For all the bright spots of the 2022 Seattle Mariners’ season, of which there were many right up to breaking the long playoff drought, there were a few spots that could be improved. Perhaps the most obvious of those spots for improvement was the production at the plate from the second base position. In 2023, the Mariners hope to fill that deficit with Kolten Wong.
Wong was acquired from the Milwaukee Brewers in the offseason in exchange for the defensive black hole disaster, also known as Jesse Winker, and the sadly disappointing Abraham Toro. How the Mariners got a decent second baseman for two less-than-exciting players is a mystery. President of Baseball Operations, Jerry Dipoto, may have made some pacts in his past that might be worth investigating or at least serve as the premise of a Netflix docuseries, but Mariners fans won’t be complaining.
Wong sports a lifetime .261/.334/.398 slash line, with a smidge below league average 99 OPS+, which is skewed downward somewhat by rough, early career struggles at the dish. He placed third in the rookie of the year voting in 2015 and garnered some MVP votes in 2019. He will also bring two gold gloves with him from the heartland to the pacific northwest as he switches leagues this season.
Almost anything would be an improvement at second base over last year’s group. The primary duo of Abraham Toro and Adam Frazier contributed to the offense to the tune of .218/.278/.316 slash with a wRC+ of 74. At the plate and in the field, the second base position contributed 0.4 wins above replacement, according to Fangraphs, with all of it actually coming in the field. Just last season, Wong aided the Brewers’ campaign to the tune of 2.5 fWAR. It can’t be stressed enough how impactful a two-win upgrade can be, especially if it’s gained in a single transaction. Trading for Wong may not be as sexy as signing a big named free agent, but it is a major off-season improvement in the team. Baby steps.
According to Fangraphs’ projections, 2023 for Kolten Wong looks something like this – 122 games, a .250/.334/.398 slash line, with a 110 wRC+ and 2.5 WAR. Given that somebody has to play the other 40 or so games at second, barring negative WAR, 2023 should see around three more wins above replacement compared to the 0.4 last season. A three-game improvement wouldn’t have made much of a difference last season in a division with the 106-win Houston Astros. Still, every season is different, and the significant improvement at second base with Kolten Wong could be a very important one for the 2023 version of the Seattle Mariners.