Pollock 'a terrific fit' for Mariners' OF mix

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SEATTLE -- The Mariners have formally added the right-handed-hitting corner outfielder they’ve been seeking, announcing on Thursday that they’ve agreed to a one-year contract with veteran AJ Pollock. The deal, which was first reported last Saturday and is worth $7 million, according to a source, was finalized after Pollock passed a physical.

“AJ is a terrific fit for our roster,” Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto said in a statement. “Among many quality traits, his high character and baseball I.Q. are tailor-made for our group, while his experiences in key roles for championship-quality teams will no doubt provide value in our ongoing development.”

Dipoto added during a radio hit with 710 Seattle Sports that Pollock will split between left field and designated hitter, filling one of the final voids on the club’s offseason checklist. The Mariners had been seeking a safety net for their young lefty-hitting outfielders, Jarred Kelenic and Taylor Trammell, who’ve both struggled against lefty pitching.

To that end, Pollock -- who is a career .285/.335/.533 (.868 OPS) hitter against lefties -- saw even more pronounced splits in his age-34 season with the White Sox last year, with a .593 OPS against righties in 394 plate appearances and .935 mark in 133 PAs against lefties. Overall, he slashed .245/.292/.389 (.681 OPS) with 14 homers and 56 RBIs in 138 games, good for 0.5 wins above replacement and 92 wRC+ (league average is 100), per FanGraphs.

“He just continues to perform against the lefties,” Dipoto said on his hit. “He’s got experience -- particularly in center and left field ... and with what we were looking for at the outset of this offseason, that right-handed hitter to pair with our young lefties in the outfield, AJ checked every box. As such, he wound up being very high on our list.”

Switch-hitting Sam Haggerty, who crushed lefties but struggled against righties in 2022, will also factor in the corner outfield rotation, with Julio Rodríguez in center and Teoscar Hernández in the other corner spot, which hasn’t been determined. That depth will allow utilityman Dylan Moore to move into a more specialized middle infield role backing up shortstop J.P. Crawford and second baseman Kolten Wong.

Pollock was worth minus-2 outs above average and plus-4 defensive runs saved last year in left field while ranking in the 78th percentile in arm strength and 60th in sprint speed, per Statcast. All of those metrics represent a massive uptick from Jesse Winker, who ranked among the worst defensive left fielders last season, before he was dealt to Milwaukee in the Wong trade.

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Moreover, Pollock perhaps could bring an intangible veteran presence in the late stages of his career, having won the 2020 World Series with the Dodgers and competed in 34 postseason games. Though Carlos Santana’s numbers didn’t jump off the page last year, players and coaches raved about his clubhouse impact upon arrival in late June, just before they turned their season around. Santana has since signed with Pittsburgh.

In his prime, Pollock was emerging as one of MLB’s best all-around outfielders but major injuries -- a fractured right elbow, left thumb avulsion fracture and strains to both hamstrings among others -- were a detriment. His 138 games played last year were his most since his 157 in 2015, when he was an All-Star.

His ties with Dipoto go back to 2009, when Dipoto was a member of the D-backs front office that drafted Pollock with their first-round pick. The Mariners first engaged Pollock at the GM Meetings in November, then followed up at the Winter Meetings in December.

Pollock spent seven seasons in Arizona (2012-18), three with the Dodgers (2019-21) and last year with the White Sox. His addition brings the Mariners’ 26-man Opening Day payroll to roughly $137 million, per Cot's Baseball Contracts, and it likely rounds out their biggest offseason transactions.

“That’s probably about it on what I would call standard Major League deals,” Dipoto said. “We might do some non-roster invites, some Minor League contracts to build depth. We’ve made a couple of additions recently in our bullpen that we’re excited about. We have started to build depth through non-roster invites. We’re getting down to a trickle, but there are still ways we can get better.”

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