Fan favorite Suárez excited to bring 'good vibes' to Classic

Mariners third baseman will represent Venezuela in the tournament

March 3rd, 2023

PEORIA, Ariz. -- didn’t like what he felt at the plate earlier this week. The timing was off, the rhythm was “getting there” and the upcoming World Baseball Classic, where he’ll be playing for Team Venezuela, awaits. 

So, Seattle’s slugging third baseman asked manager Scott Servais if he could play for a third day in a row in Thursday's game vs. the Padres, something not common this early into the Cactus League schedule. If there were kinks, Suárez seemingly worked them out with a 410-foot homer to right-center field in the 5-4 win

“I want to be ready to represent my country, so that's why I asked for more,” Suárez said. “And that's going to help me to be ready for the WBC and then back here [to the Mariners] and keep doing it. ... It’s tough because I don’t have time to play around. I’ve got to face pitchers.”

Like most Classic participants, Suárez ramped up his preparation earlier than usual this offseason. He’s thrilled that Team Venezuela begins the tournament in Miami, his offseason home and where he’ll have a big number of family members in attendance. 

“I don’t know if this opportunity is going to happen again,” Suárez said. “So that’s why I’m going to go in there and enjoy the moment. ... Of course I’m going to miss my teammates here in Arizona, but I’ll be back, for sure, and ready to put everything together for Opening Day.”

It’s been almost one year since Suárez arrived in Seattle in a big trade with Cincinnati that was largely billed on Jesse Winker, who was coming off an All-Star season and expected to be a major run producer, which the Mariners lacked. Yet, Winker had a disappointing year, finished the season on the injured list and was traded to Milwaukee in December with Abraham Toro for Kolten Wong. 

Suárez was an established MLB slugger, with more homers (160) since 2018 than any hitter but Aaron Judge (164). Earning $11.3 million in each of the next two years, he wasn’t a salary throw-in, by any means; the Mariners recognize that he was even more productive than they envisioned. Suárez hit .236/.332/.459 (.791 OPS) with a team-leading 31 homers and 4.1 wins above replacement, per FanGraphs, eighth-most among third basemen. 

At a position that was exclusively manned by Kyle Seager for 10 full seasons before his retirement at the end of 2021, Suárez quickly caught on. 

“He has an intensity about him, but he’s not afraid to share with the group what he's thinking,” Servais said. “And most times, it's in total alignment for how we want to play and how we want to go about stuff.”

Strikeouts have always been part of Suárez’s game, and he led the American League with 196 last season. But he also proved to be one of Seattle’s best situational hitters in leverage moments, including the postseason, in which he went 7-for-20 with a homer, two doubles and three RBIs, nearly all delivered in big moments. 

“Along the way, you feel better about him hitting with runners in scoring position and not just looking for the homer,” Servais said. “But can you find a way to get [runners] in? And he has gotten better in those spots.”

On-field success certainly resonates with fans, but it’s Suárez’s personality that was an even bigger hit.

He arrived here preaching “good vibes only,” a phrase that, despite its cliché, quickly caught on for its authenticity. Suárez lives and breathes it, and fans noticed. A Sunday day game last August featuring a “good vibes only” tank-top giveaway became one of the season’s most popular items. He also earned the club’s “Unsung Hero” award and gave a passionate speech to the home crowd at T-Mobile Park on the final day of the regular season. 

The nine-year big leaguer said it was the most fun he’s had playing baseball. 

“Last year was absolutely a really good year for me and I loved everything that happened,” Suárez said. “Those were the most exciting moments and the most fun team I’ve ever had. ... For me, especially, the new guy on the team, the support that [the fans] gave to me was at another level.”

He’s been here only one year, yet Suárez is already among the franchise’s most familiar faces -- and he genuinely loves that.