Mariners Make Another Move, Announcing They Are Ready to Compete Now (Daily Sports Thought 3/14)

A few days ago, Mariners President of Baseball Operations Jerry DiPoto said he “woke up this morning ready to transact.” It took him a couple of days to fully wake up, but now he has and has transacted accordingly. The Mariners made another trade, their first since the season restart after the lockout. Seattle acquired outfielder Jesse Winker and infielder Eugenio Suarez from the Cincinnati Reds for pitchers Brandon Williamson and Justin Dunn, outfielder Jake Fraley, and a player to be named later. There is a lot to be said about this trade, and it will all be said over the ensuing days, but the biggest statement that DiPoto and the Mariners made with this trade was that they are planning on competing this year.

That sentiment was perfectly clear based on the inclusion of Williamson in the trade. The Mariners’ front office made it clear earlier in the offseason that they were not looking to trade any of their top prospects. Some people may not consider Williamson in that top tier but he was certainly a top six or seven guy in the farm system. By agreeing to put Williamson, who could have contributed in the majors this year, in the trade Seattle is going even more all-in on this season than previously expected. The Mariners wanted to make a big move, and they knew it was going to have to take a more alluring prospect to do so. I assume it was a tough decision for them to part with Williamson but in the end, the offer from Cincinnati was too good to turn down.

The most important part of this trade for both teams was Winker, who made his first All-Star team last year. The 28-year-old is heading into his sixth MLB season so there is still some room for him to improve while he is still playing on a team-friendly contract. Winker put together a career-best stat line last year, notching a .305 batting average while hitting 24 home runs and knocking in 71 RBIs in just 110 games. Winker’s 2021 numbers in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, OPS, and OPS+ would have been the best on the Mariners by a comfortable margin. His bat will be a very welcome addition to an offense that was not very good last year. Winker really only hits well against right-handed pitchers, his batting average against lefties is below .200, so he might end up in a bit of a platoon role if everyone is healthy.

Winker is not the only player the Mariners are getting back from the Reds though. Suarez is a very capable third baseman despite experiencing a down year in 2021. He does possess massive power though, having hit 49 home runs in 2019. There will not be a ton of expectations placed upon him this year. If he ends up hitting home runs at a decent rate while having an average that isn’t abysmal, then his addition will be a success. He also fills a massive hole at third base. Suarez will probably end up splitting time with Abraham Toro at the hot corner, with whoever plays better getting more playing time. But he provides a body at a position that was a major need heading toward the start of the season.

The one downside of this trade is that it probably spells the end of any more major position player acquisitions. The pipe dreams that were Kris Bryant, Trevor Story, Carlos Correa, and Seiya Suzuki are now almost definitely not happening. By filling their two biggest position player holes in the roster in one move, the Mariners have essentially limited themselves to going after pitchers for the rest of the offseason. Now they could certainly trick us and make another big move in the field but the odds of that happening are much lower now. But this does make the Mariners a much better team for the 2022 season. The number one goal of the front office in the offseason was to improve the offense and this move, combined with the moves from before the lockout, has accomplished that goal. This leads to a Mariners team that is fully ready to compete for the AL West crown and possibly even more.