Drayer: Why Mariners made trade with Reds, what it means for lineup

Mar 15, 2022, 12:08 PM | Updated: 12:14 pm

Mariners Jesse Winker...

Jesse Winker throws his bat after hitting a two-run home run against the on June 29, 2021. (Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)

(Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images)

PEORIA, Ariz. – In the end, the Mariners’ Jerry Dipoto did what Jerry Dipoto does.

Mariners trade with Reds for All-Star sluggers Jesse Winker, Eugenio Suárez

The potential final piece to Seattle’s offseason puzzle was a trade. While spending was the preferred route to roster improvement this winter, with opening day just three weeks away, Dipoto made the pivot by adding Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suárez in a blockbuster deal with the Cincinnati Reds on Monday.

This was not the big signing Mariners fans had hoped to see – not Kris Bryant, Trevor Story or Seiya Suzuki, or if they dared to dream, Freddie Freeman or Carlos Correa. With the dollars available to the Mariners, the top stars seemed reasonable asks. If so, it was one-sided at most and it takes two to tango.

When Dipoto told the media in Peoria that he had encountered dead ends, the question was: Did the dead end come up on the Mariners or did the Mariners steer away from a potential wall? Would more time lead to a desired signing? Ultimately, Dipoto made the call that he couldn’t wait.

It had been one of the most overlooked factors in an unbelievably untypical offseason – the game of chicken that general managers would have to play with free agents. How long do you hold out for one of your guys knowing full well there were no guarantees that any of them would sign with you? It was a game of uncertainty that Dipoto could not afford to play.

So Dipoto pivoted to trades, and in very familiar fashion came up with two players in Winker and Suárez that had not been on anybody’s radar. Lesser names but ones of good potential impact, filling the needs that had been long stated by Dipoto. Left-handed bat? Check. Middle of the lineup bat(s)? Check. Seager’s HR production? Check and then some.

Mariners manager Scott Servais said Tuesday morning that he had visions of potential lineups dancing in his head.

“Both those guys have the ability to hit in the middle of the lineup,” he said. “The balance, one guy is left-handed, one guy right-handed. They do it a little bit differently. Jesse is all about dominate the strike zone, one of the best in the league in making good swing decisions, where Suárez is going to be more aggressive. You will see more swing and miss (with Suárez) and there will be a little bit more upside too with the home run. I think they balance each other very well, they fit really nice into our lineup and it creates a deeper, more lengthy lineup, which was something we needed to address in our offseason.”

While with the Reds, Winker faced mainly righties – and destroyed them to the tune of a 1.036 OPS, third in MLB just ahead of Freddie Freeman – but Servais said that he would face more lefties moving forward with Seattle. With a Mariners bench that will likely include switch-hitter Abraham Toro, a designated hitter spot that can be liberally used and positional versatility for days, get ready for Lineupalooza.

“I think what you are going to see is more moving the lineup, no different from maybe how we do our bullpen,” said Servais. “It depends on matchups, how guys are going. I do think the best lineups are the ones that are the best balanced. I think we are a lot more balanced.”

Where in the recent past the lineup iterations often involved infielders in the outfield due to necessity, this season Servais can focus more on strengths and matchups. And while a set lineup has traditionally been seen as a strength, Servais believes in this day and age that a versatile lineup can be seen as a strength, as well.

“If you get the left-handed bats and you are going to give them a day – do I want Adam Frazier to face some left-handed pitching? Yes. Do I want Jesse Winker, Jarred Kelenic to face some left-handed pitching? Yes. Do I want them all to face left-handed pitching on the same day? Maybe not. That may be a time to give them the day off.”

And he can do that. The Mariners entered the offseason with great flexibility in the field, and some with the lineup as well. As such, Dipoto was able to make the move he made. He was also well-practiced at the move he made, which while perhaps this year was disappointing is better than the alternative of coming up empty.

Never pigeon-holed into any “must get” corner this winter, really the only limitation was time. Monday, the line was drawn and the pivot made, and legitimate lineup help was acquired.

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