SAN DIEGO — With the winter meetings officially over, it’s time for the Twitter mailbag to return to answer questions about the myriad moves made by the Mariners during those four days in San Diego.
Oh wait … that’s right. They didn’t make a move, something general manager Jerry Dipoto said would happen, but it wasn’t believed by anyone.
Instead, the mailbag will answer the questions submitted by the happy little elves that are my Twitter followers.
This question was asked Thursday morning. About six hours later, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic posted a story saying that multiple teams have reached out to the Mariners about what a potential trade for Kyle Seager might require.
Sources confirmed that there has been some interest from a handful of teams who are desperate to fill the third-base spot.
One described the interest by saying “it’s a small chance but definitely a chance.”
This is quite a change from a year ago when some pertinent details of Seager’s contract became public, specifically a “poison pill” clause where a 2022 club option would change to a player option if Seager was traded. It was a crushing revelation for Dipoto, who didn’t negotiate Seager’s $100 million contract extension before the 2015 season.
Essentially that clause added another year on to Seager’s contract if he was traded because few players would walk away from another year of guaranteed dollars. That option is not cheap, either. It’s a minimum of $15 million that can grow to as much as $20 million based on performance escalators.
So essentially Seager is owed $19 million in 2020, $18 million in 2021. If he remains with the Mariners, they would buyout the club option which can reach up to $3 million based on performance. But if Seager is traded, then a minimum of $15 million is guaranteed for 2022.
A year ago, several MLB sources labeled Seager untradeable because of that clause. Heck, I wrote he was untradeable multiple times. But then again, I wrote the same thing about Robinson Cano on numerous occasions. Then baseball serendipity happened. Cano’s former agent Brodie Van Wagenen became the general manager of the New York Mets and wanted to make a splashy move to announce his presence. Throw in Edwin Diaz’s record-setting season that he’ll probably never repeat and the Mariners were somehow able to move Diaz, Cano and Cano’s burdensome contract and got two key pieces to their rebuild — Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn.
Will the Mariners experience some serendipity again?
They are benefiting from the Reds’ absurd decision to give free-agent third baseman Mike Moustakas a four-year, $64 million contract at age 31, Anthony Rendon’s decision to spurn the Rangers, Dodgers and Nationals to sign a seven-year, $245 million contract with the Angels, Josh Donaldson’s elevated opinion of his value at age 34 and the Cubs’ high asking price and reluctance to trade Kris Bryant.
Suddenly, three years of Seager at total of $50-plus million doesn’t seem so bad. It’s a little more than what Moustakas is making on an average annual value with the Reds and less than the four-year, $80 million Donaldson is requesting.
With Rendon signed, the free-agent market for third baseman is basically Donaldson and a bunch of replacement-level players at best.
Seager has helped this process by partially reversing some of the decline he’d shown from 2016 to 2019. After dealing with a toe injury for most 2018 and frustrated with his struggles, Seager changed his offseason routine, shedding more than 25 pounds while becoming more flexible and stronger.
He didn’t get a chance to showcase that work early in the season after tearing a tendon on his glove hand while diving for a groundball. The injury required surgery and kept him on the injured list until May 25.
Seager returned from the IL and struggled, admittedly coming back too soon without enough at-bats in his rehab stint.
But consistent work with hitting coach Tim Laker, which stopped him from constantly tinkering with his swing and stance, allowed him to find success in the final months of the season.
In the 68 games after the All-Star break, Seager posted a .260/.339/.524 slash line with 13 doubles, a triple, 17 homers and 45 RBI while playing his usual stellar defense at third. It provided reassurance that his offseason changes and the work he was doing with Laker were working. It also provided reassurance to opposing scouts.
“Best he’s played since his All-Star season,” an American League scout said. “He looked so much more athletic and confident.”
Can the Mariners turn that two-plus months of success into a trade that would remove a large amount of payroll and give Seager a chance to play for a contender?
Rosenthal mentioned in his story that Seager could rework the contract and not have the club option change to the player option. Based on conversations last year, it didn’t seem like he was inclined to do that. But his priorities could change based on which team is trying to acquire his services. The chance to play with his brother, Corey, in Los Angeles might be intriguing, though the Dodgers are looking for a right-handed hitter.
The idea of the Mariners throwing in a well-regarded prospect to offset all the money being taken on was also mentioned. But with the team in rebuild mode, it doesn’t seem like giving up prospects is something Dipoto wants to do. He made it clear to teams at the winter meetings he wasn’t interested in departing with his young talent.
The Mariners could eat some of the money owed by sending cash in the deal. They are already playing about $30 million in salaries to players no longer in the organization.
The circumstances have aligned to give the Mariners an opportunity that was unthinkable a year ago. Yes, there’s a small chance they’ll be able to trade Seager, but it’s better than no chance.
I guess it depends on your definition of “competing.” But then I again I never thought they would be a factor in 2021. I think they should be more competitive than last season or even this season. They certainly should be more interesting. But pushing for the postseason? I would think 2022 at the earliest and that may be optimistic.
Filia was back playing for Class AAA Tacoma at the end of the season after serving his suspension. He played in 35 games, posting a .331/.450/.488 line with 13 doubles, two triples, 13 homers and 25 RBI. I don’t think his previous two suspensions for testing positives for drugs of abuse will be wiped from his record. If he were to test positive again for a different drug of abuse, the suspension would escalate.