What’s next for Mariners and Jesse Winker? MLB insiders react

Oct 19, 2022, 3:00 PM | Updated: 3:56 pm

Mariners Jesse Winker...

Jesse Winker of the Seattle Mariners adjusts his batting gloves during a July01, 2022 game. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Perhaps the biggest news this week following the end of the Mariners’ first postseason appearance in 21 years has to do with a player who was absent for it.

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Outfielder Jesse Winker, who was an All-Star for the Cincinnati Reds in 2021, missed the playoffs with a neck injury, and he noticeably was not present for player introductions last Saturday before the Mariners’ lone home game of the postseason (the Mariners said during an end-of-season press conference Wednesday that Winker has undergone knee surgery and will also have neck surgery this offseason).

Winker struggled in his first season with Seattle, and Ryan Divish, who covers the Mariners for The Seattle Times, said Tuesday on Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk that the relationship between Winker and his teammates seemed to have soured, in part because his preparation level wasn’t as high as the majority of the team.

For full details on what Divish said, read this story here.

On Wednesday, Seattle Sports dug into what the result of Winker’s situation with the M’s could be in conversations with a pair of national MLB reporters. Here’s what they had to say.

Jeff Passan – ESPN

ESPN’s Jeff Passan, who regularly joins Brock and Salk, was asked about similar cases of players who struggled in their first year with a new team but bounced back in their second. He had an interesting answer for that.

“This player doesn’t check off all of those boxes because I think he did post and I think he was a good teammate, but sounds like you’re talking about Francisco Lindor,” said Passan, referencing the superstar shortstop who signed a massive extension shortly after a trade from Cleveland to the Mets between the 2020 and 2021 seasons. “He’s given a $341 million contract over 10 years, he is the franchise shortstop, and he goes out and puts up league-average offensive numbers (in 2021). His wins above replacement (WAR) was really good because he was still excellent defensively, but he certainly was not the type of player who the Mets thought that they were trading for, who they gave up Andrés Giménez and Amed Rosario (for) who now comprise the entire middle infield of the Cleveland Guardians’ playoff team.”

How Lindor played in 2022, though, could give Mariners fans some hope about Winker’s chancing of rebounding with Seattle.

“Lindor turned around this year, offensive numbers stepped up big time, and he was a seven-win player and should get MVP votes. Now, Jesse Winker has never been the player that Francisco Lindor is, but the notion that everything is broken just because of a bad first season I don’t think is necessarily true,” Passan said. “… Ultimately, this is Jesse Winker, this is his career, this is his livelihood, and whether it’s going to be in a Mariners uniform or another uniform, I don’t know, but the idea that he is lost and cannot be repaired, no. … He wasn’t effective this year and that is something that absolutely needs to change.”

Listen to the full conversation with Passan at this link or in the player below.

Jon Morosi – MLB Network

Tuesday afternoon on Wyman and Bob, Jon Morosi of the MLB Network weighed in on Divish’s report and agreed with host Bob Stelton that it would be difficult for Winker to continue with the team if he had lost other players with a “tired act,” as Divish termed it.

Even though the Mariners signed Winker to an extension through 2023 to bypass arbitration this offseason, Morosi wonders if Seattle will look to find a trade partner to take him.

“It was very interesting to me that he gets the contract extension for next season, so now what do you do? You’ve already kind of pledged that money, (but) it’s not huge money – it’s money you should be able to move,” Morosi said. “He’s still a major league player, there are plenty of teams that don’t have a lefty bat who’s at least league average to be a corner outfielder… I think that they’re gonna have to find a way here to very quickly ascertain what happened, and if they don’t feel like this can be repaired, they better trade him.”

Morosi added that with Winker owed a $8.275 million salary in 2023, it’s not out of the question that it could get in the way of re-signing Mitch Haniger, who Divish pointed to as someone who displays the opposite level of preparation from Winker.

“Where it would really sting (is) if you say, ‘Wow, we’re short on the money to pay Mitch Haniger, we have to let him go in free agency, and meanwhile we’ve got to turn around and pay Jesse Winker $8 million bucks.’ That’s a tough look because Mitch Haniger I think in a lot of ways embodied what made this team special. His focus level, his preparation is top in the industry… and if you lose your one of your best examples, maybe your best example (for working hard), and now the team turns over to somebody who – let’s be fair, (Winker) made the All-Star team last year, this is a good player at his best, but maybe he just didn’t buy in the way that he was supposed to. He’s going to have to find a way to either address that directly now with with the team’s leadership, or it may be best for him to move on and (the Mariners) trade him.”

The Mariners will need to figure that out quickly, though, according to Morosi.

“I think (Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto) could probably find someone to take him, but I think that they’ll have to ascertain that pretty quickly if the relationship is fixable or not,” he said.

Listen to the full discussion with Morosi in the podcast at this link or in the player below.

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What’s next for Mariners and Jesse Winker? MLB insiders react