Five things to watch for during the 2014 Seattle Mariners season

The Seattle Mariners’ off season has been, for the most part, a series of smart moves that compliment the big off-season splash signing of Robinson Cano. For M’s fans, this was a move that has improved fan expectations for the 2014 season. Now the question becomes, what exactly do these improved expectations mean for fans should be watching for?

The added pieces this off-season are better pieces than were brought in last season — Mike Morse, Robert Andino, Kelly Shoppach were all signed prior to the 2013 season — and that has led people to think that the 2014 squad is going to compete for a Wildcard slot. Those expectations are a little too high for the team as currently constructed; but there is a lot of reasons for M’s fans to be optimistic, and excited, for this season.

As the City gears up for another season of Mariners baseball, it is important for fans to keep an eye out for these five things in 2014:

He has 240 million reasons to be smiling in that uniform

5) Don’t cha’ know, it’s Robbie Cano!

Robinson Cano is a Seattle Mariner and that is still something that is surprising to me to digest to. Cano has been one of the best hitters in Major League Baseball over the last six to seven years and this reputation was built off of his ability to drive the ball into the gaps. This makes Cano a perfect fit for Safeco Field and its large outfield.

But the most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to Cano is that he is probably going to become a Hall of Famer after his career ends; and watching a future hall of famer is always a pleasure.

4) Lloyd McClendon’s use of platoons.

McClendon tinkered with running platoon splits during the later half of his time in Pittsburgh; after he was fired from the Pirates’ he became the hitting coach under Jim Leyland — one of the managers who perfected platooning — in Detroit. Now McClendon is the manager of a young team that is struggling to hit, and is built to use platoon splits in the field…sounds like a great combination right? It definitely does, and his use of platoon splits is going to something that should be interesting for sabermetrictians to pay attention to.

The better McClendon uses his platoon splits, the better the M’s chances of winning are.

3) What’s going to happen with Nick Franklin?

The signing of Robinson Cano has put the future of 2B Nick Franklin playing in Seattle in doubt. There has been some talk that Franklin is competing with Brad Miller for starting shortstop position; most M’s fans see that as just talk and that he will either be traded or start the season down in Tacoma. If Franklin starts the season in Tacoma, it could mean that the M’s didn’t find a trade partner.

Personally, I’d like to see the M’s trade Nick Franklin for Mets’ starting pitcher Dillon Gee.

2) The terrible world of outfield defense.

The 2013 squad had some of the worst outfield defense that I’ve ever seen, Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay saw plenty of time as corner outfielders last season, and this years team might be even worse. As of now the team’s outfield rotation looks like Dustin Ackley, Michael Saunders, and Corey Hart.

Hart is recovering from double knee micro-fracture surgery, and sending him out into right field for 100+ games sounds like a terrible idea; Dustin Ackley is still learning how not to be an infielder; and Michael Saunders is a better corner outfielder than a center fielder — although his center field defense is acceptable. That is not exactly a mediocre defensive outfield and the M’s really need that unit to be better than it was last year.

It all depends on if  Abraham Almonte makes the 25-man roster, and is any good in CF…because if he is, than the OF defense might be somewhat okay.

1) Can Seattle embrace .500?

Since the 2001 season, the Seattle Mariners have finished over .500 four times (2002, 2003, 2007, and 2009). The attendance at Safeco Field has declined in the 14 years since. As a result, questions are starting to emerge if the City will ever be able to embrace the M’s like they did during the franchise’s heyday.

This season is going to be a major test for fans this season, as it is likely that the M’s will finish  .500 (or better) for the first time since 2009. It will be interesting to see if they show up at Safeco Field this season, and if they are able to bring the energy to the ball park like they did during the early 2000’s.

That’s my five things to watch for in 2014. What are yours?

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