Mariners acquire Polanco from Twins in 5-player deal

January 30th, 2024

SEATTLE -- Not since Robinson Canó have the Mariners had much clarity or reliability at second base, but they believe they’ve landed a fixture for next season and potentially beyond.

The club on Monday acquired switch-hitting veteran from the Twins in exchange for four players and cash.

Mariners receive: INF Jorge Polanco
Twins receive: RHP Justin Topa, RHP Anthony DeSclafani, OF Gabriel Gonzalez (No. 3 prospect, No. 79 overall), RHP Darren Bowen (unranked prospect), cash

Polanco, 30, is due $10.5 million this season -- after the Twins exercised a club option -- with a $12 million club option against a $750,000 buyout for 2025, bringing the total to $11,250,000 that the Mariners are on the hook for. It’s unclear how much money Seattle is sending Minnesota, but that figure is to help account for the $12 million owed to DeSclafani, who will be a free agent at season’s end.

Both the Mariners and Twins are under budgetary constraints this offseason and appeared to be strong trade partners based on each’s surplus of talent toward the other's needs. But the need to create an even-money situation was clear.

“I personally made more calls on this trade than I ever have on any trade before at the behest of both my own want to add [Polanco] and our group’s,” Mariners general manager Justin Hollander said.

Polanco had been the Twins’ iron man from 2019-21, playing almost every game as a fixture toward the top of the lineup, but lingering injuries held him back in ‘22 and ‘23. Polanco missed the first three weeks of 2023 with left knee inflammation, then nearly two months from June into July with a left hamstring strain. He remained a productive cornerstone to the lineup when healthy, however.

“We did a very thorough medical review,” Hollander said. “I think we understand what the injuries have been. One of the things that is important to us and was important to our training staff is understanding what kind of worker ‘Polo’ is, and all of our feedback whether he works as hard as anybody.”

Polanco slashed .255/.335/.454 (.789 OPS) with 14 homers and 48 RBIs in 80 games last season, worth 1.5 Wins Above Replacement, per FanGraphs, in what amounted to roughly half a season. Also of note, he carried a 25.7% strikeout rate, which is on the higher end for a team explicitly trying to cut down on its swing-and-miss.

For his career, Polanco -- who has trained with Julio Rodríguez in Tampa, Fla., the past few offseasons -- has hit .269/.334/.446 (.780 OPS) with 112 homers, 447 RBIs, 181 doubles, 20 triples, an 18.2% strikeout rate and a 8.6% walk rate.

Polanco is a player that Seattle’s front office has coveted for years, given that he hits from both sides and can play across the infield. The plan is for the 2019 All-Star to be the regular second baseman, but he also has 501 games of experience at shortstop and 24 at third base, giving manager Scott Servais plenty of platoon options to navigate a crowded infield.

The Mariners acquired righty-hitting Luis Urías from Boston in November, and he is expected to be their regular third baseman after the club dealt Eugenio Suárez to Arizona. Lefty-hitting Josh Rojas, acquired in the Paul Sewald deal at last year’s Trade Deadline, and utility man Dylan Moore were in line to platoon at second base before Monday’s trade for Polanco.

That group will work with shortstop J.P. Crawford, who is coming off a career year, and first baseman Ty France, for whom the Mariners are banking on a big rebound.

“It also gives us some injury protection,” Hollander said. “We’re not as uncomfortable as you would be with an injury, knowing that you have guys who have played a lot, have experience and are winning players on good teams.”

Monday’s trade brings the Mariners’ topsy-turvy offseason closer to finality and further explains the visions of Hollander and president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto, who subtracted significant talent -- but just as much payroll -- through the Winter Meetings in order to clear capital to reinvest in other offensive players.

Gone are well-known figures Suárez, Teoscar Hernández, José Caballero, Jarred Kelenic and Marco Gonzales, and in are Polanco, designated hitter Mitch Garver and outfielders Mitch Haniger and Luke Raley.

Notably, the Mariners retained young starting pitchers Bryce Miller and Bryan Woo despite multiple calls on each while navigating their needs. Yet they’ll also need to replace the rotational depth that DeSclafani brought and the late-innings leverage that they leaned heavily on Topa for.