MLB: How the Mariners, Angels, Athletics get to the postseason in 2024

October 23, 2023

At the end of each regular season in Major League Baseball, there are always teams that had playoff, or even World Series, aspirations which failed to reach the postseason. Reasons range from significant injuries, to underwhelming performance, or a combination of many. Then, there are teams who had little chance to begin the season to reach the playoffs.

In this series, we will go division by division. Dissecting each team that missed the playoffs in each division, discussing their 2023 campaigns and answering questions such as: How close are they to the postseason? Who are some key free agents they could add? What does their current payroll situation mean?

(All estimated payrolls are credited to fangraphs and do not include salaries for arbitration eligible players, AAVs for players with guaranteed contracts no longer on the 40-man roster, estimated salaries for players not yet eligible for arbitration and other players with non-guaranteed contracts, or sums of other payments.)

Seattle Mariners

2024 estimated luxury tax payroll: $119,270,238

What happened in 2023? 

Ah, the highs and lows of a baseball season. Check this out: During the first half of the 2023 regular season, the lineup hit to just a 98 wRC+ (No. 13 in MLB), held a .233 batting average (No. 24) and .703 OPS (No.23). Second half? 117 wRC+ (No. 5), .254 batting average (No. 10) and .771 OPS (No. 8). Talk about a complete reversal at the plate.

Much of that had to do with Julio Rodriguez going bananas at the plate in July and August, but it is impressive none the less. Despite that mid-summer magic, the Mariners finished just 11-17 in September and finished one game back in the wildcard standings, two games back in the American League West, finishing with a record of 88-74.

Beyond the slow start, the Mariners can’t expect to finish top 5 in the big leagues in strikeouts and find consistent offensive success. The other teams in the top 5 in that category are Minnesota, Colorado, Oakland and the Los Angeles Angels. Outside of Minnesota, all of those teams finished well-outside the postseason.

The rotation finished top-5 in the majors in ERA despite losing Robbie Ray and Marco Gonzales for the season within the first two months, and the bullpen No. 4 in ERA, further displaying that uncanny Jerry Dipoto bullpen construction magic.

But it wasn’t all roses, the rotation carried a 4.47 ERA in the months of September and October combined, struggling during the most pivotal stretch of the season. Luis Castillo in his last three starts went 15.1 IP giving up 11 earned runs for a 6.32 ERA. The lineup also struggled in the final stretch, batting to just a 95 wRC+ over the final 29 games and reverting to what the lineup looked like in the first half of the season.

What’s the fix?

Offensive consistency. The Mariners don’t need star players, they need depth in their lineup. Second baseman Jose Caballero garnered 280 plate appearances and hit just .221/.343/.320. Mike Ford, 251 plate appearances for a 123 wRC+ but struck-out 32% of the time. Deadline acquisition Dominic Canzone hit just .215 in 141 plate appearances for the Mariners. Starting first baseman Ty France was pushed toward the bottom of the lineup toward the end of the year after hitting to just a 96 wRC+ in his first 439 plate appearances.

Keep the rotation in tact, let Dipoto work his bullpen voodoo and add multiple impact bats in the outfield and/or second base and first base/designated hitter. The Mariners should have a solid $20-50 million dollars in payroll flexibility for the off-season, though nobody knows their budget.

Key free agent possibilities:

Los Angeles Angels 

2024 estimated luxury tax payroll: $130,991,667

What happened in 2023?

We’ll start with the injuries. The Angels lost Gio Urshela and Anthony Rendon for the season, both before July 5. Then, Taylor Ward and Mike Trout by August 22. It is hard for any team with postseason aspirations to replace four players that are in the lineup every day. They lost several more players due to injury after August 22, but it was a moot point by then. Los Angeles finished the month of July five games over .500, but went 8-19 in August, all but sealing their postseason fate.

The Angels starting rotation was mediocre at best through July. 4.45 ERA as a group (No. 15 in MLB during that time) and were walking batters to the tune of 3.47 BB/9 (No. 25 in that category). The counter was a strikeout rate that was sixth-best (9.42 K/9). That, grouped with a bullpen that ranked No. 19 in MLB in ERA in the same time frame made it almost impressive that the Angels had managed an above .500 record to that point in the season. Why? Because the offense was almost exactly league average. 101 wRC+ through July 31 with a high strikeout rate (24.8 K%) and a middling walk rate (8.4% BB). Home runs were the catalyst of their production, hitting 231 before August.

What’s the fix?

Honestly? I do not envy General Manager Perry Minasion one bit.  I won’t do any guessing on what happens with Shohei Ohtani in free agency, but trading Ohtani at the deadline could have been the jump start this farm needed. The youth movement of Zach Neto and Nolan Schanuel is a good place to start, but the Angels will need more around Mike Trout to compete anytime soon, and they just traded two top prospects LHP Ky Bush an C Edgar Quero for a few rental players that amounted to nothing but missing the postseason. The Angels likely rotation in 2024 consists of Patrick Sandoval, Reid Detmers, Griffin Canning and Tyler Anderson. The fifth starter is likely either from an outside acquisition or a prospect.

If Ohtani indeed leaves the Los Angeles Angels, it seems as though this may be the beginning of the end — or rather, beginning of the rebuild.

Key free agent possibilities:

Oakland Athletics

2024 estimated luxury tax payroll: $30,416,667

What happened in 2023? 

This is the result of what happens when the worst owner in baseball fails to invest in his team. The following statistics are a direct result of Athletics owner John Fisher. The players, staff and major league baseball deserves better.

There isn’t a lot to be said here unfortunately. The offense ranked No. 26 in MLB in wRC+ (89), the rotation ranked dead last in fWAR (1.8) and the bullpen landed at No. 28 in ERA (5.20).

There were a few bright spots for Oakland. Rookie first baseman Ryan Noda hit for a 123 wRC+ in 495 plate appearances. 23 year-old rookie second baseman hit .267/.337/.504 for a 133 wRC+ in 300 plate appearances. Rookie outfielder Esteury Ruiz had just an 86 wRC+ in 497 plate appearances, but a slashline of .254/.309/.345 and a K% under 20 points to a solid future for the youngster. Paul Blackburn likely pitched himself into a tradeable asset this off-season with a 3.96 FIP over 103.2 IP. Frankly, that is about it for positives.

What’s the fix?

New ownership. Though, to this point it seems as though John Fisher intends to eep the franchise and move it to Las Vegas.

Oakland will likely try to find some diamonds in the rough in free agency this year, while trading away anything of value like Blackburn, reliever Austin Pruitt and 1B/OF Seth Brown for prospects. This team will likely be rebuilding for at lesat the next five years, short of a miracle.

Key free agent possibilities:

Casey Bellon

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