Seattle Mariners

2019 MLB preview and predictions: How the White Sox stack up against the Seattle Mariners

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USA TODAY

2019 MLB preview and predictions: How the White Sox stack up against the Seattle Mariners

As the 2019 season nears and the White Sox get ready to take on the rest of the American League, we're taking a team-by-team look at all 14 of their opponents.

Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto has a reputation as a man who likes to make trades. And his behavior during this offseason did nothing to change that.

Half the M's roster is newcomers, including six of the nine projected starting position players, one of the five starting pitchers and potentially more than half the bullpen. It's a lot.

Perhaps no team in baseball epitomizes the current all-or-nothing state of the game, with the M's just a win away from 90 last season only to launch in something resembling a full teardown this winter. Gone is All-Star type ace James Paxton, shipped off to the New York Yankees for a highly rated pitching prospect who likely won't be on the Opening Day roster (Justus Shieffield). Gone is Edwin Diaz, who led baseball with 57 saves last season, and Robinson Cano, the Hall of Fame caliber second baseman who got popped for PEDs last season, both dealt away to the New York Mets for a highly rated Class A outfield prospect (Jarred Kelenic). Jean Segura is a Philadelphia Phillie. Nelson Cruz is a Minnesota Twin. Mike Zunino is a Tampa Bay Ray. Alex Colome is a White Sock.

That's what 89 wins gets you in baseball these days. And it's hard to blame Dipoto, either. What's he supposed to do? With the Yankees and Boston Red Sox pretty much uber teams out in the AL East, and the Houston Astros in the same category at the top of the Mariners' division, there's one playoff spot to compete for. Was this roster going to get that done? Maybe. But is "maybe" enough to go on when it comes to the course of a franchise?

But Dipoto did do one interesting thing: He held on to his most valuable chip. Mitch Haniger has quietly (because every Mariners game seems to start at 1 a.m. no matter what time zone you're in) been a very, very good hitter in recent seasons. He's 28 with only three big league campaigns under his belt, but since coming to the Pacific Northwest ahead of the 2017 season, he's slashing .284/.361/.492 with 42 homers and 140 RBIs. And here's the kicker: He's under contract for four more seasons. He's not quite as good as reigning NL MVP Christian Yelich — who is? — but he could have been a Yelich-esque acquisition for someone this winter, a controllable young All-Star hitter who could be a franchise cornerstone for the next half decade. Dipoto has, so far, opted to be that franchise.

Joining Haniger in the M's lineup will be all those newcomers: speedy center fielder Mallex Smith (40 steals in 2018) is in from the Rays, omnipresent Jay Bruce from the Mets, parrot aficionado Edwin Encarnacion from the Cleveland Indians, Domingo Santana from the Milwaukee Brewers, Omar "The Narv Dog" Narvaez from the White Sox.

But the most intriguing addition was perhaps Yusei Kikuchi, a Japanese signee who will be under team control as long as the Mariners want, as he's got an unusual four-year team option the M's can pick up after the 2021 season. A longtime Seibu Lion, Kikuchi is just 27 and had a couple sub-2.00 ERA seasons in Japan. The Mariners have had success with Japanese imports in the past, most notably that Ichiro guy, who at 45 will likely be on the team's active roster for the season-opening series in his home country. That'll be cool, but Kikuchi is the more important of the two to the team's present and future.

And so modern baseball will be on display, for better or worse, in Seattle this season. This team might not win a lot of games, probably not as many as they did a season ago, before the all-but-total teardown. But it's either build a team good enough to compete with the Yankees, Red Sox and Astros or figure out a fun way to plan your October vacation. That's life, at the moment. White Sox fans can relate.

At least Seattleites can pass the time this summer by arguing the pros and cons of this list of the best Jimi Hendrix songs I made last year.

2018 record: 89-73, third place in AL West

Offseason additions: Yusei Kikuchi, Edwin Encarnacion, Jay Bruce, Mallex Smith, Omar Narvaez, Domingo Santana, Tim Beckham, Hunter Strickland, Anthony Swarzak

Offseason departures: Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, Edwin Diaz, James Paxton, Jean Segura, Alex Colome, Mike Zunino, Cameron Maybin, Andrew Romine, Adam Warren, Zach Duke

X-factor: Kikuchi is probably the obvious choice here. How he fares in 2019 won't be of quite as much interest as how Shohei Ohtani did last year, but the potential is still there for him to be a heck of an addition. But I'll once more refer to Mallex Smith, who stole 40 bases last season with the Rays. He also led the American League with 10 triples (tied with Yolmer Sanchez) and got on base at a .367 clip.

Projected lineup:

1. Mallex Smith, CF
2. Mitch Haniger, RF
3. Jay Bruce, DH
4. Edwin Encarnacion, 1B
5. Kyle Seager, 3B
6. Domingo Santana, LF
7. Omar Narvaez, C
8. Tim Beckham, SS
9. Dee Gordon, 2B

Projected rotation:

1. Yusei Kikuchi
2. Mike Leake
3. Marco Gonzales
4. Felix Hernandez
5. Wade LeBlanc

Prediction: Fourth place in AL West, no playoffs

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White Sox linked to Mariners slugger Edwin Encarnacion, but where the heck would he play?

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USA TODAY

White Sox linked to Mariners slugger Edwin Encarnacion, but where the heck would he play?

The looming decisions of mega free agents Bryce Harper and Manny Machado might be the only thing on the minds of White Sox fans as the new year approaches, but there are other players out there — and other offseason rumors involving the South Siders.

The latest, however, is a bit of head-scratcher.

MLB Network's Jon Morosi mentioned the White Sox as one of the teams turning attention to a potential acquisition of Edwin Encarnacion. This after a player the White Sox were linked to earlier this offseason, Nelson Cruz, signed with the division-rival Minnesota Twins.

Encarnacion has launched no fewer than 32 and as many as 42 home runs in each of the last seven seasons. He terrorized the White Sox as a member of the Cleveland Indians in 2017 and 2018. But now he's a Seattle Mariner, and if you've been paying attention to the offseason they've been having in the Pacific Northwest, they want to trade just about everybody.

If you're a team looking for a stopgap at designated hitter for the next one or two seasons, then you could do a lot worse than Encarnacion, who has an option for 2020. But the White Sox aren't that kind of team.

First off, bringing in a soon-to-be 36-year-old designated hitter doesn't exactly mesh with the rebuilding team's long-term plans. But perhaps more importantly, they don't have anywhere for him to play as the roster is currently constructed. The trade with the aforementioned Indians for Yonder Alonso created a two-man, tag-team situation at first base and designated hitter with Jose Abreu. Those two are expected to fill those two spots, in one combination or the other, in most games during the 2019 season. Adding a third wheel to that mix makes no sense, especially considering none of those guys can play any other positions, unless a move sending Alonso or Abreu out of town would accompany a trade for Encarnacion.

And there's another bit of info that makes this a tough one to understand from a White Sox perspective. While Rick Hahn has already made a trio of trades this winter — with the Indians for Alonso, with the Mariners for Alex Colome and with the Pittsburgh Pirates for Ivan Nova — dealing away prospects to a rebuilding team like the Mariners in exchange for a player who's about to turn 36 doesn't make a lick of sense with where the White Sox are in their own rebuilding project. The players dealt away in the Alonso, Colome and Nova deals weren't expected to be big parts of the future, with major league catcher Omar Narvaez the biggest name sent out of town. But someone like Encarnacion could cost a little more as the Mariners look to further stockpile their farm system.

The same confusion seemed to arise from the reported interest in Cruz, though at least he was a free agent, where the only cost would be in dollars.

Morosi also mentioned Jose Martinez of the St. Louis Cardinals as an option for teams looking for a DH, as he just got squeezed out of first base by the Redbirds' acquisition of Paul Goldschmidt. Martinez would make far more sense than Encarnacion, only 28 and not a free agent until 2023. But the same questions apply in that the White Sox would need to spend prospect capital to acquire him and that they have no place for him to play. That being said, in 270 career games with the Cardinals, he's batting .309 with a .372 on-base percentage. His power numbers, however, leave a little to be desired, with just 31 career home runs, a smaller career total than any single-season total Encarnacion has posted since 2011.

The White Sox have already added a designated hitter to the mix this winter in Alonso, and when you throw in Daniel Palka, who hit 27 homers as a rookie last season, that makes a crowded group of DHs on the South Side. And so adding another doesn't seem to be very logical. But the Hot Stove rumor mill doesn't stop this time of year.

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A few things about recently-acquired White Sox reliever Alex Colomé

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A few things about recently-acquired White Sox reliever Alex Colomé

Today, the White Sox added righty reliever Alex Colomé in a trade with the Mariners for Omar Narváez. Colomé is a nice veteran addition to a fairly young 2019 White Sox bullpen. Let’s dig in and learn a few things about the new guy:

-Colomé was one of only seven pitchers with at least 30 holds in 2018. This is true despite Colomé not recording his first hold of the season until May 28, his second appearance after being traded to the Mariners on May 25 (he earned a save in his first appearance). Largely because he closed for the Rays before the trade, he was the only pitcher in the majors with 10+ saves and 30+ holds in 2018.

-He has noticeable reverse splits for his career, holding lefties to a .229/.309/.318 slash line compared to .248/.296/.371 vs. righties. He does have a considerably higher unintentional walk rate against lefties though (9.0 percent vs. left-handers, 4.7 percent vs. right-handers). 

In 2018, the reverse splits were even more pronounced, with a .274/.344/.418 slash line in 163 plate appearances vs. right-handers and a .171/.227/.261 slash line in 119 plate appearances vs. left-handers. However, the unintentional walk rate was the other way around (5.9 percent vs. left-handers, 7.4 percent vs. right-handers).

-65 of Colomé’s 72 strikeouts were of the swinging variety.  He was one of four pitchers in the majors in 2018 with at least 70 strikeouts and more than 90 percent of them swinging.

Highest percentage of strikeouts swinging in 2018 (minimum 70 strikeouts)

  Total K's Swinging K's Percentage
Matt Andriese 78 72 92.3 percent
Kirby Yates 90 83 92.2 percent
Edwin Díaz 124 114 91.9 percent
Alex Colomé 72 65 90.3 percent

-274 pitchers faced at least 250 batters in 2018. None of them went to a 3-0 count less often than Alex Colomé. He went to a 3-0 count to 1.4 percent of his batters faced (four batters out of 282).

-Colomé allowed one stolen base against in 2018. He has allowed two stolen bases against since the beginning of 2016.

-His 47 saves in 2017 led the majors; 47 saves in one season is second most in Rays history (after Fernando Rodney’s 48 saves in 2012). Colomé's 96 saves since the beginning of 2016 is tied for fifth in the majors, impressive given he spent the majority of 2018 in a setup role.

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