At the time of his acquisition in early March, this sort of announcement would’ve been viewed as a coup for the Mariners.
Then again, it’s not something that probably would’ve been agreed upon at that time.
On Thursday, the Mariners announced they had agreed to contract terms with outfielder Jesse Winker through the 2023 season.
The Mariners avoided an upcoming arbitration hearing with Winker, agreeing to a contract for the 2022 season and also the 2023 season. This means Seattle essentially has reached a salary for the 2023 season instead of going through the typical process again for an arbitration eligible player.
An MLB source confirmed that Winker will earn $14.5 million over the next two seasons — $6.25 million in 2022 and $8.25 million in 2023. It also includes multiple performance bonuses for reaching a certain number of plate appearances as well as All-Star selections and awards. He will be a free agent at the end of 2023.
“Really just very, very happy,” Winker said before Thursday’s game. “Just thankful to everybody that was involved with this and made it happen for me. I don’t want to say I was really thinking about it a lot. But I think no matter what, you kind of are. It’s somewhere in your mind. But it’s a nice to not have to think about it anymore. I really enjoy it here. This is where I want to be. So I’m excited about that.”
With the MLB lockout and delayed start to spring training, the arbitration process went into the season. Winker was the last arbitration eligible player on the Mariners yet to reach an agreement. After making $3.13 million with the Reds last season, his agents submitted a $7 million salary request for 2022. The Mariners submitted salary was $5.4 million.
Winker, 28, has not quite lived up to preseason expectations after he was acquired along with third baseman Eugenio Suarez at the start of spring training in exchange for outfielder Jake Fraley, right-handed pitcher Justin Dunn, top 100 pitching prospect Brandon Williamson and a player to be named later — eventually right-hander Connor Phillips.
In 61 games (264 plate appearances) this season, he has posted .214/.326/.308 slash line with nine doubles, four homers, 19 runs scored, 24 RBI, 38 walks and 46 strikeouts.
Brought in to be a middle-of-the-order presence and run producer, Winker hasn’t been close to replicating his All-Star numbers for Cincinnati last season. In 110 games for the Reds in 2021, he posted a .305/.394/.556 slash line with 32 doubles, a triple, 24 homers, 71 RBI, 53 walks and 75 strikeouts.
Could having his contract situation settled, and a little stability, help his performance?
“I think anytime as a person, when you know where you’re gonna be, it’s just better for you,” Winker said. “I’m happy to be here. I’m excited to be a part of this.”
The Mariners hope it allows him to relax.
“I hope so,” manager Scott Servais said. “Different guys handled those things differently. Some guys don’t worry about them at all, other guys think about it nonstop. So hopefully it does relax him a little bit.”
Servais recently sat down with Winker to discuss his hitting struggles.
“He’s got a little bit too much pull in his game here the first couple months of the season and that’s not really who he is,” Servais said. “He uses the whole field. I thought yesterday was a good indication of that, decreasing his effort level in his swing. You’ve just got to hit it. Just because you swing harder doesn’t mean the ball is gonna go off your bat any farther or any harder. Just be consistent in squaring up the ball.”
The Mariners claimed infielder Drew Ellis off waivers from the Diamondbacks after he’d been designated for assignment on Sunday. To make room on the 40-man roster for Ellis, outfielder Mitch Haniger was transferred from the 10-day injured list to the 60-day injured list.
Ellis, 26, will report to Triple-A Tacoma. He’s played mostly with Triple-A Reno this season, posting a .217/ .369/.399 slash line in 179 plate appearances with 12 doubles, four home runs, 28 RBI and 33 walks.
He was a second-round pick by Arizona in the 2017 draft out of Louisville and has played in 34 MLB games.
Ty France was out of the Mariners starting lineup for the first time this season. Servais said he was a little sore after making an awkward dive for a ball in Wednesday night’s loss. The Mariners had already planned to get him a day off this week.
France has started at first base for all 63 games the Mariners have played this season and has been their best player, posting a .317/.394/.486 slash line with 12 doubles, 10 homers, 41 RBI, 29 runs scored, 18 walks and 40 strikeouts.
J.P. Crawford returned to the starting lineup after missing the last two games due to food poisoning. He was moved to the leadoff spot and will remain there for the time being.
“He did a really nice job last year in the leadoff spot,” Servais said. “I’ve often said I don’t think it matters where you put J.P. in the lineup. He’s gonna give you good at-bats.”