The 2012 season is all about defining roles and evaluating the young talent that the Mariners are counting on for the future. For the most part, the young talent has been a disappointment.
Casper Wells has been one of the bright spots this season. Since being recalled from the Triple-A Tacoma on June 13, he has been getting consistent playing time and has been the Mariners most productive hitter. He is batting .301 with three doubles, one triple and five home runs during this stretch.
Consistent playing time is huge for young players. “It’s allowed me to have a consistent approach and not try to do too much at the plate,” Wells said. “I can be a little more relaxed, just knowing you’ll get a chance to play against righties and lefties alike. I think it’s made me dial into a really consistent mindset and approach at the plate.”
Going into the offseason, the Mariners will have some tough decisions to make with their outfield. The elephant in the room is Ichiro, who turns 39 in October. Ichiro’s contract expires after this year and his play has fallen off the past couple of seasons. Neither the Mariners nor Ichiro have indicated any talk about an extension.
Michael Saunders has also been a pleasant surprise in the outfield for the Mariners. He has been one of the most consistent hitters all season and has filled in admirably in center field for the often-injured Franklin Gutierrez. Saunders will be given the opportunity to play everyday next season.
It’s tough to say what the outfield is going to look like next season. It all depends on Ichiro. He does not fit into the Mariners’ long-term plans and will likely demand a multi-year contract for big money from a team that has cut payroll the last couple of seasons.
The decision to bring him back will not likely come from GM Jack Zduriencik who is responsible for player acquisitions. Japanese ownership and Ichiro will make the decision on Ichiro’s future with the Mariners.
If Ichiro doesn’t return, right field will belong to Casper Wells. It’s been a remarkable turn around for a young player who took full advantage of an opportunity that was given to him. Wells now is part of the young core of talent that the Mariners will be counting on next season.