SEATTLE -- While it's early to be talking lineup construction with Spring Training still five weeks away, putting together a likely Opening Day nine for the Mariners is not only possible, but probably accurate given the offseason work of general manager Jerry Dipoto.It's been a slow winter in the free-agent
SEATTLE -- While it's early to be talking lineup construction with Spring Training still five weeks away, putting together a likely Opening Day nine for the Mariners is not only possible, but probably accurate given the offseason work of general manager Jerry Dipoto.
It's been a slow winter in the free-agent market for most teams, but the Mariners moved swiftly to fill their two biggest holes as Dipoto traded for A's slugger Ryon Healy and Marlins speedster Dee Gordon. Healy will handle the first base duties, while Gordon -- a Gold Glove Award-winning second baseman -- is being shifted to center field for Seattle.
With a strong group of returners, those two slide nicely into a lineup that has a potent balance of speed and power.
LINEUP IF SEASON STARTED TODAY
Dee Gordon, CF
Jean Segura, SS
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nelson Cruz, DH
Kyle Seager, 3B
Ryon Healy, 1B
Mitch Haniger, RF
Ben Gamel, LF
Mike Zunino, C
Gordon hit .308 and led the Majors with 60 stolen bases last year, so his addition at the top gives Seattle a legitimate speed threat. Combine him with Segura -- who hit .300 and stole 22 bases last year when he was in the leadoff role -- in front of a strong middle of the order and the Mariners should be fun to watch.
Cruz led the American League with 119 RBIs last year and could have even more opportunities with this group. This would appear to be a very deep lineup with good balance as the top six alternate left-right.
The Mariners are hoping Healy can be the everyday answer at first base after he batted .271 with 25 homers for the A's. The 25-year-old hit much better against lefties last season, but was very good against both sides as a rookie in '16. If he can avoid needing a platoon, Seattle will have a lot more roster flexibility.
Also, the addition of Gordon surely helps, but the middle of the order isn't going to win many footraces. Manager Scott Servais will put a large emphasis on better baserunning this spring after Seattle struggled in that area last season.
WHAT MIGHT CHANGE
Dipoto seems pretty set on his roster, so this lineup is a strong bet to open the season as long as everyone stays healthy. The only changes figure to come at the bottom of the order, where Servais could play with where he lines up Healy, Haniger, Gamel and Zunino. Gamel would seem like a good No. 9 candidate, except he's the only lefty in that group and that would leave three righties stacked behind Seager.
Zunino and Haniger certainly have the potential to hit higher in the order as well, but that's an indication of the improved depth of this group.
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.