Seager ready to make the most out of '21

January 21st, 2021

is candid and cognizant that his time in Seattle could be coming to a close. Fresh off his 33rd birthday on Nov. 3 and with the team’s highest price tag at $18.5 million in 2021, the longest-tenured Mariner likely will be staring down free agency next offseason as the club continues to steer in a younger and more financially flexible direction.

“That comes with the territory, right?” Seager said Thursday during the Mariners’ Virtual Baseball Bash. “We haven’t been winning. So, when you're not winning, you know, you rebuild. When you rebuild, you go young, obviously. So, I think I still certainly have a role here, as long as I'm here type deal. So, I think it's [to] try to help these guys as much as I can, and go out there and compete this year. Like you said, this could potentially be my last year here.”

For now, Seager is doing his best to control what he can control, and even some of those ambitions could be more out of his hands than before.

Seager remains an above-average bat and elite defensive third baseman, and he’ll get the bulk of the innings there this season. But his long-term successor, Ty France, is on the roster and is one of general manager Jerry Dipoto’s favorite up-and-comers since Seattle acquired France from the Padres on Aug. 31, 2020.

France profiles stronger with his bat -- he slashed .305/.368/.468 with a 133 OPS+ last season -- and will enter camp as the primary designated hitter. But the Mariners have called France an “everyday player” and plan to inject him at second and third throughout the season and work him closely with coaching guru Perry Hill.

That’s one reason Seager doesn’t dance around the fact that this season will certainly be different. He remembers watching Felix Hernandez go through a similar process in 2019, one that became awkward at times due to Hernandez’s relationship with the team that became fractured, though Seager hasn’t shown the significant production decline that Hernandez did.

“I completely understand now how Felix felt,” Seager said. “I get that 100 percent. He had been here a long time. He had been here a long time before I got here. And obviously, I got to play with him for a long time. And when you're here for a long time, there’s certainly a comfort level, right? You get to the end of your contract and potentially your last year here, it definitely is a different feeling, where every other year, obviously I knew I had more years here.”

“So, it's a definitely different feel. But you know, that's out of my control. And unfortunately, I don't have any say on what happens past this year. So, it's one of those things where you pretty much just try to treat it like any other year, you go out there and you do your job every single day. And then all that stuff gets taken care of later.”

The club has tried to shop Seager in the past, but his 2022 club option for $15 million would become a player option if he’s traded. And for a veteran entering his mid-30s who just watched his brother, Corey, win the World Series MVP Award, the ambition of winning a title is there, even if it isn’t in Seattle. And Kyle Seager still believes he has productive years in front of him beyond '21.

He’s been one of the most durable Major Leaguers since becoming an everyday player in 2012 -- his 1,268 games played in that stretch trail only Carlos Santana (1,294) and Eric Hosmer (1,275) -- and he was one of just 15 big leaguers to play in all 60 games last season, when he was worth 1.5 wins above replacement, per FanGraphs, and he hit .241/.355/.433 with nine homers, 40 RBIs and a 122 OPS+ over 248 plate appearances.

Yes, it was a truncated schedule, but the short ramp-up of Summer Camp, influx of doubleheaders, fewer off-days and mental toll of quarantining on the road and limited family access otherwise lend merit to the idea that being an Iron Man was an impressive feat.

“I want to be the person that you feel comfortable putting in there every single day, right?” Seager said. “So you want to be productive enough for the manager to have faith in you. You want to be durable enough to be able to play every single day, because you want to go out there and compete every day, and you want to ultimately do your job.”

That job just might just be a little more convoluted for the 11th-year Mariner than it has been before.