PEORIA, Ariz. -- Kyle Seager readily admits that things are different this year at Mariners camp. For starters, he has inherited the special corner locker in the clubhouse once reserved for Robinson Canó and then Félix Hernández last year.
And, yeah, he’s older than everybody else in Seattle’s lineup, the longest-tenured Mariner now that Hernández has departed. It has been nine years since he was the rookie trying to soak up knowledge from veteran infielders Brendan Ryan and Jack Wilson. Now, he’s the elder statesman.
“I always had Felix,” Seager said with a smile after Wednesday’s workout on the second day of Seattle’s full-squad sessions. “I always had that crutch. I didn’t get these questions. It’s definitely strange. It’s humbling. I’m proud to be here for 8 1/2 years. I don’t take that lightly.”
But Seager also knows his own clock is ticking. Nothing lasts forever in life, or in Major League Baseball, particularly on a Mariners club that has been remade by general manager Jerry Dipoto.
Gone are Canó, Hernández, Nelson Cruz, James Paxton, Jean Segura, Mike Zunino and so many others. And there were reports and rumblings this winter that Seager would join them as the latest trade fodder, though it never happened. Or, it hasn’t happened yet, at least.
Seager isn’t much for social media and notes that his wife, Julie, always knows the Mariners news before he does at his house. But he was aware of the Hot Stove buzz that circulated over the offseason.
“I definitely saw my name, and I heard the rumors and saw that stuff,” he said. “You are around long enough, you kind of understand the business side of it. And the reality of the situation is that it is a business. As much as we can get invested in a city or love a place, you are just a piece of the puzzle, and you have to take all of that for what it’s worth.”
The Seagers bought a house in Issaquah, Wash., this past year and made the Seattle area their full-time home for the first time. Instead of heading to North Carolina for the winter, they stayed put so that 6-year-old Crue, the oldest of their three children, didn’t have to change schools.
But Seager knows he still could be dealt this season. The Mariners are getting younger. And he's not.
“It’s a definite possibility,” he said. “It’s something that if it happens, you deal with it and make the most of it. Ultimately, they have to do what’s best for the Mariners, and that’s bigger than any one person, period. That’s the business aspect of it. I’ve been with the Mariners for a long time. I’m fully invested in them winning here, so I can understand that part of it.”
Of course, he’d prefer to be talking about ending the Mariners’ 18-year playoff drought instead of their 19-year-old prospects. But he acknowledges that the veteran club built to win in 2018 with Canó, Cruz and the like came up just short, and change was inevitable.
“It’s completely different,” he said of the new approach. “It was different last year. You have to embrace the change. If something’s not working, you have to make changes and do what’s best for the Mariners.”
What’s best now for the Mariners is for Seager to be one of the few veteran leaders. He's a guy whom Shed Long, J.P. Crawford, Evan White and others can seek out for advice, or just watch to see how he goes about his business of being ready every day.
Seager has been an iron man for all but the first two months of last season, when a torn tendon in his left hand wiped out much of his first half. He came on strong after the All-Star break and feels ready to put forth a good season. And if he can help his young teammates along the way, all the better.
“My role is to help all the guys continue to grow and help them along,” he said. “That benefits me, too. If we improve a lot and get better quickly, that’s great for me. I want to win. That’s phenomenal. But you can’t skip steps. You’ve got to build it up right.”