On Monday, the Seattle Mariners acquired outfielder Jesse Winker and third baseman Eugenio Suarez from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for pitching prospect Brandon Williamson, pitcher Justin Dunn, and outfielder Jake Fraley, along with a player to be named later or possibly cash considerations. Mariners President of Baseball Operations, Jerry Dipoto, had indicated he was looking to sign “an impact bat” and fill out the rotation during free agency. While it has been reported that the Mariners have made “an aggressive offer” to 3B/OF Kris Bryant, the move Monday may satisfy the bat part of the shopping list in Jesse Winker. Based on last season, taking back Suarez could just be the price of doing business, giving the Reds payroll relief.
In 2021, Winker was worth 3.2 fWAR and hit .305/.394/.556 with 24 HR, 71 RBI, and 77 R. He showed good plate discipline with a 10.9% walk rate and 15.5Z% K rate, for a 0.71 BB/K. The advanced stats are good too. Winker posted a .403 WOBA and a 148 wRC+. Those numbers would have made Winker the best hitter in the Mariners lineup. And his overall WAR contribution would’ve trailed only Ty France, who had 3.5 fWAR.
Now Suarez is a different story. In 2021, he hit just .198/.286/.428 for an 85 wRC+, or 15% below average. However, Suarez does do two things really well – hit home runs (31 in 2021) and strikes out. While his lifetime K rate is “only” 25.8%, the trendline is heading in the wrong direction. In the last three seasons, his K rates are 28.5%, 29.0%, and last season 29.8%.
It’s also a slight concern that Suarez’s power may not translate to T-Mobile. Over the past three years, Great American Ballpark in Cincinnati, where Suarez played half his games, ranked as the third most hitter-friendly park in all of baseball, behind only Coors and Fenway. GAP also surrendered the most home runs in baseball over that same time period. By contrast, in the same three-year period, T-Mobile was tied with the Oakland Coliseum and Busch Stadium as the most pitcher-friendly park. It also ranked 16th in homers allowed.
For those who are excited about Suarez, they’ll point to 2018 when he was the Reds representative in the All-Star Game and hit .283/.366/.526 with 34 HR. He was even decent in 2019 despite leading the league in strikeouts with 189 but hit 49 bombs with a .271/.358/.572 slash line. But since that season, Suarez has hit below the Mendoza Line in going on 800 PA. A result somewhere in the middle would be an improvement at 3B, and ZIPS projects a 2022 line that looks like .236/.325/.484 with 34 HR and a 108 wRC+.
So, despite the 99-day lockout, the Mariners have managed to add the reigning Cy Young Award winner in Robbie Ray (before the lockout), an impact bat in Winker, and a possible steal in Suarez. Let’s see if the next few days find a former World Series 3B in Seattle in the person of Kris Bryant.