Seattle MarinersLast season: 85-77 (3rd in AL West)
This season's prediction: 1st in AL West
Key acquisitions: Cliff Lee (trade, Philadelphia); Chone Figgins (free agent); Milton Bradley (trade, Cubs); Brandon League (trade, Toronto); Casey Kotchman (trade, Boston)
Departures: Adrian Beltre (free agent, Boston); Russell Branyan (free agent, Cleveland); Kenji Johjima (free agent, Japan); Brandon Morrow (trade, Toronto); Carlos Silva (trade, Cubs); Bill Hall (trade, Boston)
The Mariners were amongst the more active teams in the off-season, as Jack Zduriencik picked up '09 Cy Young winner Cliff Lee from the Phils, as well as signing Chone Figgins from the Angels. That was a case of addition by addition and subtraction, since not only did the Mariners upgrade their roster, but weakened their main division rival's as well.
Of course, the Lee trade give the M's a potent 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation to go with King Felix. If Erik Bedard was healthy, that'd be a really strong top three. But it's Erik Bedard we're talking about here. He's not going to be healthy.
I've always been a big Ichiro fan. He filled the M's star player void in my mind after Junior left for the Reds. I never really warmed up to Alex Rodriguez, even before he became "Pay-Rod" and then morphed into the Blue-Lipped Cheater. As an aside, I was never surprised about the steroid revelations, ever since he tried to get away with swatting the ball out of Kevin Millar's glove in Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS. Anybody who would deliberately cheat like that, with so many people watching, on baseball's biggest stage...yeah, he'd take steroids, too.
Getting back to Ichiro, the guy is going for ten straight 200-hit seasons. He has to slow down sometime, right? Well, he's "only" 36, and since he lead the majors in hits last season, I don't think it's going to be this year. He racked up his 2000th major league hit in less than nine seasons, and has 3308 career pro hits. If he had been playing in the US the whole time, Pete Rose might not be the Hit King for much longer.
The bottom line:
Jack Z has remade the Mariners to leapfrog the Rangers and go straight at division leaders Anaheim. With Lee and Figgins, the team has upgraded in two positions, and the Kotchman acquisition is designed to counteract losing Branyan. I think the Mariners are going to be fired up with the perception that management is ready to go, and will respond well to the moves. Expect them to come out strong, despite their dismal spring performance.