Mariners’ Dipoto: Caballero may play more over Wong ‘in the short-term’

May 18, 2023, 11:41 AM | Updated: 11:58 am

Seattle Mariners Kolten Wong...

Kolten Wong of the Seattle Mariners reacts after striking out on April 18, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

One of the Seattle Mariners’ bigger additions over the offseason has not panned out, to say the least.

The Mariners acquired veteran second baseman Kolten Wong to be the team’s go-to starter at that position, but he’s gotten off to a really slow start in 2023.

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Wong is slashing just .177/.259/.208 in 32 games. His defense has also been an issue as he currently has a -0.7 defensive WAR with -8 defensive runs saved, per Baseball Reference.

“A rough start. And it’s not the defense, it’s the body of work right now,” Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto said during his weekly interview with Brock and Salk on Seattle Sports. “It’s just been a struggle for him. And what it is? I don’t know. I wish there was an answer that I could provide or that we could provide.”

Dylan Moore was set to platoon at second base with the left-handed hitting Wong, but he’s yet to play in an MLB game this season due to a core injury. But the Mariners have had some success with rookie infielder José Caballero, who’s slashing .298/.393/.362 in 20 games. Dipoto said the right-handed hitting rookie may get even more playing time at second base going forward.

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“Obviously, you saw last night that Cabby got a start against the right-handed pitcher, and you might see that more in the short-term as we try to just give Kolten a chance to reset and get his season started in the way he’s accustomed to playing,” Dipoto said. “(Wong has) been a really good player for the better part of a decade in this league, and I don’t think that is done. I don’t think that’s over. Clearly he got off to a rough start and he’s having a tough time reeling it in. And maybe just a breather will give him a chance to do just that. But the whole of his game has been just off, and I think he’s aware of that and hopefully this is a chance to, as I said, just reset and just start over.”

The Mariners tried to get Wong in free agency ahead of the 2021 season, but he signed with the Milwaukee Brewers. The M’s then went and traded for the veteran infielder this offseason.

Brock Huard asked Dipoto if seeing a player who they’ve coveted for years come to Seattle and struggle is frustrating or “maddening” to see.

“I really don’t consider it for how it makes me feel. I consider it for how it makes Kolten feel and how his teammates feel,” Dipoto said. “We want to put a good product on the field. But at the end of the day, the productivity at that position, whether it’s Cabby, whether it’s eventually Dylan Moore, guys are going to struggle. And at the end of the day, I can’t take it personally when the guy that I wanted to bring here struggles.”

Dipoto said he and the Mariners look at figuring out “how to solve it” to get a player back on track, or whether this is “a new version” of a player. In Wong’s case, Dipoto doesn’t think what’s going on now is who Wong really is.

“I don’t see that,” he said. “… Sometimes, as is the case with watching baseball as a fan, the emotion of the game, you want to go win 10 games in a day. You don’t understand why you can’t rip off the 14 in a row of last summer. You know what? A lot of 10-6 runs go a long way in our league. And the same thing is true of an individual player. A lot of 1-for-3 (days) with a walk go a long way toward getting you back to where you want to be, but you want to go 10-for-10 that day. And that’s how these things typically build up and they do spill over to other areas of your game, and your head is somewhere else and you’re not quite locked in. And I’m sure that all of those things in some way have contributed to Kolten’s slow start.”

Even though Wong hasn’t picked up his game, the Mariners are scoring more runs in May than they did in April as more bats are coming around.

“Despite the fact that he’s not producing on a level that he’s typically provided, we are continuing to find ways to score runs over the course of these last two to three weeks in a way that if we score five runs a game, we’re going to be a good team when this is all said and done,” Dipoto said.

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

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Mariners’ Dipoto: Caballero may play more over Wong ‘in the short-term’