BRENT STECKER

Mariners Trade Breakdown: A look at sluggers Jesse Winker, Eugenio Suárez

Mar 14, 2022, 7:36 PM | Updated: 7:46 pm
Mariners Suárez Winker...
Eugenio Suárez and Jesse Winker react after a home run in on April 9, 2019. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
(Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

The big hitters in free agency still didn’t sign on Monday, but that didn’t stop the Seattle Mariners from adding thump to their lineup.

M’s trade with Reds for All-Star sluggers Winker, Suárez

Seattle picked up Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suárez in a blockbuster trade with the Reds in the afternoon, sending a package of pitching prospect Brandon Williamson, outfielder Jake Fraley, pitcher Justin Dunn and either a player to be named later or cash to Cincinnati in return.

The additions give Seattle a regular third baseman and left fielder, and more importantly a lot of power.

Here are breakdowns of each of the two newest Mariners.

Jesse Winker, LF

When Mariners general manager and president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto spoke to Seattle Sports’ Mike Salk last Friday, one of his priorities was a “left-handed element” for the lineup. When looking to fit that bill, Winker just might one of the best options there is in baseball.

The lanky 6-foot-3, 215-pound frame of Winker doesn’t look all that different from Shohei Ohtani’s in the batter’s box, and while you shouldn’t expect the same MVP-type numbers Ohtani put up in 2021 out of Winker, he’s not as far off as you might think. Well, against right-handed pitching, at least.

Winker crushed righties in 2021, posting a .346/.428/.642 slash line for a massive 1.070 OPS in 367 plate appearances. He hit 21 of his 24 homers, 30 of his 32 doubles, and his lone triple against right-handers, and as pointed out by ESPN’s Jeff Passan, that skillset carries a lot of value for the Mariners in an American League West that features a lot of right-handed pitching.

Yes, that does mean that Winker’s numbers against lefties (.177/.288/.284) need a lot of work. But even so, he finished the year overall at a slash of .305/.394/.556 for a .949 OPS against all pitching, underlining just how elite of a hitter he is against righties, which makes up the majority of the pitching he’ll see.

A 2012 first-round pick out of Orlando, Fla., Winker had a breakout first half for the Reds last season (.301/.382/.539, .922 OPS, 19 homers) to earn his first All-Star nomination. He actually then got off to an even better start in the second half, but it was cut short by an intercostal strain and he appeared in just 28 games after the All-Star break.

Injuries have played a major role in his five-year MLB career, as he’s never played in more than 113 games in a season. But when he’s healthy, he hits. In 413 career games, he owns a .288/.385/.556 slash for an .888 OPS. His presence is going to go a long way for a Mariners team that won 90 games despite having only two players with an OPS over .800 last season, the highest being Ty France’s .813.

If you’re concerned about the Mariners adding Winker and not Kris Bryant or Trevor Story, there are a few things that might ease your worries. Winker is younger than both at 28 years old (Bryant is 30, Story is 29), and neither of those other players have posted an OPS in a season as high as Winker’s career OPS since 2019. He’s also under club control through 2023, with his final year of arbitration set for next season.

One more thing: Winker likes to pull the ball, and the Mariners have a short porch in right field. It just might be the perfect fit.

Eugenio Suárez, 3B

The Mariners were left with a Kyle Seager-shaped hole when the legendary third baseman hit free agency and subsequently retired this offseason. His power, strong defense and leadership in the clubhouse were all things Seattle needed to replace. It also needed someone to take over the hot corner.

Suárez may not check all of those boxes, but he checks a few. He’s also a former All-Star with bounceback potential.

The 2021 season was not Suárez’s best at the plate, but it honestly wasn’t far off from what Seager did last year, either. The native of Venezuela slashed just .198/.286/.428 for a .713 OPS in 145 games, hitting 31 homers and driving in 79 runs. Seager was at least over the Mendoza line, slashing .212/.285/.438 for a .723 OPS with 35 homers and 101 RBIs.

It’s understandable to not be all that encouraged by what Suárez did last year, but there are more things to consider. The biggest factor is that he had shoulder surgery in 2020 and it appeared to hold him back for a lot of 2021. The good news there is that something clicked in the final month of the season, signaling that his shoulder woes may be behind him. Over his last 25 games, he slashed .370/.460/.808 for a ridiculous 1.268 OPS with eight homers, eight doubles and 13 RBIs. He also walked 11 times to 22 strikeouts, which was an improvement from the 45 walks to 149 strikeouts in the previous 120 games.

Now let’s get back to that bounceback potential. Suárez isn’t all that far removed from his biggest season, a 2019 campaign when he slugged 49 homers to go along with a .271/.358/.572 slash line and 103 RBIs. And yeah, that also came with an MLB-leading 189 strikeouts, but that’s a fairly easy pill to swallow if it comes with a .930 OPS. Suárez had a big 2018, as well, with 34 homers, 104 RBIs and .892 OPS.

The 5-11, 213-pound infielder has some positional flexibility, though I wouldn’t get too excited about that. He’s played 217 career games at shortstop compared to 769 at third, including 34 at short last year, but his future is probably on the corners going forward.

Suárez is signed through 2024, earning $11 million each year, with the M’s now holding a club option of $15 million for 2025, according to Spotrac.

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