There are many changes forthcoming for the Seattle Mariners. Those changes will start with or without Kyle Seager.
The Seattle Mariners may have just finished one of the most contested playoff races in years, and certainly the closest they had been since 2018. That team finished the season with 89 wins – good enough for 3rd in the AL West. That team was filled with studs like Nelson Cruz, Mitch Haniger, and the fresh face of Marco Gonzales. Also on that team was the always reliable Kyle Seager.
For 11 seasons Seager has manned 3B and 2018 was the best team (by record) Corey’s Brother has played on. Now he’s led the 2021 charge to the cusp of the playoffs by hitting a career-high in HR’s and RBI. With the season over and the official off-season a month away, Jerry Dipoto has one of the most difficult decisions to make regarding a fan favorite, clubhouse leader, and aging veteran seeking another payday. Mr. Dipoto, what will you be doing with Kyle Seager and your need to fill 3B in 2022?
Simply the Facts of Finances
The facts regarding Seager and the decisions both he and the Mariners face are simple on the surface. Dig deeper and his pending contract is a little murkier. Simply put, this is going to be complicated. Do the Mariners and Dipoto swallow the price tag pill of a $20 million option (up from $15 due to his reaching milestones this year)? Is he worth $20 million? What other options are there should there be a different man at the hot corner in 2022?
Defense Reigns Supreme at 3B
Kyle Seager of 2021 has defensively been what he has always been. He did commit 14 errors this year in a slight uptick above his average of 12 errors per year. However, his participation in 43 double plays (DP) is far above his average of 32 DP’s. His 99 PO’s (put outs) and 291 A’s (assists) added to his career totals of 945 PO and 2,930 A – both good for 2nd among active 3B. Additionally, his 291 A’s this year led the AL for the second consecutive year and 5th time in his career. Replacing this level of reliability in the field will be difficult at best.
Silent Leadership is Important
Perhaps the most important quality Seager displayed over his tenure (more over the last couple of years) is his leadership on and off the field. He’s been the clubhouse voice for the young guys as he’s taken them under his wings. If you listened to J.P. Crawford Sunday you heard the respect and appreciation shown to Seager by everyone on the roster. Replacing the silent leader on a team is an impossible task in today’s “me first” mentality where leadership isn’t easily found.
— Sports ON Tap Seattle ? (@SONTSeattle) October 3, 2021
All the stats have now been laid out. The leadership has been on full display and seemingly came to an end Sunday. It is abundantly clear Dipoto is going to rely on a new 3B as the Mariners move to 2022. But who are those options? Will they be able to replace the beloved outgoing 3B?
Eliminating the Free Agent’s Available
Nolan Arenado removed himself from the free-agent list last week confirming he was not going to exercise his option. We can remove Matt Carpenter, Todd Frazier, Eric Sogard, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Brock Holt off of possible free-agent acquisitions due to age and the assumption that Dipoto will look to get younger. Of available free agents younger than Seager, the only intriguing name is Kris Bryant. With the San Francisco Giants in the middle of their best season since 2016, it’s unlikely he doesn’t return to the Bay on a long-term deal. Digging a little deeper on the free-agent list is Maikel Franco from Baltimore. He has yet to reach his age 30 season but neither his offense nor defense meets the standard of Seager. Suffice it to say that the current 3B free-agent market is not going to be a viable option for Seattle.
Reaching Down to the Minor Leagues
Bringing up one of the many prospects from the second-best minor league system (according to MLB.com) seems to be a logical move. That would mean moving Noelvi Marte over to 3B though and doing so faster than his current arrival projection of 2023. After that option, you have nobody close to making the jump to the big club before 2023 where they were drafted at 3B. Again, these options aren’t favorable, and doing so doesn’t look to be the best move for Dopoto.
Moving A Few Guys Could be a Natural Move
Finally, using the guys already in uniform. You could easily make an argument for moving Ty France or Abraham Toro to their natural positions. A Toro move could be beneficial if Dipoto believes one of the 2B free agents is an upgrade from Toro. Toro returning to 3B could also force a move of Marte to 2B instead of 3B or his natural SS position. Moving France might be a little more difficult considering his Gold Glove-worthy work at 1B. Standing pat with the current infield would keep continuity and continue the solid defensive prowess we’ve come to be accustomed to.
Jerry Dipoto Likes Making Deals
One more option does exist for filling any hole Seager leaves and that is through a trade. There are plenty of candidates available as part of packages or separate deals. Dipoto has a track record of not just making deals but also working with San Diego regularly. With the end of the season melt down in San Diego, could Manny Machado be available? Will there be a non-tendered player that draws interest? Are there other teams looking to rebuild wanting to part with their All-Star level 3B with some of our “extra” parts in the OF and 1B in return?
Time to Swallow the Financial Pill and Bring Him Back
To close out everything Kyle Seager related here are some recommendations. First, he must be resigned. Losing his defense and leadership will be difficult to overcome. Despite his offensive decline he still hits for power and drives in runs. His consistent offense won’t come easy with a new 3B. Swallowing a $20 million contract is hard when trying to distribute that money to more players. As an act of good faith towards Seager, offer an extension at $12-$15 million per year for 2 years. He endured multiple rebuilding teams over his 11 years. Moreover, Seager would finally get his chance to be on a team that makes the playoffs and provides him the chance to be one of the few players to play an entire career in one uniform. Of all things deserved, one last contract to man the hot corner on a World Series contender on the only team he has known is the most important.
Kyle Seager’s franchise ranks among players not named Edgar Martinez, Ken Griffey Jr., or Ichiro:
• 1,480 games (1st)
• 5,557 AB (1st)
• 1,395 hits (1st)
• 309 doubles (1st)
• 565 XBH (1st)
• 2,458 total bases (1st)
• 807 RBI (2nd)
• 705 runs (2nd)
• 37.0 WAR (2nd) pic.twitter.com/u7myeGau7k
— Danny Vietti (@DannyVietti) October 3, 2021
Please, Mr. Dipoto, do your Mariners fans a favor – bring Kyle Seager back for one final go and provide him a proper send-off – a World Series ring.