Latest On Mariners’ Infield Pursuits

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It’s already been a fairly active offseason for the Mariners, who before the league-implemented lockout by signing reigning Cy Young winner Robbie Ray to a five-year contract and acquiring second baseman/left fielder Adam Frazier in a trade with the Padres. Whenever the transaction freeze lifts, the M’s are expected to resume that aggressive approach as they look to capitalize on a top-ranked farm system and take the next step from last year’s 90-win showing to their first playoff berth in two decades.

The checklist, in some ways, looks similar to early in the offseason. Even with Ray on board, Seattle is likely to add some veteran innings to the back of the rotation. The big right-handed bat sought by president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto has not yet been acquired. As such, it’s hardly a surprise that the M’s have been linked extensively to all three of Kris Bryant, Trevor Story and Seiya Suzuki in recent weeks.

Perhaps more interesting is the idea that the Mariners could potentially add two of those names to the fold. Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times suggests that it’s at least possible for Seattle to add both Bryant and Story, adding not to “underestimate the possibility” that Frazier could be traded before ever playing a game for the Mariners.

That’s a new and yet-unexplored topic by and large, so it’s worth taking a bit of time to unpack — after establishing a few points up front. For starters, it’s certainly possible that even if Seattle were to pull off an unlikely stunner and sign both Bryant and Story, Frazier could still be deployed as a multi-position super utility player. That’d cut into the available playing time for switch-hitting Abraham Toro, but Toro could conceivably rotate between multiple infield positions (third base, second base and perhaps even first base) and designated hitter himself. He also has minor league options remaining.

Secondly, it should be emphasized that there’s no indication in the report that a blockbuster addition of both Bryant and Story is at all likely, nor does Divish suggest that Frazier will be actively shopped by the Mariners. Some would question the logic of acquiring Frazier in the first place if the end result were only for him to be traded just a couple months later. However, in the (very) hypothetical event that scenario plays out, it surely wouldn’t have been the plan at the time of the deal. Any further activity involving Frazier would quite likely stem from the Mariners unexpectedly landing some big-ticket items they originally didn’t anticipate being possible. And, as Divish notes, a Frazier deal would likely only come together if he were to bring back some form of immediate big league help (perhaps pairing him with some minor league talent).

While Frazier’s time with the Padres didn’t go as either player or team hoped, the 2021 season was nevertheless a strong one for the 30-year-old veteran. In 639 trips to the plate, Frazier slashed .305/.368/.411 — good for a 114 wRC+ — adding in five home runs, five triples and career-highs in doubles (36) and steals (10). His 10.8% strikeout rate was also the lowest of his career by a good margin.

That said, Frazier is a free agent after the 2022 season and is projected by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz to earn a $7.2MM salary this year. It’s certainly plausible that the Mariners, with a deep outfield mix and the more cost-effective Toro as an option at both second and third base, might not relish the idea of relegating Frazier to a rather pricey bench piece — if they were able to add a pair of bats. Furthermore, a team with a need at second base (e.g. White Sox) or in the outfield (e.g. Guardians) could potentially show interest were Frazier’s trade market to be rekindled. Dipoto has already made clear he has no intention of trading his top prospects this offseason, but some mid-range talents plus a win-now piece like Frazier could theoretically net some needed pitching help from a trade partner.

Again, it’s safest to assume this is all a long shot and that Frazier will end up playing a notable role with the Mariners this coming season. But with no end in sight to the lockout, it’s also hard not to think about some outside-the-box possibilities and what might lie ahead when baseball returns to brighter days. A second Frazier swap or the Mariners shocking the baseball world with a pair of big-name additions might feel like a reach, but with just $87MM in projected 2022 payroll and only $37MM in 2023, the money is there for Dipoto & Co. to at least consider some ambitious possibilities.

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