Had things gone just a little bit differently for the Seattle Mariners, they would be in Kansas City playing a game this evening, but instead, after falling just one game short of the second wild card spot, Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon and general manager Jack Zduriencik held a year-end press conference to discuss the season that was and what’s next for the club.
The general consensus from both was that while the Mariners were encouraged by a 16-game improvement, they were in no way satisfied with an 87-game season that saw them finish a game behind Oakland for the American League’s final playoff spot.
“We’re not satisfied with the year we had,” McClendon said. “We were pleased with the improvement we made, but ultimately we want to win a World Series.”
Zduriencik added that the message to players was that the season they had “was nice, but you can’t be satisfied.”
—Step one towards improving the club will be to add a bat or two, preferably a right-handed bat who can hit cleanup behind Robinson Cano, Zduriencik said. When talking about adding a power bat, Zduriencik mentioned left field, right field, designated hitter or first base as possibilities.
Zduriencik said the Mariners will “be pretty aggressive trying to add to this ball club.”
McClendon noted that a good offense needs to be really solid three through six, and he thinks they have two pieces of that puzzle in Cano and Kyle Seager, so he’d like to see the Mariners add two bats.
—Zduriencik said the team will add payroll to help find that help, though he didn’t give a specific number.
—Roenis Elias, who was shut down late in the season with elbow soreness, is “doing really well,” Zduriencik said, and everything checked out fine structurally.
—Zduriencik said they got a “really good report” on Danny Hulzten, who threw 25 pitches Tuesday. The former first-round pick, who missed all of the 2014 season, will be shut down for the fall, but should be ready to join the club with no limitations in spring training.
—Plenty of positions will remain unsettled heading into spring, one of them being shortstop, McClendon said. The manager has repeatedly said he’s intrigued by Brad Miller’s offensive upside, while Chris Taylor is the better defensive option (and he hit pretty well after being called up mid-season.
—It’s hardly a surprise, but Zduriencik confirmed the Mariners will pick up a club option on Hisashi Iwakuma for 2015. He also didn’t rule out the possibility of the Mariners trying to extend Iwakuma beyond next year.
—Zduriencik said Willie Bloomquist, who is recovering from knee surgery, will be ready for spring training.
—On top prospect D.J. Peterson, the 12th pick of the 2013 draft, Zduriencik said he’ll play third base and first base in the fall league, and will have a chance to make the team out of spring training.
—On Mike Zunino, who struck out a team-high 158 times but who also hit 22 home runs, the second most on the team behind Kyle Seager, McClendon said he wants to see Zunino cut back on those strikeouts, and said while some adjustments can be made, the catcher should also improve just as part of his natural growth as a hitter.
McClendon also noted that hitting is hard in general, saying, “Those guys on the mound, they drive Mercedes too.”
—McClendon said he expects improvement out of Austin Jackson, who the Mariners acquired in a trade with Detroit, and who hit just .229 in 54 games with Seattle. McClendon expects Jackson to be their every-day centerfielder, and said what he saw this year was “not the same swing I saw in Detroit… I’m very confident going into next year you’ll see a different player.”
—On two of the team’s top young pitchers, McClendon said Taijuan Walker will pitch in the Arizona fall league, likely getting in 25-30 innings of work, while James Paxton will not pitch this offseason.
—McClendon said all of his coaching staff will be retained.
—On first baseman Justin Smoak, McClendon said his season was “very disappointing,” noting that Smoak, “just did not turn the corner the way we wanted him to.”