Mariners announce Opening Day roster

April 7th, 2022

MINNEAPOLIS -- The Mariners arrived to Minnesota in frigid conditions, with expectations for a big year and roster clarity after formally announcing their 28-man contingent to begin the regular season.

The club's most notable decision was to carry 10 relievers instead of an extra bench bat, which left outfielders Billy Hamilton and Steven Souza Jr. as the odd men out, with right-hander Matthew Festa climbing his way onto manager Scott Servais's staff. Also, Seattle placed first baseman Evan White, reliever Ken Giles, outfielder Kyle Lewis and Casey Sadler on the injured list Thursday morning.

Here is a breakdown of the club's Opening Day roster:

Catcher (3): Tom Murphy, Luis Torrens, Cal Raleigh
Raleigh might've seemed like the odd man out a few weeks ago, but by including him, the Mariners are indicating that they plan to play him regularly and view him as a part of their future. Instead of sending Raleigh to Triple-A Tacoma, he'll get the chance to install the offseason adjustments he made at the big league level. Torrens' bat was among Seattle's best this spring and warrants regular playing time, but despite defensive his defensive hiccups, the club says that most of his playing time will be behind the plate, and his situation is also complicated because he's out of Minor League options. Murphy is coming off a down offensive year but his knowledge of the pitching staff and its philosophies is the best among this trio.

First base (1): Ty France
The team’s MVP last year returns to the position where he blossomed into one of the better defenders in the American League. France trailed only Gold Glove Award winner Matt Olson with plus-five defensive runs saved, and his 3.0 ultimate zone rating led all AL first basemen. He also emerged as one of the AL’s best bats in the second half, hitting .321/.393/.480 (.873 OPS) in that stretch. Put simply, he’s the Mariners’ most consistent hitter, and given that Evan White will be sidelined months due to sports hernia surgery, France gives them clarity at the position.

Second base (1): Adam Frazier
Frazier is a hugely welcome addition at a position where the Mariners got just 78 wRC+ (league average is 100) and 0.3 wins above replacement worth of production last year, which ranked sixth- and fifth-worst, respectively. As an All-Star last year, between stints with the Pirates and Padres, the 30-year-old hit .305/.368/.411 (.779 OPS). He had been on the trade radar of Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto for some time before they finally acquired him in November.

Third base (1): Eugenio Suárez
His .198 batting average last year sounded some alarms, as do his minus-13 defensive runs saved over the past three seasons, especially at a position where Kyle Seager brought such stability. Yet Suárez still packs enough power to make up for the production Seattle lost from Seager. His 9.8 WAR since the start of 2018 ranks 11th among all third basemen, per FanGraphs -- ahead of Seager’s 8.5 and just behind Kris Bryant’s 11.1 -- and Suárez’s 129 homers in that stretch lead all MLB position players.

Shortstop (1): J.P. Crawford
Described as “the heart and soul” of the team by manager Scott Servais, Crawford steps into the leadership role among position players vacated by Seager -- and he relishes it. Crawford gives the Mariners among the Majors’ best defense at a premium position, and his bat has slowly closed the gap to his glove after putting together a solid season that had him on the cusp of an All-Star bid.

Outfield (4): Mitch Haniger, Jarred Kelenic, Jesse Winker, Julio Rodríguez
When the news broke Monday that Rodríguez, the No. 3 overall prospect in baseball per MLB Pipeline, would be heading north with the Mariners, it sent tremors of excitement throughout the organization. As electrifying a young player as the game has seen in years, Rodríguez will play and play often. Haniger is a lock to hold down right field, while Kelenic will get the first crack at regular left-field duties. That leaves Winker, who’s graded as below average by most defensive metrics, as the likeliest option to consistently garner DH opportunities.

Speaking of the DH...

DH: A rotation of everyone
As it stands, the Mariners will rotate a mix of their starters at the spot to build in rest -- much like they did last year to ease Haniger back to action -- and allocate consistent playing time to their bench. This has been a trend among AL teams the past two to three years, and it’s likely one that more clubs will adopt with the expansion of the DH to the NL.

Which leads to ...

Bench (2): Abraham Toro, Dylan Moore
Toro was one of the hottest hitters in camp, hitting .364 with a .841 OPS, and he’s been playing regularly all over. In practice, he’s seeing reps in the outfield and at first base, in addition to second (where he played last year) and third (his natural spot). Moore, who has crushed three spring homers, will also move back to a super-utility gig, the role he’s best suited for. Seattle’s objective here is to have a tandem of multipositional players whom they can inject anywhere at any time, notably in light of injury possibilities.

Starting pitchers (5): Robbie Ray, Logan Gilbert, Marco Gonzales, Chris Flexen, Matt Brash
Like J-Rod, Brash made a huge impression on Mariners management throughout spring camp, which resulted in him earning the No. 5 starter spot. Brash joins a rotation that returns Gonzales, Flexen and Gilbert, who were worth a combined 5.8 WAR and were consistently reliable for much of last season. And the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Ray will lead the staff.

Relievers (10): Paul Sewald, Drew Steckenrider, Diego Castillo, Erik Swanson, Andrés Muñoz, Anthony Misiewicz, Justus Sheffield, Sergio Romo, Yohan Ramirez, Matthew Festa
A relief corps that emerged as one of the best in baseball returns most of its elite arms from last year, when it ranked fourth with 7.0 WAR, per FanGraphs. As was the case in 2021, the Mariners will not deploy a traditional closer, though Sewald and Steckenrider are slated to earn the highest-leverage pockets with Giles sidelined due to a finger issue on his right hand. Muñoz could pitch his way into those spots, too, given that he’s touted with the best pure stuff among the group. Misiewicz, Ramirez and Romo will be vying for the “pivot” role vacated by the season-ending injury to Casey Sadler, and Justus Sheffield is being stretched out as a starter in camp to give the Mariners a long-relief option and/or someone who can start in a pinch.