That’s for sure for the Mariners outfield as the team progresses through the offseason and into spring training for the long-awaited 2023 season: Julio Rodriguez is the everyday starting center fielder and Teoscar Hernandez will be in the roster on an almost daily basis, playing one corner of the outfield. But which one? That remains to be determined.
And the other outfield spots on the roster and in the roster, well, that’s yet to be determined, but it could be a combination of Jarred Kelenic, Jesse Winker, Taylor Trammell, Sam Haggerty or a player to acquire or recover – signed later in the offseason.
A day after trading former American League Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis to the Arizona Diamondbacks in what was essentially a change of scenery/fresh start trade intended to benefit both parties, Jerry Dipoto, the president of baseball operations for the Mariners, reiterated the organization’s philosophy regarding the outfield during a video news conference. They were very similar to comments he made at recent MLB general managers’ meetings in Las Vegas, where he was completing the trade that brought Hernandez from the Blue Jays to the Mariners.
“We’ve talked about it openly enough that we’d like to add someone else to this mix to create more flow,” Dipoto said. “It’s a combination of those players. We are very attached to the young group, someone in this JK, Taylor Trammell and there is Cade Marlow, someone in this group is going to break through, they are too talented not to.
That breakthrough may not necessarily happen as an everyday player, but as a platoon player or even a fourth outfielder.
“We want to make sure that we provide opportunities, so that our young players continue to start driving. That’s how we built this team by giving young players the opportunity, and we will continue to do so.
Fans would rather focus on the potential outfielder Dipoto could acquire rather than the player returning for obvious reasons. Winker’s struggles at home plate and poor field defense don’t offer much inspiration. Dipoto told Vegas he would prefer Winker to see more of his batsmen in the designated hitter role.
Kelenic and Trammell have only shown a glimpse of being consistent players at the MLB level.
The Mariners have continued discussions with Mitch Haniger, through his agent Adam Karon, in hopes of eventually bringing him back to the right field.
“I’ve been in touch with him throughout, as has Jerry,” said general manager Justin Hollander. “We met him at GM meetings. Granted, the door is still open for Mitch to return. And we still have these conversations.
But the Mariners will have competition for Haniger, who has attracted interest from the Rangers, Dodgers, Giants and Angels, according to reports.
The free agent market in the field is on top with megastar Aaron Judge headlining the class. Obviously, Judge would fit in well in the Mariners outfield, really any outfield. But early rumors and conversations have the Giants, Dodgers, or Yankees willing to pay hefty — $300 million — for Judge.
In terms of wins over the FanGraphs replacement, Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo was the second-highest producer with 5.4 WAR for the Mets. Although he can play all three outfield positions at an average to above average level, Nimmo has played mostly center field this season. Nor is he a traditional presence of power. He’s hit 16 homers this season, one shy of his career high of 17 which he set in 2018. He also has a qualifying offer attached, which means the Mariners would have to give up their third draft pick on higher if they signed it.
Another game could be Andrew Benintendi, who finished his season with a .304/.373/.399 slant line between the Royals and Yankees. Benintendi has only hit 5 home runs this season after hitting 17 for the Royals in 2021. But the Mariners are hungry for bat-to-ball skills, and Benintendi is also capable of playing both corners of the outfield. He was a finalist for the AL Gold Glove last season. He’s also a left-handed batsman, which the Mariners could use to balance out the roster.
There’s a new addition to the free agent class that comes with National League MVP on his resume.
As expected, Cody Bellinger was not introduced by the Dodgers, who opted to let him become a free agent instead of paying more than approximately $18 million in salary arbitration for the 2023 season to their center fielder. departure.
Bellinger was the 2019 NL MVP after a season in which he produced a .305/.406/.629 slant line with 47 home runs.
After crashing out at the start of 2020, Bellinger seemed to be pulling himself together in the playoffs. But then dislocated his right shoulder while celebrating an NLCS home run. This would later require surgery. The 2021 season has been even worse. Plagued by lingering shoulder effects as well as leg and rib cage injuries, he posted an abysmal .165/.240/.302 slash line with 10 home runs and 36 RBIs. . A bounce-back season in 2022 never materialized. He had a .210/.265/.389 slant line with 27 doubles, three triples, 19 home runs, 68 RBIs, 38 walks and 150 strikeouts. But was still one of the best defensive center defensemen in baseball.
His agent, Scott Boras, said the 27-year-old outfielder was looking for a one-year contract to restore his market value instead of a multi-year deal. The upside potential could be huge with Bellinger. The old baseball adage is “there’s no such thing as a bad one-year contract”. But does Dipoto want to do that with Hernandez also a free agent after this season? And is Seattle a place where Bellinger can resurrect his career?
The Mariners could take a chance on homegrown product Michael Conforto, who missed all of last season after shoulder surgery. The Redmond High and Oregon State star is a left-handed hitter capable of playing corners. He probably wouldn’t command such a high price.
Some baseball insiders believe that if the Mariners don’t sign Haniger to a contract, they’ll instead take the trade route, which Dipoto has often found more productive and open to possibility. He could move groups of players, including Winker and right-hander Chris Flexen, as well as prospects for acquiring an outfielder. Seattle also bought Kelenic a lot at the deadline.
His staff have long coveted Pirates star outfielder Bryan Reynolds. While Reynolds has played mostly center field, several scouts believe a move to an outside corner position is coming and could help keep him healthier.
The Cubs could move left fielder Ian Happ, who attracted interest at the trade deadline, in his 2023 All-Star season.
More trade opportunities could arise as teams sign free agents.
“We have had a number of commercial conversations with other clubs.” said Dipoto. “I don’t feel anything is particularly close. We came to a number of teams where we swapped names that might be interesting to create a match. We haven’t had a direct hit on that yet. We’ll be patient, there’s really no need to rush. There is no game tomorrow.
And yet, Dipoto acquired Haniger in a five-man trade the night before Thanksgiving.
“We have more than one goal,” he said. “There are a handful of players that match us and that we feel good with, especially when it comes to outfielders. It feels like there is still a more robust market. And if we’re just patient, we’ll find the best player for our squad.