Mariners’ Dipoto: Why longtime trade target Jorge Polanco ‘fits perfectly’
Jan 30, 2024, 10:29 AM | Updated: 12:49 pm
(David Berding/Getty Images)
The Seattle Mariners made perhaps their biggest move of the offseason on Monday, sending two MLB pitchers and two prospects to Minnesota in a trade for veteran second baseman Jorge Polanco.
Polanco, 30, hit 14 home runs with 48 RBIs in 80 games last year with an OPS of .789. He was an All-Star in 2019, and in 2021 he slugged 33 home runs with an OPS of .826.
Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto discussed why they made the move during a Tuesday morning visit with Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk.
First off, how did the trade come together?
“I would say through sheer will on the part of Justin Hollander,” Dipoto said with a laugh.
Hollander is the Mariners’ general manager, and Dipoto said he was the driving force behind Polanco finally coming to Seattle.
“This has been a long time in the making,” Dipoto said. “We have had conversations with the Twins about Jorge Polanco dating back to 2021, and we were finally able to get it across the line.”
Just how many of those conversations happened? Dipoto said Hollander has probably had over 100 phone calls with the Twins over the past few years, and that Hollander’s relationship with Minnesota’s front office paid dividends as the Mariners acquired a player they really like.
“In this particular case, it’s a player we just feel fits perfectly in what we’re trying to do,” Dipoto said.
In Polanco, the Mariners acquire a player who over the course of 10 MLB seasons has been among the best second baseman in baseball. Polanco has a career OPS of .780, and he averages 22 home runs and 87 RBIs over 162 games since entering the league in 2014.
“He does all of the things that we value very highly,” Dipoto said. “He manages the strike zone well, he’s always been an on-base threat, he has power. He’s been a 30-home run hitter in a in a really difficult ballpark to hit. Minnesota is not naturally among the best places in the league to hit.”
Polanco also gives the Mariners lineup flexibility as he’s a switch-hitter who Dipoto calls “virtually split neutral,” meaning he hits roughly as well from either side of the plate.
“He has power from both sides, he hits the ball hard, has some hit ability and moves around the field,” Dipoto said. “He has, on rates, been about as good as a second baseman in our league has been over the last three or four or five years based on on-base, slug, OPS, wRC-plus. It puts him in the conversation with some of the better performers at his position in the league, and he’s done it in a town where you don’t get a ton of attention. So as a result maybe he’s not a household name for many people, but we think he’s a really good player.”
Polanco’s injury history
Between 2019 and 2021, Polanco missed just 24 games total. But he’s played in 184 games combined over the last two years due to knee and hamstring injuries.
Is that a concern moving forward?
“Past injury certainly projects to concern for future injury, but if you play the game for long enough, you’re gonna have an injury history. That’s just the way it goes,” Dipoto said. “Jorge is 30 years old, he is in tremendous physical condition. We don’t think the injuries that he’s dealt with, particularly hamstrings, are particularly ominous as we move out into the future. The bigger issues that he’s dealt with, they’ve been effectively taken care of in the past. We have no reason to believe that he won’t show up and post because while last year was a fractured season for him in playing time, he finished strong and (missing time) was more the anomaly. Typically he’s a guy that posts and gets out there and does his work.”
Polanco and a Seattle Mariners star already have a relationship
Polanco not only gives the Mariners an everyday reliable bat for the middle of their lineup, but he also has a relationship with Seattle’s top player: center fielder Julio Rodríguez. The two Dominican Republic natives are among a star-studded cast that works out together in Florida during the offseason.
“He hits with Julio among others,” Dipoto said. “… I imagine that the relationship that he’s developed with Julio over time is going to be a benefit as he joins our clubhouse. And we’ve always received tremendous feedback on the type of person is, his leadership qualities, just his general work ethic and positivity. So we’re really excited to put him with our group.”
Listen to the full Brock and Salk conversation with Seattle Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto in the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post.
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