Mariners acquire Jesse Winker, Eugenio Suarez from Reds


4:18 p.m.: The teams have announced the trade.

4:01 p.m.: Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic Reports (on twitter) that the deal also includes a player to be named later. He adds that Cincinnati believes the yet-to-be-identified player will “improve” the quality of his return.

3:53 p.m.: In return, Cincinnati will acquire an outfielder Jake Fraleypitching perspective Brandon Williamson and right handed Justin Dunnfine sand adds. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports (on twitter) that Seattle will take on the remaining three years and $35 million on Suárez’s contract.

3:48 p.m.: The Mariners finalize an agreement on a deal that would bring in a star outfielder jess winker from the Reds, reports ESPN’s Jeff Passan (Twitter link). Seattle also acquires the third baseman Eugenio Suarezreports Mark Feinsand of (on twitter).

Jerry Dipoto, the Mariners’ president of baseball operations, has been candid all winter about his hunt for offensive help. Seattle has already signed reigning winner from AL Cy Young Robbie Ray to a five-year deal, but they hadn’t done much previously to bolster the offense aside from a deal that landed them Adam Frazier from the Padres.

Winker made his first All-Star last season, but he’s been an excellent hitter for quite some time. In four of his five career seasons, he had a wRC+ of 127 or better (performance at least 27 percentage points above the league average). The former supplementary first-rounder has been particularly impressive in recent years. As the 2020 campaign begins, he owns a .292/.392/.552 line with 36 homers across 668 plate appearances.

Last year, he totaled 485 trips to the dish and posted a personal best of .305/.394/.556 with a strong 10.9% walk rate and 15.5% strikeout percentage, which is more than seven points below the league average. Winker rarely swings and misses or chases squares outside of the strike zone, and he can do a lot of damage when he makes contact. He scored well above average marks for running speed, hard contact percentage, and average exit speed.

It’s easy to see how appealing it is for Seattle to add that kind of offensive firepower to a lineup. Despite winning 90 games, the Mariners didn’t have a particularly productive offense last year. The Seattle hitters finished 21st in Team wRC+ (excluding pitchers) last season. They placed 22nd in total runs scored. Winker should be a huge boon to a unit that needs to improve if it is to weather a 20-year playoff drought.

However, Winker is not entirely without flaws. Confined to the outfield in the corner defensively, he has never been viewed positively in the eyes of the public. Defensive runs saved him as a midfielder with 20 runs under average in 2,335 career 2/3 innings in corners (in addition to three runs under average in 138 innings). Statcast’s Outs Above Average lists him in -21 big league games, including a -7 mark last season.

The left-hander who beats winkers also has some of the most notable platoon splits in the league. He’s been nothing short of elite in his career against righties (.313/.405/.556), but his numbers without the draw advantage (.188/.305/.295) weren’t impressive. Winker is probably not a strict draw player – he pulls at least a boatload of walks against southpaws – but his action focuses on feasting on righties.

Perhaps more concerning than any aspect of his talent, however, was his lack of volume. Winker has been on the injury list for every full season of his MLB career. Heading into last season, the 28-year-old had never racked up 400 plate appearances in a big league campaign. Last year he amassed a personal record high of 485 rides but ended the season on the injured list after suffering an intercostal strain in mid-August (from which he tried unsuccessfully to return in September).

It all makes Winker a difficult player to gauge, but there’s no question he’ll improve Seattle’s overall offense. He’ll presumably step in as the M’s regular left fielder and join any outfield that could arise Jarred Kelenic in the field and Mitch Haniger in right. Former Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis suffers another serious knee injury, and Dipoto told reporters (including Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times) is unlikely to be ready for the start of the season as they are taking a cautious approach to his recovery. Former Top Prospect Taylor Trammel and service providers Dylan Moore could be depth options behind putative season-opening trio Winker, Kelenic and Haniger. Julio Rodriguezone of the best candidates in the game, mashed at Double-A at the end of last season.

Winker will likely be in the Pacific Northwest for at least the next two seasons. He is projected to be paid by arbitration this year by MLBTR staffer Matt Swartz for $6.8 million. He will be controllable again through this process next winter before reaching free reign ahead of his season at the age of 30.

To get the Reds to part ways with a player of Winker’s caliber, the Ms take far more money than just his projected arbitration numbers. Cincinnati signed Suárez to a $66 million extension in March 2018, remaining with three years and $35 million in guaranteed money. (The deal also includes a $15 million club option for 2025). Initially, it seemed like a wise investment from the Cincinnati front office, as Suárez earned Down-Ballot MVP endorsement in each of the following two seasons. But after combining a .277/.362/.550 line at this track, he’s struggled for the past few seasons.

Suárez hit .202/.312/.470 during the shortened 2020 campaign. That’s a terrible batting average, but he made up for it somewhat with a robust 13% walk rate and 15 homers in just 231 plate appearances. However, his expenses are mounted on the record last year. His walk percentage dropped to a solid but no longer elite 9.8%, which wasn’t enough to offset an even lower batting average of .198. Suárez reached base with just .286 clips — the sixth-lowest mark among the 135 players who made more than 500 plate appearances combined. He was still hitting for power (31 homers), but problems on base and his inability to successfully adjust to an ill-advised move from third base to shortstop kept his overall production close to replacement levels.

Apparently, the Mariners accepted Suárez’s deal to acquire Winker. That said, it seems likely they’ll give him the opportunity to try and fix the ship in its new environment. Seattle bought out the longtime third baseman Kyle Seeger at the end of the year. Abraham Toro looks like the house favorite for playtime in the hot corner, but Toro can also jump between corners and second base as a stick-first utility option. divish tweets that Suárez will likely step in as the primary third baseman, at least early in the year, with Toro deployed around the diamond as needed.

The Suárez and Winker acquisitions will add approximately $20 million to the Mariners’ 2022 books. That brings this year’s estimated spend to $106 million, according to Roster Resource’s Jason Martinez. That’s well above last year’s season-opening mark of $73 million, but nowhere near the franchise’s record payrolls, which surpassed $150 million from 2017-2018. Exactly how much remains in the coffers isn’t clear, though they seem happy with the player group’s position. Dipoto told reporters (including’s Daniel Kramer) it was unlikely that the club would make any further moves on that side of the ball. Seattle had been linked to big free agents like Chris Bryant and Trevor story this offseason, but Dipoto called their pursuit of free-agent sluggers “dead ends.”

The Winker acquisition marked another aggressive move for a win-now Mariners team, but it’s a continuation of efforts to cut payrolls for the Reds. Cincinnati traded away Tucker Barnhart and lost Wade Miley on waivers for little to no return in November. They listened to trade offers for their top three starting pitchers and moved Sonny Gray to the twins for pitching prospect hunt petty over the weekend.

This afternoon’s swap is the most notable yet as the Reds take around $20 million off the books in 2022. Equally important, they find a way out of future commitments to Suárez. Just Joey Votto ($25M) and Mike Moutakas ($18 million) have guaranteed money for the Cincinnati books in 2023, and the payroll is completely clean in 2024. Reds Brass have balked at the idea of ​​staging a full teardown, but recent deductions from Winker and Gray make what had been an 83-79 team harder to contend with this season.

With that in mind, it wouldn’t be surprising to see more prints from Cincinnati. Luis Castillo and Tyler Mahle Each has two more seasons of arbitration control, as Winker did. Both pitchers would bring back a move if the Reds made them available, especially since the free agent rotation market now has essentially no center rotation options.

While the Reds have more moves on the horizon, the players they bring back should all be added to the mix in a short time. Fraley and Dunn are big leagues straight away, and Fraley looks likely to step squarely into the left field spot vacated by Winker’s departure. The left-handed outfielder struggled in limited big league looks between 2019-20 but he showed himself quite well last season.

Fraley amassed 265 plate appearances last year, hitting .210/.352/.369 with nine homers and ten steals. The batting average is obviously below average, but the LSU product more than compensated for this with an elite walk rate of 17.4%. Fraley’s extremely patient approach to the plate should make him a viable option on base. He was primarily a left fielder in the big leagues, but he’s capable of covering center in a pinch. Fraley is controllable by 2026 and not on track to reach arbitration before 2024.

There’s more to come.


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