaigns, he was on his way to becoming that ace during the first half, when he had a 3.48 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP across 98.1 innings (16 starts).
But he slumped after the break, with a 5.98 ERA, and both teams agreed it was to part ways.
The Mariners, eager to take advantage of several booming prospects, decided to go out and bring in a top-end starter.
They signed the reigning American League Cy Young winner, Robbie Ray, to a five-year, $115 million deal.
— MLB (@MLB) November 29, 2021
Ray led the AL in ERA, with 2.84, and strikeouts, with 248 while pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays.
He is exactly the kind of pitcher Seattle needs at the front of its rotation: talented, with ceiling.
Fans sure hope he can keep his form in Seattle.
2. Youth And Prospects
Part of the reason Seattle fought for a Wild Card spot until the very end was because of the contributions of its young core.
26-year-old Ty France led the team in Wins Above Replacement, with 3.5.
21-year-old Jarred Kelenic didn’t have a good year overall, but started making strides in September and was a difference-maker.
The 2022 Mariners will also enjoy a full season of 2020 American League Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis.
We could go on and on, as it’s clear the Mariners’ best days are ahead of them.
Scott Servais: "The highlight really was we sent a 24-year old to the mound with a 24-year old catching him and a 22-year old in centerfield. And that's super exciting. If you're a Mariners fan, you should feel very good about where we're heading, our future."
— Curtis Crabtree (@Curtis_Crabtree) September 30, 2021
1. Offseason Is Not Done
However, their offseason is not done, and that is good for a hungry franchise with some money to spend.
If they manage to sign just one of them, the Mariners could take a huge leap and become a nightmare for the Houston Astros.
Seattle needs to keep making additions and improving in an up-and-coming division in which the Astros re-signed Justin Verlander, the Los Angeles Angels brought in Noah Syndergaard, Aaron Loup, Michael Lorenzen, and Raisel Iglesias; and the Texas Rangers added Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, among others.
Besides Mitch Haniger, Lewis, and Kelenic, there aren’t many offensive threats in the Mariners’ lineup, but that can, and should, change when the lockout is lifted.