Similar to a college student with an end-of-the-semester project, or a certain baseball writer responsible for the main story of the special-section preview, the real work gets done in the final days/hours before it’s due. Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association are waiting until the last possible moment to salvage an on-time start to the season.

As part of Friday’s announcement that all spring-training games have been canceled until at least March 5, and the irritated response from the MLBPA, the two sides are scheduled to meet daily this week after only meeting five times in person since the lockout was instituted Dec. 2.

Per the MLB statement:

“On Monday, members of the owners’ bargaining committee will join an in-person meeting with the Players Association and remain every day next week to negotiate and work hard toward starting the season on time.”

MLB set a Feb. 28 deadline for a new collective-bargaining agreement to be reached or else opening day would be postponed.

You can almost hear a former teacher saying, “Well, if you would’ve worked harder earlier instead of procrastinating, you wouldn’t have to work so hard now.”

This is a difficult question to answer since the roster is unfinished and the parameters of the season and the expanded postseason have yet to be finalized.

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If the season started tomorrow, the Mariners’ roster doesn’t feel like a guaranteed postseason team in a 12- or even 14-team postseason.

A year ago, the Mariners exceeded all expectations, finishing with a 90-72 record. In the 12-team format proposed by the MLBPA where there are six teams from each league qualifying, the Mariners fell short. They would’ve ended their lengthy postseason drought in the 14-team format proposed by MLB with seven teams from each league qualifying.

So much had to go right for the Mariners to win 90 games last season, including a lights-out bullpen that helped them go 33-19 in one-run games. The 33 one-run wins were the most in MLB. They played in 83 games decided by one or two runs, which was second most in the AL, posting a 51-32 record. The bullpen was a significant part of the Mariners’ 42 comeback wins, which were fourth highest in the AL.

That sort of success likely isn’t repeatable because of regression and expected attrition even with the addition of Ken Giles and Andres Munoz.

But beyond that, the projected Mariners’ lineup, which assumes Kyle Lewis is healthy enough to be in the starting lineup on a nearly daily basis, is still lacking in production.

Abraham Toro and Jarred Kelenic are still unpredictable and there is minimal to no production from left field, until Julio Rodriguez is called up, and at catcher.

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  • J.P. Crawford, SS
  • Adam Frazier, 2B
  • Ty France, 1B
  • Mitch Hanger, RF
  • Kyle Lewis, DH
  • Jarred Kelenic, CF
  • Abraham Toro, 3B
  • Tom Murphy/Cal Raleigh C
  • Jake Fraley LF

Now if you add Kris Bryant or Matt Chapman into that lineup at third base and perhaps Trevor Story at second base or Seiya Suzuki in left field, then it looks a little more like a postseason-level lineup.

It makes you wonder if the Mariners did enough work before the lockout to be ready to add the two impact hitters and another starting pitcher in what is expected to be a compressed and chaotic time frame, or will they lose out and maybe only get one of their intended targets.

The quick answer to your questions are:

Yes, given the current roster, Jarred Kelenic is expected to be the opening-day center fielder.

Hitting has and will always be the primary focus of Kelenic.

To dig a little deeper, here is what Jerry Dipoto, the Mariners president of baseball operations, said in November about adding a true center fielder and moving Kelenic to a corner outfield spot.

“I still suspect he’s going to play a fair bit of center field,” Dipoto said. “We don’t see it as one of our biggest needs.”

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That doesn’t mean Kelenic is locked into the spot for the future. If the Mariners were able to pry All-Star center fielder Bryan Reynolds away from the Pirates for a package of prospects that didn’t include Julio Rodriguez, they’d make the deal in a heartbeat and slide Kelenic to left field, which is where he will ultimately end up.

Based on the defensive runs saved metric, Kelenic was worth minus-16 runs as center fielder in 93 games, which means his defense cost the Mariners 16 runs. He was minus-2 runs below an average center fielder. He also had negative value based on other advanced defensive metrics such as Ultimate Zone Rating (-7.6), range factor (-6.0) and FanGraphs’ defensive value (-8.7).

With his recurring knee issues, Lewis will likely never be the Mariners’ everyday center fielder. Kelenic is their best current option.

“Transitioning to the big leagues and having to play center field, he didn’t have a choice,” Dipoto said. “He had to play every day. And that’s hard. It’s hard on your legs. There’s a lot of ground to cover. I do think that there’s some of that attributed to his slow offensive start. You’re the captain of the outfield defense every day. It was a challenge.

“We didn’t do that to him in the minor leagues. And all of a sudden, he was dealing with that in a big way out of necessity. We weren’t expecting to be without Kyle Lewis. We feel like (Kelenic) is capable of playing center field. We don’t feel like it’s optimal for him to play center field 160 times a year.”

Well, I’m going to have to look up the High-A affiliate for the Oakland A’s (Lansing Lugnuts) or the Pittsburgh Pirates (Greensboro Grasshoppers).

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Why those organizations?

Well, if the Mariners were to make a trade to acquire MLB help such as A’s third baseman Matt Chapman or Pirates center fielder Bryan Reynolds, Marte, who is rated in the top 20 of all prospects by most outlets, would likely have to be included in any return package. The Mariners would prefer to keep Marte, but they know that their window to win is now. If they fail in free agency and still need an impact MLB hitter, they might have to trade prospects not named Julio Rodriguez.  

If they can sign a few free agents and avoid trading prospects, Marte will start with High-A Everett where at age 20 he’ll be one of the youngest players in the High-A West League, formerly known as the Northwest League.

Marte played most of last season with Low-A Modesto before getting promoted to the AquaSox. In 107 games (99 with Low-A Modesto and eight with High-A Everett) and 511 plate appearances, Marte posted a .273/.366/.459 slash line with 28 doubles, two triples, 17 homers, 71 RBI, 24 stolen bases, 60 walks and 117 strikeouts.

If he follows a typical timeline, Marte could be pushing to make his MLB debut by 2024 at age 22.

More excited than covering a week’s worth of games that take less than 2½ hours.

Damn right. Now how the hell do I get to Pendleton?