SEATTLE MARINERS

Mariners Trade Breakdown: Who is new 2B Jorge Polanco?

Jan 29, 2024, 8:08 PM | Updated: Jan 30, 2024, 10:43 am

Do the Seattle Mariners finally have their answer at second base after Monday’s trade for Jorge Polanco?

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Perhaps more so than in any offseason since they dealt Robinson Canó to the New York Mets six years ago, there is confidence that the answer is yes.

Polanco has more power and a better offensive track record than Adam Frazier did when the M’s traded for him prior to the 2022 season. He’s younger and, again, has shown more at the plate over his career than Kolten Wong, who was last year’s trade addition for second base.

And based on what Mariners general manager Justin Hollander has said about the addition of Polanco – not to mention the pretty hefty four-player (plus cash) haul it took to get the one-time All-Star from Minnesota – he is a player the M’s really believe in.

“From the beginning of this offseason, Jorge was someone we identified as a perfect fit for our roster,” Hollander said in a press release announcing the trade. “As a switch-hitter with a long track record of success, he’s also renowned around the league for his work ethic and leadership skills. We’re thrilled at the opportunity to add such an impactful presence to both our lineup and clubhouse.”

There’s more where that came from.

Let’s take a closer look at Polanco.

Under the hood

Polanco, 30, is coming off a down year by his standards. Limited to 80 games in 2023 due to a left hamstring injury that appeared more than once, he hit .255 with a .335 on-base percentage and .454 slugging percentage for a .789 OPS. He also homered 14 times.

Thing is, that would have looked pretty good in the 2023 Mariners lineup. After all, M’s second basemen produced a line of .205/.294/.313 (.607 OPS) last year.

Polanco’s Statcast rankings look pretty strong, too. He was 72nd percentile in batting run value, 76th percentile in xwOBA, 82nd percentile in xSLG, 89th percentile in barrel percentage, and his best mark was 94th percentile in sweet-spot percentage.

The 76th percentile in walk percentage is nice, too, though his chase (47th), whiff (50th) and strikeout percentage (27th) weren’t ideal.

He was better in a few of those measurements in 2022, including 91st for xwOBA and 98th for walk percentage, and he had a stellar 2021 campaign that had his Statcast page full of red (click here and you’ll see what I mean).

Polanco has ranked high in sprint speed for most of his career, too, though that saw a big dip last season while he dealt with the hamstring issue. His fielding marks have never looked great, either.

A switch-hitter, Polanco has an identical career average of .269 from each side of the plate, but he has traditionally shown more power with his lefty swing, which carries an .803 OPS over his 10 MLB seasons. That flipped in 2023, however, as he had an .824 OPS with four homers in 91 plate appearances as a righty compared to a .775 OPS with 10 homers in 76 games as a lefty.

Highlights

Polanco was the starting shortstop for the American League in the 2019 MLB All-Star Game. He finished that season with a .295/.356/.485 slash line for a career-high .841 OPS. He also had 22 home runs, 40 doubles, 79 RBIs and a career-best 101 runs scored, and he received votes in the AL MVP race that year.

He also hit for the cycle in a game at Philadelphia in 2019.

His 2021 season was better in some respects. In that year, he had a .269/.323/.503 slash for an .826 OPS with 35 doubles, 33 homers and 98 RBIs, the latter two numbers the best of his career.

Polanco’s 112 home runs are the most in Twins history by a switch-hitter.

Polanco has a good amount of playoff experience, appearing in 12 games over four different postseasons with the Twins. That includes the 2023 American League Division Series when Minnesota met the Houston Astros, and Polanco launched this blast at Minute Maid Park in Game 1 to go back-to-back with teammate Royce Lewis. It was Polanco’s second career postseason homer.

Odds and ends

One thing that needs to be mentioned with Polanco is that he served an 80-game suspension in 2018 after testing positive for Stanozolol, a performance-enhancing substance. That doesn’t mean he’s a bad guy – don’t forget that Nelson Cruz served a similar suspension before he came to Seattle and turned into a fan favorite and valued clubhouse presence. And Hollander specifically mentioned Polanco’s work ethic not just in the press release but when talking with the media Monday night, adding that Polanco has worked out with fellow Dominican Republic native and new M’s teammate Julio Rodríguez.

In addition to last year’s hamstring woes, Polanco has been hindered by ankle and knee injuries in recent seasons.

As far as how long the M’s will have Polanco, he’s under team control for the next two seasons. Per Spotrac, he’s due $10.5 million this year, and his contract includes a club option for 2025 at $12 million with a $750,000 buyout.

This is the first time Polanco has been with any organization other than Minnesota. He signed with the Twins as an amateur free agent in 2009, debuted in the big leagues with the team in 2014, and established himself as an everyday player in 2017.

For more on the Seattle Mariners trade for Jorge Polanco, keep your eye on SeattleSports.com and listen all day Tuesday to Seattle Sports on 710 AM or streaming at SeattleSports.com and on the Seattle Sports app, including the weekly Mariners Hot Stove from 7-9 p.m.

More on Seattle Mariners trade for Jorge Polanco

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Mariners Trade Breakdown: Who is new 2B Jorge Polanco?
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