Look past the trauma of their seven-run ninth-inning meltdown in Sunday's 10-9 loss to the Angels, and the bigger question for the Mariners becomes something much simpler: Can general manager Jerry Dipoto’s gambit of starting three natural centerfielders boost the team’s defense enough to offset what could be a lagging trio of hitters?
Mitch Haniger has started the season on fire, clubbing three homers and slugging .571 in his first seven games, lending early credence to the industry theory that he could be the steal of the off-season trade in which he and shortstop Jean Segura went from Arizona to Seattle. The problem is, his running mates have been even worse than their meager preseason offensive expectations: Jarrod Dyson’s hitting a brutal .136/.208/.182, while Leonys Martin has somehow been worse, going 1 for his first 20, with eight strikeouts, just one walk, and zero extra-base hits.
Acknowledging the season’s microscopically tiny sample size given the vagaries of defensive metrics, the Mariners outfield still ranks among the stingiest in baseball thanks to their three fleet-footed glovemen. But there’s an offensive nadir at which even elite defense isn’t enough. Dyson and Martin are at that point now, and given their weak offensive track records, it’s possible that both will test the limits of Dipoto’s leather-first outfield strategy.