Mariners’ Dipoto: What caused Winker’s down year, why he can rebound

Oct 20, 2022, 11:25 AM

Mariners Jesse Winker...

Jesse Winker of the Seattle Mariners strikes out against the Atlanta Braves at T-Mobile Park on September 11, 2022. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Mariners had a fantastic season in 2022, winning 90 games and making the playoffs for the first time since 2001. Unfortunately, someone who was expected to be a key contributor had a rather poor season.

That would be Jesse Winker, a 2021 All-Star starter who came to Seattle before the season in a deal with Cincinnati.

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But after slashing .305/.394/.556 in 2021, Winker slashed just .219/.344/.344 with 14 home runs and 53 RBIs with the Mariners and ended the year on the injured list and didn’t play in the playoffs.

So what happened to Winker in 2022? And why could he recover in a big way in 2023? Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto discussed Winker at length during his weekly conversation with Brock and Salk on Seattle Sports 710 AM.

First off, health.

Winker is dealing with two injuries. He’s already had surgery for one of the injuries and will get surgery for the other as well.

“He had a knee surgery on the 11th of October in New York, spent six days in New York while we were on our playoff train,” Dipoto said. “And while I do understand some of the frustrations that surround Jesse’s season – he didn’t have the kind of season he wanted to have or that we expected – but he was dealing with the knee. And it is not a potential surgery that he’s waiting for on his neck, it’s an actual surgery.”

Additionally, Dipoto said Winker, “Was dealing with with real issues that not a lot of people around the club – and even the players in the clubhouse – were aware of because that’s not stuff that you naturally share every day.”

“It was unfortunate that train got a little out of control there, but Jesse’s a good player who didn’t have a particularly good year, and he was dealing with some physical ailments along the way,” Dipoto said. “We urged him to have the knee surgery when he did because the neck was going to keep him on the IL, and we thought it made the most sense to get it done now so that he can recover and be back and ready to go.”

So can Winker recover and have a bounce back year in 2023?

“I don’t know why it would change. As I said yesterday during our presser, Jesse is 28 years old and has historically been not just a good major league hitter, but an excellent major league hitter,” Dipoto said.

Throughout his career, Winker has been an offensive “metronome” with consistent metrics and numbers, Dipoto said.

“He gets on base and slugs. We didn’t see that.”

But Dipoto and Co. saw many good things from Winker that could lead to a good year in 2023 after recovering from his injuries.

“His pitch selection, his ability to identify what to swing at what to take, his walk percentage, all these things are very similar, if not better, than they’ve ever been. So his process was very good,” he said. “Unfortunately, what we saw was a decreased bat speed and a decreased exit velocity and a decreased exit angle that affected the result.”

And Dipoto thinks those decreased metrics may be in large part to the injuries.

“They’re strength-based issues that I think can easily be chalked up to struggling through injury,” Dipoto said. “And I would also add that Jesse played more than he’s ever played in his career. Whether it was through need because we needed him to face lefties because we were shorthanded or the fact that we wanted to give him that opportunity to go out there and get it done, and he wanted to show that he can be an everyday player rather than simply a high-end platoon … But all the underlying information suggests if we can get him back to a healthy, strong base, then all of the results should start to flow like they always have.”

Listen to The Jerry Dipoto Show at this link or in the player below.

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Mariners’ Dipoto: What caused Winker’s down year, why he can rebound