DETROIT -- Jerry Dipoto has often justified his acquisitions of former top-end prospects who didn’t quite pan out with the assertion that someone or some team once believed in that player’s lofty potential. It’s not all hype.
Jake Bauers certainly fits that bill.
The Mariners' general manager announced ahead of Thursday’s series finale against Detroit that Seattle had acquired first baseman/left fielder from Cleveland in exchange for cash considerations or a player to be named later. The 25-year-old former Top 100 prospect will get a fresh opportunity after struggling to get his big league career off the ground.
Bauers, who made an early-morning drive from Cleveland to Detroit, batted seventh and started at first base, where he profiles more prominently and will give Evan White a backup once White returns from the 10-day IL. White, recovering from a left hip flexor strain, began a rehab assignment with Triple-A Tacoma on Thursday. Bauers has played 148 of his career 221 games at first base and 73 in the outfield.
“I think I'm going to fit in well here,” Bauers said. “I think the younger you are, maybe the hungrier you are, just as a group. So I think just kind of hoping to kind of feed off the energy that they have going on here. It seems like they enjoy playing the game, and anytime you're enjoying what you're doing, man, you're going to be in a better spot. So, just looking to come over here [and have] fun and win some games.”
Bauers, who ranked as high as baseball’s No. 64 overall prospect in 2018, was designated for assignment by Cleveland on Saturday after hitting .190/.277/.280 with a 56 wRC+ (league average is 100) over 113 plate appearances in 43 games.
He spent the entire 2020 season at Cleveland’s alternate training site after not making the team out of Summer Camp. Over parts of three seasons between Cleveland and Tampa Bay, he’s a .211/.309/.365 hitter with 25 homers.
“Obviously, it sucks going through getting DFA’d and all that,” Bauers said. “But to get another opportunity and get a fresh start, it feels good. I'm excited for it.”
Bauers was originally a fourth-round Draft pick by the Padres in 2013, then was dealt to the Rays as part of the 11-player, three-team trade with the Nationals that involved Wil Myers and Trea Turner. Then in 2018, he was part of the Mariners’ three-team trade with Cleveland and Tampa Bay that brought Edwin Encarnación to Seattle.
“We've seen him some, but he fits right in with our group, age-wise, experience-wise,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “He is a young player that we like and think he's got chance to grow with us. So, we'll give him opportunity to see what he does with it. … He's got a good throwing arm. He's a good defender. Obviously, a left-handed bat and we are overloaded with left-handed bats right now. But that's just where we're at.”
But Bauers’ ties to Mariners management run even deeper than that. Servais scouted Bauers in high school in Southern California, when Seattle’s skipper was working for the Angels’ player development staff. And Servais managed against the Rays when Bauers made his debut in 2018 at Tropicana Field and hit three screaming line drives for outs.
“I do think that it takes some players longer to figure it out the big league level,” Servais said. “Sometimes it's a coach, wearing a different uniform, being in a different uniform, that can help somehow flip the switch and allows that player to take off and relax. It happens to multiple players every year in our game and happened to me in my career.”
In a corresponding move, infielder Jack Mayfield was designated for assignment. Mayfield hit .176/.200/.206 over 35 plate appearances in 11 games, and his roster spot figured to be one of the first up for grabs once the club begins returning its injured infielders in White and Dylan Moore, who is also on a rehab assignment.