Drayer: Mariners weren’t done – How Polanco addition fits
Jan 29, 2024, 8:37 PM | Updated: Jan 30, 2024, 10:42 am
(Nick Wosika/Getty Images)
After the Seattle Mariners’ trades that brought in Mitch Haniger, Anthony DeScalfani and Luke Raley to the Seattle Mariners three weeks ago had been completed, there was a clear air of relief in a reply to a question posed to president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto.
“I feel like today is the first time all offseason that we can say if we were playing the opening day game tomorrow, we feel good about the team that we have,” Dipoto said in the media call later that Jan. 5 evening. “It’s a complete team.”
While some interpreted that as “the Mariners are done this winter,” in reality it was a statement of fact – and a significant accomplishment given the turn the offseason had taken early on, with Dipoto and general manager Justin Hollander needing to subtract from the roster before they added due to financial constraints.
For the vast majority of the offseason there were missing pieces – vital pieces. And no, the plan was not to just fill them with utility players. Nonetheless, it was an uncomfortable place to be.
On Jan. 5, they felt they could at least field a good team with the numbers adding up at most positions, some via the platoon, but the hope was they could add.
The target: Jorge Polanco.
“He’s a guy that we have liked and tried to acquire for years,” said Hollander. “I think I personally made more calls on this trade than I ever have on any trade before at the behest of both my own want to add him to our group, so a really big day for us. (I) feel like it makes us a lot better and excited to add him.”
The addition of the switch-hitting Polanco at second base will eliminate a planned platoon at that position, likely moving it to third base where the platoon can be better utilized with Luis Urías and Josh Rojas.
“The switch-hit is huge for us the way our team is constructed,” said Hollander. “To have a guy who’s platoon neutral who can hit in the middle of our lineup from either side is a big advantage for Scott (Servais) as he stacks the lineup up to be able to go left, right, switch.”
Polanco, who hit primarily in the top three spots of the order for the Twins in recent years, could slide into the No. 3 spot for the Mariners, solidifying the top of the order before mixing and matching through the middle. The addition gives length to the lineup, and it builds a stronger bench. One of Mitch Haniger, Dominic Canzone or Luke Raley will be available off the bench each night, plus utility player Dylan Moore, catcher Seby Zavala, and Rojas or Urías.
The addition did come at a price both in the immediate and perhaps future, though, with outfielder and top-100 prospect Gabriel Gonzalez and pitching prospect Darren Bowen included in the trade. Off the big league roster, the Mariners could afford to lose the recently acquired DeScalfani, but key reliever Justin Topa will need to be replaced.
“I definitely do want to take a moment to praise Topa on this call,” Hollander said to the media Monday night. “Justin Topa was awesome for us last year. From Day 1 of spring training, he showed up. He was open to coaching, he was open to new ideas, worked his butt off to make sure he stayed on the mound every day. He was available to us and got huge outs for us all year long. Topa was great, we’ll have to replace that. I think it most likely will be internally with a possibility, like always, that we could add externally as well.”
The bullpen does appear to be thin in established talent, but a strength of the Mariners in recent years has been in uncovering pitching gems. Is the next Topa or even Paul Sewald in the current group of spring training invitees? There are candidates with Jackson Kowar, Carlos Vargas and Prelander Berroa all possessing stuff, though none have yet put it together at the big league level.
Time will tell how it all shakes out, but on paper – multiple projection systems ranked the Mariners second in the division before Monday’s trade – this team is better than the team that finished last season.
Pitchers (and it’s very worth noting the starting five was kept intact) and catchers report to spring training in just over two weeks.
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