Mariners Takeaways: GM Hollander on Julio’s ROY win, how M’s will add

Nov 14, 2022, 6:57 PM

Mariners Julio Rodríguez...

Mariners Julio Rodríguez celebrates a double in Game 3 of the ALDS on Oct. 15, 2022. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Monday was a day for the Mariners to celebrate the monumental debut season of Julio Rodríguez, who was officially named the fifth American League Rookie of the Year in franchise history in the afternoon.

Drayer: Julio Rodríguez wins AL ROY — inside his remarkable rise

General manager Justin Hollander joined Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob (with guest hosts Mike Lefko and Joe Fann) to do just that shortly after the announcement.

“I think it’s super cool,” Hollander said. “… To see Julio come out of the gates like this and really show everyone the kind of talent he is, and also the kind of person he is, the way that he embraced the city and vice versa, it’s awesome. I couldn’t be prouder for him or the organization.”

Where Hollander was at the time of the show on MLB Network that revealed Rodríguez as the winner, however, serves as a reality check of how important this time of year is, especially for a team like the Mariners who are looking to build off their second straight 90-win season and a Wild Card Series win in the playoffs.

“I actually missed Julio’s announcement because I was on the phone with a club talking about a trade, so I had to go back and rewatch it,” Hollander admitted.

Gather ’round, M’s fans, because the hot stove is getting warm.

While Hollander couldn’t get into the specifics of that conversation, he had plenty to say in the interview, which you can listen to in the player below. After that, let’s go through a few things that stood out.

What Julio’s award means

Hollander, who was promoted in October by the Mariners from assistant general manager to executive vice president and general manager of baseball operations, spoke about how Rodríguez winning Rookie of the Year can be seen as a microcosm of the team’s direction in general following a rebuild that began after the 2018 season.

“It’s just another symbol or embodiment of all the good things that happened this year and the way in which they happened,” he said. “When you do a rebuild and you hope that things come out on the other side with a playoff berth and hopefully more playoff berths down the line, you know it’s going to be led by your young players. That’s why you do these things.”

As for Rodríguez specifically, Hollander spoke about what he showed in shaking off a rough first month in the big leagues and eventually running away with the award, picking up 29 of the 30 total first place votes.

“There’s players who work really hard, there’s players who are talented,” he said. “There’s very few players that combine the top of the scale work ethic with the talent and then also the charisma that Julio attacks each day with. That’s like a magnet for everybody to appreciate and look up to. He’s obviously even exceeded what high expectations we had for him this early on because he kind of jumped right in. And you know, after (an) April that most people would have had trouble processing and figuring out, he never backed down, he never got down on himself or tried to change who he was. He just attacked each day – ‘I know I’m good enough to go do this’ – and when it turned, it really turned for him and it was awesome to watch.”

The Mariners’ offseason plan

Speaking of attacking each day, how are the Mariners doing that this offseason? There are obvious needs for the roster, namely second base and the corner outfield positions, and as Fann lined out in talking to Hollander, there are advantages to acquiring players both via free agency and trades. How do the M’s balance that?

“There’s not one right way to do it. I think the best teams are built with both,” Hollander said. “… I think those are the avenues we’re going to look (at) and there isn’t one way we’re going to look to build a team. It’s not going to be all through free agency or all through trade, I wouldn’t expect. I think it’d be a little mix of both.”

Hollander also provided a window into how he and the Mariners front office is approaching the early stages of the offseason, beginning with the GM meetings that took place in Las Vegas last week.

“We met with agents into the evening most nights, and then we also spend a bunch of time either at lunches or breakfast or walking around the hotel in Las Vegas talking to other clubs, finding out ways in which we might match,” Hollander said. “… Those are the conversations we feel really good about right now. We feel like we’ve canvassed the league, we know where everyone’s at, and now it’s just a matter of trying to sequence in the best way possible to give yourself the most options.

“You move too soon, you may forego the opportunity to do something else. If you move too late, you may miss the best opportunity you would have had either by free agency or trades and make your club better. So there is no perfect way of doing it. I think you just line everything up on your internal board and you start picking them off – what’s possible, what do you like the best, one at a time. And sometimes you’ll zigzag between free agency and trade, and sometimes you just run down one list or another.”

It’s still early, though, and Hollander said “we’re not close on anything.” But in discussing how the Mariners are handling their interest in a talented class of All-Star shortstops in free agency while staying committed to 2020 AL Gold Glove shortstop J.P. Crawford, he at least kept the door open on exciting possibilities.

“We just want to be open minded to get better. I do think the great likelihood is that J.P. Crawford is our shortstop. He has been our shortstop, he’s the heartbeat of our team and brings so many attributes, both tangible and intangible, that are really valuable to our club. But we have not ruled anything out and I just think it would be a disservice to our team to rule anything out.”

Then he reiterated something that appears to be pretty important for Seattle.

“But I don’t anticipate J.P. not playing shortstop for us.”

Added perk of ROY

The Mariners – and Rodríguez – had great timing on the Rookie of the Year award. That’s because for the first time under MLB’s collective bargaining agreement that was new in 2022, the award comes with an extra pick in the 2022 MLB Draft, which will be after the first round in the Competitive Balance A round.

Hollander is understandably happy about that considering how well Seattle has done in the draft in recent years.

“It’s a cool bonus for our scouting group,” he said. “Since I’ve been here, we haven’t really had extra picks at the top of the draft. We’ve traded for some after the second round, the Comp B picks; we’ve never been in position to have a Comp A. It’s a great thing for our scouting group. Obviously, we’ve had a lot of success in that area. A big part of our team – George Kirby, Logan Gilbert, Cal Raleigh, among others – have come because our amateur group has done such a great job lining up the draft. And now having an extra pick in a slot that we think will be very beneficial to us come draft day, that’s a great thing for the org, too.”

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