MLB Network’s Morosi: Wong, Hernández bring something Mariners need
It may already feel like ancient history after a pretty newsworthy winter meetings for MLB, but it hasn’t even been a week since the Mariners traded for veteran second baseman Kolten Wong.
Wednesday on Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob, weekly guest and MLB Network reporter Jon Morosi joined the show for the first time since the M’s swung the deal for Wong, sending Jesse Winker and Abraham Toro to the Milwaukee Brewers in return.
Morosi had glowing things to report on Wong, which we’ll get to a little bit later in this post, but he also pointed out how Wong and Seattle’s other notable trade addition this offseason, 2021 All-Star outfielder Teoscar Hernández, will bring something to the offense that was missing at the end of 2022. To be specific, it’s something the Mariners could have used in their season-ending 1-0 loss in 18 innings to the Houston Astros in Game 3 of the ALDS.
“When I was watching Game 3 against Houston and all the at-bats in extra innings, I said to myself, ‘This team needs a little bit of a different look,'” said Morosi, who covered that game live at T-Mobile Park. “They need a little bit of a different guy to have to pitch to that’s not going to swing at stuff off the corner, that’s gonna make you be in the zone. And I think Kolten does that, and I think bringing in Teoscar, he gives you a different kind of at-bat but he’s also a hard guy to pitch to. I think that both Wong and Teoscar give the bonus of not only the production but they are guys that can grind an at-bat, and I think Kolten especially does that and is a great pick up for the Mariners.”
A closer look at new Mariners 2B Kolten Wong
When it comes to just Wong, Morosi thinks the 32-year-old Hawaii native is just as good of a fit for the Mariners’ culture and its lineup. A big reason is that Wong played the first eight seasons of his career with a perennially competitive St. Louis Cardinals team. In fact, even if you add in his two seasons with the Brewers, Wong has never played for a team that finished a season with a losing record in his MLB career.
“I’ve always liked Kolten Wong,” Morosi said. “… I love that he’s someone that as soon as he arrived in the major leagues, he was in the World Series in his first year with the Cardinals in 2013. He was on the big stage immediately, and I love that about a player that was in St. Louis, then was in Milwaukee – he’s been on contending teams a lot. He’s played a lot of meaningful games.”
That may be part of why Wong comes off as a consummate professional.
“I just think Wong in general is a pro’s pro. Great personality, really great teammate, quick to smile – just a really, really great way about him and I’ve always enjoyed talking to him in the past,” Morosi said.
That professionalism comes through on the field, too.
“He is someone that I really just trust him in a big spot. He’s been through a lot in the game, and he learned to play the game in a very fundamental way in the St. Louis organization. I’m just a big fan of what he brings,” Morosi said. “When I thought about the options the Mariners had (to add at second base), if they weren’t going to get a Trea Turner and move (shortstop J.P.) Crawford to second, I really think Wong was about as good as they were going to do in trade.”
— Milwaukee Brewers (@Brewers) May 18, 2022
Wong had a solid year offensively in 2021, slashing .251/.339/.430 for a .770 OPS with 15 home runs, 24 doubles, four triples and 17 stolen bases on 23 attempts. He even hit three home runs in a game against the Reds on Sept. 22. The Mariners are planning to use the left-handed hitter in a platoon so he mainly will face right-handed pitching, which makes sense considering he had an .845 OPS against righties (401 plate appearances) compared to just a .441 OPS against lefties (96 plate appearances).
There has been a concern about Wong’s defense, however, as he finished in just the third percentile in outs above average in 2022, but he was an above-average defender in previous years and even has two Gold Glove awards on his mantle.
Morosi isn’t worried about Wong bouncing back in the field and can see how his bat should be a positive in Seattle.
“He had little bit of a defensive slump during the course of this past season, but he got himself I think corrected to where he was really good defensively down the stretch. I think offensively he’s had little bits of streakiness in the past. He’s someone who has been a very well respected teammate and he gives you a very, very solid at-bat from the left side, knows the strike zone exceptionally well. And I think he’s someone that will benefit likely from the shift not being in play (note: MLB will restrict defensive shifts in 2023). He’s always been able to hit to all fields but I just think giving him an even broader canvas to hit against will be to his benefit.”
You can listen to the full conversation with Morosi in the podcast at this link or in the player below.