JOE FANN

Fann: The Mariners are facing a Kyle Lewis conundrum

Aug 8, 2022, 12:55 PM | Updated: 2:31 pm
Mariners Kyle Lewis...
Kyle Lewis prepares to bat during a May 24, game between the Mariners and A's. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Mariners will have some difficult decisions to make on Wednesday, which is when Julio Rodríguez and Dylan Moore are expected back from the 10-day injured list.

As Mariners get healthy, what’s in store for France, Kelenic, Santana?

Jarred Kelenic is likely to be sent back to Triple-A Tacoma. He was an emergency call-up last week when Rodríguez and Moore went down in the same game in Houston. Kelenic is 2 for 21 with one homer and two RBIs in seven games since being recalled. Another demotion isn’t the Mariners giving up on him, it’s just an acknowledgement that he’s the bottom guy on the totem pole right now, especially given Sam Haggerty’s ascension into what should be a guaranteed roster spot.

But who will be going back to the minors with Kelenic?

It isn’t likely to be Jake Lamb. That wouldn’t make any sense a week after Seattle acquired him at the trade deadline. Not only is Lamb Seattle’s primary backup third baseman with Abraham Toro now in Triple-A, but he’s also out of minor league options and would have to be designated for assignment. That’s not happening, just like Carlos Santana isn’t going anywhere despite minimal production of late (he’s just 4 for 24 over his last eight games).

Jake Lamb “feels like a kid” playing for hometown Mariners

That leaves Kyle Lewis as the only logical move, and that undoubtedly stings to read for Mariners fans. The American League Rookie of the Year back in 2020 evidently still isn’t right after a pair of significant right knee injuries in his pro career, the latest of which kept him out from May 2021 to May of this year. Lewis, who returned on July 22 after missing nearly another two months due to a concussion, played in just one game out of four against the Angels over the weekend. The outfielder is rarely playing the field, and we’ve also seen him get pinch run for by the 36-year-old Santana.

Lewis’ limited availability makes his roster spot hard to justify with a logjam at the designated hitter spot. Santana and Mitch Haniger will need regular at-bats there. This is all before you get to Lewis’ lack of production. In 13 games since being recalled after the All-Star break, Lewis is hitting just .100 with one homer and two RBIs. He also has 17 strikeouts in just 40 at-bats (42.5%).

I’m not even sure you can call it a quick hook to send him down. Two-plus weeks without noticeable progress in health and availability is notable. And maybe it’s the team being careful with him and holding him back, but regardless, these playoff-hopeful Mariners can’t justify reserving a roster spot for a DH who has to be handled and utilized with so much care.

A rebuttal from many will surely be, “Just keep Moore in Triple-A and give Lewis additional time to get going.” We can all agree Lewis’ ceiling is higher. We’ve seen it. But Moore has earned his respect this season. Look beyond his .197 average to find a .350 OBP, a 116 wRC+ and a 1.4 fWAR. Add in his defensive versatility (he’s Seattle’s primary backup shortstop) and you get a well-above-replacement utilityman.

This isn’t to write off Lewis. I, along with the rest of you, hope that Lewis can once again return to form as a power hitting star in the making. Maybe he’ll regain some of that strength in Triple-A this month and contribute as a September call-up down the stretch. Maybe a healthy and productive offseason will have his body rejuvenated in 2023.

But it’s evident that he’s just not there right now, and the stakes of this playoff run are too high to give Lewis’ body the benefit of the doubt at this point.

Maybe I’m totally off-base and Seattle does opt to keep him in the big leagues a while longer. I’d happily hold that “L” if he turns it on and proves me wrong. But barring an unforeseen turn of events these next few days against the Yankees, the writing seems to be on the wall that Lewis will be back in Tacoma by the end of the week.

How Mariners’ Adam Frazier found his groove with the bat

No starting pitcher.

Mariners Roof Report

Brought to you by
Sunny
High 66° | Low 53°
No game today.

Joe Fann

Mariners Sam Haggerty...
Joe Fann

Fann: Mariners will sorely miss Sam Haggerty in wild card round

Sam Haggerty’s groin injury suffered in the ninth inning of Monday’s Mariners loss to the Tigers was far more significant than the loss itself.
2 days ago
Mariners...
Joe Fann

Fann: What Mariners making the playoffs, ending drought, means to me

The Mariners' playoff drought is finally over after Friday's win over Oakland. Lifelong fan Joe Fann describes what the moment means to him.
6 days ago
Mariners J.P. Crawford...
Joe Fann

Fann: Fair or not, Mariners players carry burden of franchise’s playoff drought

Joe Fann puts into perspective how the Mariners players and fans look at the franchise's 21-year playoff drought and the team's recent struggles differently.
10 days ago
Mariners Jarred Kelenic...
Joe Fann

Fann: Jarred Kelenic has chance to play hero for Mariners — again

The Mariners calling Jarred Kelenic back up from Triple-A provides him with another prime opportunity to play hero and begin the rejuvenation of his MLB career.
14 days ago
Mariners J.P. Crawford Carlos Santana...
Joe Fann

Fann: No panic — Mariners’ glass still half-full despite tough weekend

The Mariners lost three of four to the Angels and their lineup is banged up. Joe Fann details why it's not time to break out the panic button, however.
16 days ago
Mariners Julio Rodríguez...
Joe Fann

Fann: 6 Mariners moments that will make you believe in postseason run

There have been numerous moments throughout this Mariners season that indicate this roster is built for the playoff stage.
21 days ago
Fann: The Mariners are facing a Kyle Lewis conundrum