As Kyle Seager stood on the field of T-Mobile Park, watching his teammates file off the field after their pregame workout and enjoying a pleasant Friday afternoon and discussing the winning team he was playing on, Mariners chairman John Stanton interrupted the conversation to give Seager an unexpected hug.
“Congratulations,” Stanton tried to whisper but couldn’t. “It’s an accomplishment and something to be proud of.”
The Mariners owner wasn’t talking about Seager’s rare opposite-field homer during the series against the Blue Jays in Buffalo.
“I kind of like that field,” Seager said later with a laugh.
Stanton’s reason for the embrace was to congratulate Seager on reaching his 10 years of MLB service time, which came June 26 when the Mariners were in Chicago.
Based on the collective-bargaining agreement between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association, a player who reaches 10 years of MLB service time receives a full pension. It’s considered a major accomplishment among players.
“They gave me a really nice little presentation and I’ve had a couple guys actually do some really nice stuff and some really nice gestures, and I’ve got some really nice gifts from guys,” he said. “It’s been really special. Skip (Scott Servais) had a nice presentation after the game and kind of talked about it a little bit.”
Seager joins Brett Gardner of the Yankees and Danny Duffy of the Royals as the longest tenured players with the same team in the American League.
Based on the CBA, a full year of service time is actually less than the length of an actual season. So the official 10-year anniversary of Seager’s first game with the Mariners is on July 7. The Mariners plan to honor his time with the organization before that game.
And since Seager has spent his entire career with the Mariners, having been taken in the third round of the 2009 MLB draft out of the University of North Carolina and later signing a 7-year, $100 million contract in 2015, he has also reached “10-and-5” status, which is 10 years of service time including the last five years with the same team. A player with 10-and-5 rights can veto any trade scenario.
“Yeah, that’s a nice bit of security,” he said.
Of course, it’s fair to wonder if Seager would veto a trade at midseason to a contender. After Kevin Mather’s zoom conversation with the Bellevue Breakfast Rotary went viral and included comments about the longtime third baseman being overpaid and that this would be his final season with the Mariners, Seager knew that it was unlikely the Mariners would exercise his club option for the 2022 season, which is at minimum $15 million and could escalate up to $20 million based on performance.
That thinking hasn’t really changed. He believes this will be his last season in Seattle.
And it’s a reason why he might accept a trade to another team with better playoff hopes than the Mariners, who are in the middle of the pack of a seven-team competition for the last wild-card spot.
With the Mariners’ rebuilding plan now on year three, the only reason Seager hasn’t been traded already is the “poison pill” clause in his contract that automatically converts the 2022 club option into a player option — guaranteeing him the salary for that season.
MLB sources have said that clause, and the Mariners’ unwillingness to eat a sizable portion of that money, has been a hindrance to past potential deals.
It doesn’t mean that Seager is giving up on this team and the hope of ending a playoff drought dating back to 2001. The recent run of success has made him cautiously hopeful. He’s been down this path a few times before only to have it end in heart break.
“It’s been a lot of fun and we’ve been playing really good baseball,” Seager said. “We are finding ways to win and that’s the name of the game.”
Servais offered updates on several players who are on the injured list and trying to work their way back to the active roster. They include:
- Right-hander pitcher Justin Dunn (shoulder strain) will start a throwing program in the next few days. Dunn will have to do a full build up that starts with catch sessions, building out to long toss and then eventual bullpen sessions. Servais wouldn’t speculate on how long it would take to get him throwing in rehab games.
- First baseman Evan White (strained hip flexor) is still feeling discomfort with injury after receiving a cortisone shot a few days ago. A team source said the first baseman is considering surgical options.
- Outfielder Kyle Lewis (meniscus surgery) has returned to Seattle and is currently rehabbing with the team. But there is no timetable for his return. The hope is Lewis can return by late August or early September.
- Right-handed pitcher Erik Swanson (groin strain) had some back stiffness that wouldn’t allow him to make a rehab appearance with Class AAA Tacoma. He’s expected to throw a bullpen in Seattle in the next few days and then report for a rehab appearance.
- Right-handed pitcher Casey Sadler (shoulder impingement) threw a 15-pitch bullpen session Thursday. He will continue to build arm strength with a bullpen session and a live batting practice before reporting to Tacoma for a rehab assignment.