BROCK AND SALK

Why Dipoto likes Seattle Mariners’ situation at third base

Feb 29, 2024, 10:37 AM

Seattle Mariners Josh Rojas...

Josh Rojas of the Seattle Mariners celebrates his solo home run on Sept. 29, 2023. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners aren’t facing too many roster questions entering the 2024 regular season, but one position does stand out as more of a concern.

Mariners’ Julio Rodríguez details where his focus is for 2024

That would be third base, where the Mariners are expected to have a platoon of Josh Rojas, who was traded to Seattle last July, and Luis Urías, who the M’s traded for this offseason.

In 46 games with Seattle last year, the lefty-hitting Rojas slashed .272/.321/.400 with a roughly league-average .721 OPS while playing mostly second base. Urías, a right-handed hitter, had two big years in 2021 and 2022 for Milwaukee, but in 2023 he struggled to the tune of a .636 OPS in 52 games between the Brewers and Boston Red Sox. Urías has also been limited to just hitting in Cactus League games thus far due to a shoulder issue.

During a Thursday sitdown interview with Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk live from spring training, Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto shared his thoughts on the state of the third base position.

“I like our situation at third base,” Dipoto said (watch the video here). “They’re both guys who’ve been successful major league players. If you combine each of their best seasons, you’ve got about a 5.5-win player, which is no joke. They just do it in a slightly different way.”

With perennial Gold Glove candidate Matt Chapman still available in free agency, some have called for the Mariners to make a run at signing him. But while speaking about the hot corner, Dipoto said that “you’re not going to have an All-Star solution at every position on the field or in the roster” and that it’s easy at this stage to say “they can go get such and such.”

“Yeah, but then you’re taking away from the advantage that it provides you in versatility and flexibility and depth,” Dipoto said. “Because if you have Rojas, you have Urías, you have (utility player) Dylan Moore, you have guys like this on your team, now you’re protecting yourself. If (second baseman) Jorge Polanco needs some time down, one can rotate over (to second base) because they can all do that. If somebody misses considerable time, you’re not backfilling by going down to the minor leagues and getting someone who’s largely unproven. You’re bringing in players who have had success at the major league level. That kind of depth built into a 26-man roster is really valuable over a 162 game-season.”

What about first baseman Ty France, who has appeared at third base in 53 MLB games but none since 2022. Is a potential name to watch at the position?

“I guess there’s always a chance,” Dipoto said.

France changed his offseason approach and showed up to camp in “impressive” shape, Dipoto said. He also came up through the minor leagues with San Diego playing third and second base.

How offseason for Mariners’ Ty France looked at Driveline

“He looks incredibly athletic right now. I mentioned it to him that he did the work this offseason,” Dipoto said. “And (infield coach) Perry Hill has always believed in him as a third baseman. So giving him the opportunity to rotate over there, just like I talked about with the flexibility with guys like Rojas, Urías, Moore, etc. – if Ty France fits into that bucket, all the better for us. Polanco is also a guy who can go play third base … Having that type of versatility really provides depth before you even get to the next layer of players.”

More on the Seattle Mariners

• Seattle Mariners Notebook: Prospect debut, latest on Julio
• Drayer: Where things stand with Seattle Mariners’ bullpen
• Mitch Garver: What makes each of Mariners’ 5 SPs stand out
• Raleigh: Mariners hitters ‘want to start pulling our end of the bargain’
• Mariners announce video webcasts for some spring games

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Why Dipoto likes Seattle Mariners’ situation at third base