Dipoto: Mariners’ plan for OF AJ Pollock, what’s left to do this offseason

Jan 12, 2023, 10:13 AM | Updated: 11:02 am

Mariners AJ Pollock...

AJ Pollock of the Chicago White Sox rounds the bases after hitting a home run against the New York Yankees on May 22, 2022. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

The Mariners’ signing of veteran outfielder AJ Pollock was made official Thursday morning while team president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto was talking to Brock and Salk on Seattle Sports 710 AM for his weekly visit.

Mariners Breakdown: What veteran A.J. Pollock brings to the table

Pollock, 35, is an 11-year veteran who spent most of his career with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He also played three years for the Los Angeles Dodgers where he won a World Series ring in 2020. Last season, he was with the Chicago White Sox.

Dipoto has plenty of familiarity with Pollock as he was in the Arizona front office when the Diamondbacks drafted Pollock in the first round of the 2009 MLB Draft.

“He’s had a very steady major league career,” Dipoto said. “Among the things that he does very steadily is he beats up left-handed pitching. And he did it again last year in what was otherwise – he will be the first to tell you – not the best year he’s had as a major leaguer.”

In 138 games with Chicago last season, Pollock slashed .245/.292/.389 (.681 OPS) with 14 home runs and 56 RBI. But as Dipoto noted, Pollock mashed against lefties in 2022.

Pollock had a .935 OPS and 11 home runs in 133 plate appearances off southpaws in 2022 compared to a .593 OPS in 394 plate appearances against right-handers. Pollock owns a career OPS of .868 against lefties and .772 versus right-handed pitching.

“He just continues to perform against the lefties. He’s got experience – particularly in center and left field,” Dipoto said. “… And with what we were looking for at the outset of this offseason, that right-handed hitter to pair with our young lefties in the outfield, AJ checked every box. As such, he wound up being very high on our list. We engaged first at the GM meetings and then touched in again at the winter meetings … As we’ve talked about, this free-agent market moves in waves, and I think the wave led us to AJ Pollock at the right time and we’re thrilled to have him.”

So all in all, what’s the plan for Pollock in 2023?

“He will play left field primarily against left-handed pitchers, and that will, in our minds, allow for maybe a smoother takeoff for the young left-handed hitters and allow them to gain their footing facing mostly right-handers,” Dipoto said.

Dipoto said the Mariners feel Pollock “still plays good defense” at this stage of his career, particiluarly when he’s in left field. But that likely won’t be all he does in 2023.

“There’s also going to be opportunities for him to rotate over to right field to give (Teoscar Hernandez) a day (off or) potentially have (Hernandez) DH,” Dipoto said. “There’s also going to be a chance for (Pollock) to grab a DH day from time to time. He has played anything from what I would call a hybrid role or platoon role with championship clubs with the Dodgers down to everyday roles in Chicago last year and in years past with the Diamondbacks, so we feel like he is well-suited to being able to adjust to whatever we need in the moment.”

Now that Pollock’s signing is official, what’s left for the Mariners between now and spring training?

“There’s ways to get better,” Dipoto said. “We’ve talked about the the desire to go out a second bat if we can do that. And I do think there’s room. There’s plate appearances to give. Where that fits in the hierarchy of our lineup, I can’t tell you.”

The Mariners are still “engaged” with both free agents and trade talks regarding adding that one more bat, Dipoto said.

“And that’s probably about it on what I would call standard major league deals,” he said. “We might do some non-roster invites, some minor league contracts to build depth. We’ve made a couple of additions recently in our bullpen that we’re excited about, we have started to build depth through non-roster invites. We’re getting down to a trickle, but there’s still ways we can get better.”

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