How will the Mariners fill D-Mo's role?
PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Mariners suffered their first significant injury of the season after an MRI on Friday revealed that Dylan Moore is dealing with a Grade 1 left oblique strain and will begin the season on the 10-day IL.
Moore, who recently signed a three-year, $8.75 million extension, was slated for a more pronounced middle-infield role -- backing up shortstop J.P. Crawford (whom the club plans to build in more rest for) and second baseman Kolten Wong, who would have been in a regular platoon with Moore.
Mariners athletic trainers estimated that Moore would be sidelined from baseball activity for two to four weeks, and because he’d already been slow-played this spring due to a core surgery he underwent in December, he’ll necessitate a Minor League rehab assignment once healthy.
So where do the Mariners stand with their infield depth?
The internal options
If the Mariners fill Moore’s spot with a pure infielder, Mason McCoy is probably the front-runner. A primary shortstop, McCoy can also play second and third, and he’s coming off his most productive season at Triple-A Tacoma, where he hit .256/.332/.473 (.805 OPS) in 124 games. One flag was his 25.8 percent strikeout rate, and he also hasn't played in the Majors.
“I don't think it's going to be flashy. I think it's pretty steady,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said of McCoy's play. “And that's what you're looking for in that spot. ... I think he's had a good spring. He's swung the bat pretty well. He had kind of a breakout year last year offensively at the Triple-A level, and I think he's very capable.”
Servais also mentioned Jose Caballero, another candidate who’s yet to reach the Majors. Both he and McCoy would need to be added to the 40-man roster.
Sam Haggerty has seen most of his Cactus League action this spring in the infield -- mostly second and third base -- after playing just four of his 83 games around the diamond last year. Haggerty profiles more strongly in the outfield, but he’s also a spark plug who impacts games with athleticism and acumen, Moore’s best attributes. Haggerty will be on the Opening Day roster, regardless.
“The fact that he can play third, he can play second -- it gives you more options to move guys around,” Servais said. “So that's the beauty of what Haggs brings. The one thing I will say about Haggs, it's the best he's throwing, better than he's ever thrown before.”
The external options
There are plenty, including a few who, on paper, look like strong trade matches -- especially given the Mariners’ starting pitching depth to potentially deal from.
A few of note:
Isiah Kiner-Falefa (NYY): The Yankees are no longer committed to him as a starting shortstop and they badly need starting pitching. He’s owed $6 million.
Nick Madrigal (CHC): He lost his starting gig after the Cubs signed Dansby Swanson, and they also could use starting pitching. Madrigal hit .317/.358/.406 (.764 OPS) with a 109 OPS+ from 2020-21, but had a .249/.305/.282 (.588 OPS) clip with a 68 OPS+ in '22.
Nicky Lopez (KC): Like Madrigal, Lopez was a .300 hitter in 2021, but experienced a big dip in ‘22. His upside is that he possesses one of MLB’s best infield gloves. The Royals could still use him in a Moore-like role, but they would jump at starting pitching in a trade.
Jon Berti (MIA): He led MLB with 41 stolen bases last year and ranked in the 85th percentile in chase rate, suggesting good plate discipline, which the Mariners value. He’d probably cost a bit, given that he’s under club control through 2025.
It’s also possible that the Mariners pursue less-prominent waiver claims, if motivated.
The likely outcome
The Mariners will stick with what they have -- for now. This isn’t Trade Deadline season, there isn’t the pressure of a pennant race and Moore isn’t a primary run producer.
Moore will continue to go through maintenance work and the Mariners will piece their bench together based on the best fit, rather than a straight replacement of Moore’s role.