Whether that translates into having a great 2010, however, is quite another matter.
While the Mariners are the feel-good choice to unseat the Angels and win the American League West, it's going to take more than the front office machinations of general manager Jack Zduriencik to get the job done.
Zduriencik signed free agent infielder Chone Figgins and traded for left-handed starter Cliff Lee, first baseman Chase Kotchman, reliever Brandon League and left fielder Milton Bradley, then added some bonus pieces in outfielder Eric Byrnes and first baseman Ryan Garko.
When you sum it all up, however, the Mariners may not be much better than the team that won 85 games last year, and they may not be quite as good given the number of players who had the best years of their careers to date in 2009.
Figgins is a gifted infielder at both second base and third, but the man he's replacing in the infield, third baseman Adrian Beltre, was a Gold Glove winner. Figgins will play second with the team's best homer threat, Jose Lopez, moving from second to third.
Lee is the 2008 American League Cy Young Award winner and when paired with right-hander Felix Hernandez gives the Mariners as good a 1-2 punch as any rotation in baseball. But will Lee's numbers be that much better than those of Jarrod Washburn, whose 2.64 ERA for the first four months of the season before he was traded was among the best in the game?
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Bradley will give the Mariners some regularity in left field, a position where the Mariners started seven different players last year, including five who started 13 or more games. And while he's a high-average, high-on-base performer when at his best, he's coming off a distraction-filled season with the Cubs when neither he nor his team was anywhere near their best.
"This isn't going to be easy,'' manager Don Wakamatsu said. "I like the changes we've made and the talent we have here. I love the direction we're going in. But there are still questions that we have to find answers to.''
First and foremost is the answer to where Seattle is going to find that offense. The Mariners' 160 homers last year ranked 11th in the 14-team American League, and the 40-man roster the Mariners are bringing to spring training hit only 134 big-league homers combined in 2009. That's not the direction you want to head in.
Add that to the fact that Seattle scored just 640 runs last year (dead last in the AL) and was actually outscored by 52 runs, and the fact that it had a winning record turns out to be one of the minor miracles of the 2009 season.
Can it be done again?
"Our expectations are high, but at the same time we've got our work cut out for us,'' Wakamatsu said. "We are going to be depending on our third and fourth starters a lot. If they come through, then that will go a long way for us.''
And while both are talented, both spent significant portions of 2009 in the minor leagues when they'd been expected to be big-leaguers all season.
The third starter, lefty Ryan Rowland-Smith, spent the middle of the 2009 season maturing in the minors, and when he came back to the majors impressed with a 3.44 ERA in his final seven starts, with three eight-inning stints and two more of seven innings.
"Spending all that time in the minor leagues last year taught me just to focus on pitching and not to worry about anything else,'' Rowland-Smith said. "I was a better pitcher and better prepared when I came back.''
Snell was a budding star for the Pirates when he won 14 games in 2006, but his time after that was a career in retrograde, capped by a 2-8 start to 2009 that saw him sent to the minors before the Mariners traded for him. His game kicked in down the stretch in Seattle -- he gave up two runs or less in six of his last nine starts -- but he's got to show now that wasn't just a blip on the radar.
"It's like a whole new experience, being with this manager and this staff,'' Snell said. "All the [stuff] I went through in Pittsburgh, that's forgotten. I feel like a Seattle Mariner now.''
The wild card in all this is left-hander Erik Bedard. He's been a Mariner for the last two seasons, and he's pitched barely half a season in each because of injuries. He's also coming off labrum surgery on his left shoulder that will leave him on the disabled list to start the season.
Bedard could be back by late May or early June. But even if his return is as late as July, getting a healthy Bedard back might be the equivalent of a trade deadline deal. Bedard has a 3.24 ERA in his Seattle stint despite his injury problems, and as the owner of a 95 mph fastball and one of the best curves in the game, he could be a real darkhorse. And the Mariners know it.
"We're hoping sooner rather than later we'll be getting Erik back and healthy,'' Zduriencik said. "That would be a huge boost for us.''
Bedard didn't have much fun in Seattle in 2008, but the 2009 season was one he enjoyed enough that he surprised some by lobbying to return to the Mariners. Seattle is quickly becoming a place players want to be, which it wasn't as recently as 2008.
And that, frankly, is half of the battle from the point of view of Zduriencik and Wakamatsu, who took over after the disastrous '08 season.
"A year ago, we had to put out fires left over from that 101-loss season,'' Wakamatsu said. "We had players who didn't like one another. We had cliques in the clubhouse. We didn't play real sound team baseball.
"We laid the foundation for most of that last year, so we don't have to deal with that now. Last season, we asked players to give us their best, have career years, and a lot of them did.''
Lopez had 25 homers and 95 RBI, although his defense was sad enough that the club wants him to move to third base for Figgins, a decision he has accepted. David Aardsma, who'd never had a save in the big leagues, churned out 38 of them in 42 tries. Hernandez went 19-5 with a 2.49 ERA and finished second in the Cy Young voting. Franklin Gutierrez turned out to be the best defensive center fielder in the league, and he hit up a storm, too. Mark Lowe, who could close elsewhere, became one of the league's best setup men. Shawn Kelley and Sean White came out of nowhere to offer depth in the bullpen.
And Ichiro Suzuki got the monkey off his shoulder with his ninth consecutive 200-hit season. That gives him the record all to himself, and that, by his own admission "takes some of the pressure away'' going into 2010.
Ichiro came to the big leagues in 2001, the Mariners won an AL-record 116 games and things couldn't have been better. But he hasn't been back to the playoffs since. He looks at the 2010 season and likes what he sees.
"I think they looked not only at potential, but also at the character of each player,'' Ichiro said, "and what we need to fill in when you look at chemistry as well, for the team and in the clubhouse.
"I believed that [Zduriencik] would make good moves, and I believe this team right here will be a great team chemistry-wise as well, not just in the potential of the talent.''
Hernandez, one of the many Mariners who hasn't played in the postseason, says it's not unrealistic to think in terms of getting there for the first time.
"We've got a chance, we really do,'' he said. "I like what we've got here.''