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Dipoto: How DH position will play a key role for the Mariners going forward

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 04: Ty France #23 of the Seattle Mariners looks on in the fourth inning against the Texas Rangers during his first game as a Seattle Mariner at T-Mobile Park on September 04, 2020 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images)

The Mariners’ recent seven-player trade with the San Diego Padres brought a bit of everything to Seattle.

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The headliner is outfielder Taylor Trammell, a toolsy outfielder who is one of baseball’s top prospects. Seattle also got three players with MLB experience in infielder Ty France, catcher Luis Torrens and hard-throwing reliever Andres Muñoz. France and Torrens both are on the Mariners’ active roster while Trammell is at the team’s alternate training site in Tacoma and Muñoz is rehabbing from Tommy John surgery in March.

According to general manager Jerry Dipoto, Torrens will take over the bulk of the starting catching duties for the rest of 2020. France will also have a role, though it’s unclear where he’ll play. Regardless, Dipoto loves France’s bat.

“Ty France has always hit. He’s hit everywhere he’s ever been and I suspect he’ll just keep on hitting, and we’re glad that he’s now a Mariner,” he told 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant on his weekly Jerry Dipoto Show on Thursday.

France is naturally a third baseman, but he can also play first base, second base and even potentially the corner outfield spots. He could also wind up seeing a lot of time at designated hitter or taking over for someone in the field while they take the DH role. Long-term, Dipoto said they’ll figure out where his best spot is, but for now, he’ll play all around the infield.

“We’re not likely to explore much beyond the infield for the remainder of 2020, just seeing the opportunity to give Kyle Seager the day off or a DH day, give Ty a day at second base, perhaps he could sub in if Evan White needs a day off, but primarily his at-bats are going to come from bouncing between those positions and DH,” Dipoto said. “But I do envision a time where he settles in and I think his position is probably going to wind up being in the infield and if not, the bat will always play and that’s the wonder of having the DH in the American League.”

The talk of the DH didn’t stop there, as the attention shifted to Trammell and the loaded outfield depth that Dipoto and the Mariners have accumulated.

Tramell is a top-60 prospect per MLB Pipeline, but the Mariners also have two other very talented and highly regarded outfielders in Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodríguez at the alternate site in Tacoma. Those two are top-20 prospects on MLB Pipeline. The Mariners also have AL Rookie of the Year candidate Kyle Lewis currently starting every game in center field at the MLB level.

With there being just three outfield spots, it would seem that one of the four players mentioned would be the odd man out in the future while the other three get the bulk of the innings in the outfield. Dipoto said he doesn’t see it that way.

“First, it’s wonderful that we need three outfielders and we have a couple of versatile guys, really,” he said, noting that Lewis and Kelenic can play all three outfield spots while Trammell profiles in left or center and Rodriguez is likely a corner outfielder. ” … We also have at-bats that come via the DH, so having a four-man outfield rotation of what we think are excellent young players is not something we’re scared of.”

Dipoto said that having the designated hitter position available is a luxury for the Mariners, adding that Seattle will be utilizing that spot in the lineup differently not just than most teams but also from how the franchise has done over the last few decades.

“We actually think (having those four outfielders) is a great outcome and some of that is actually just the evolution of the modern day DH,” Dipoto said. “As I mentioned with Ty France, I think what you wind up seeing going forward with the designated hitter position is less fundamental I guess (than) ‘This is our DH and it is a Nelson Cruz or Edgar Martinez.’ I think you’re going to see more teams using the designated hitter as a rotating position that effectively allows for nine everyday players to all play positions and you continually rotate one of them through the DH to provide days off on defense to keep legs fresh and frankly maximize the athleticism of your team, which is what we envision doing.”

Listen to the full interview with Dipoto at this link or in the player below starting at the 25:25 mark.

Follow Danny O’Neil and Paul Gallant on Twitter.

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