'Going to be fun': Winker, Suárez ready to impact Mariners' lineup

March 17th, 2022

PEORIA, Ariz. -- They both left Cincinnati on the verge of tears, clubhouse favorites leaving the only organization that each of them had ever known. Yet less than 48 hours removed from the major trade that brought Jesse Winker and Eugenio Suárez to the Mariners, the former All-Stars say that they’re all in on their new roles in Seattle.

The Mariners leveraged the trade market by targeting the riches of the rebuilding Reds, who are unloading top talent. While Suárez and Winker were emotional about leaving a team at the onset of a rebuild, they were also eager to join another emerging from one. 

“That’s all we’re thinking about,” Suárez said. “Everybody has that motivation, everybody is together for this and we just talk about making the playoffs, and from there, going step by step. We’ve got a good group of players. We’ve got experience. This year is going to be fun.”

“Once I got here, I was very, very excited,” Winker explained. “I've always wanted to be a part of an organization and a team that is really going after winning, is really going after chasing division titles and making a run for a ring, and that's what we have here in Seattle.”

Suárez and Winker possess the power and length that the Mariners have sorely sought to add to their lineup this offseason, but it’s clear they also bring personalities that, in a short span, seem to be resonating with their new teammates.

“Good vibes only,” said a smiling Suárez. “... I try to be like the happy guy. I don't think about bad things. I just focus on being happy every time. This game is so hard and you don't have the time to take [the bad], so I just take the good moments.”

Above his wide and regular grin sits a cloak of black-and-white-dyed hair, separated directly down the scalp, that gives off Cruella de Ville vibes. Suárez said that he already has a bet with manager Scott Servais over hitting 50 homers.

If the third baseman reaches that benchmark, which would be one more than his career-high of 49 in 2019, the skipper has to dye his hair, too. Servais had a similar wager -- and lost -- with Edwin Díaz in 2018 over if the Mariners’ former closer could reach 50 saves.

“We’ve got a deal,” Suárez jokingly insists.

Winker might not have as much flash as Suárez, but his affability seems as genuine as his passion for winning. On his first day, he thrusted an introduction on every passerby -- including team employees, media and fans -- and showed a keen knowledge of many of his new teammates.

Ahead of batting practice, he tells Ty France how impressed he was with the first baseman’s breakout 2021. To Robbie Ray, he jokes that he was never allowed to face the reigning Cy Young Award winner because of his pronounced left-on-left splits. He raves about how strong Jarred Kelenic looks, marveling that the second-year outfielder is “built like a running back [with] great bat speed and a great swing.”

It might be the first days with his new squad, but Winker already has a presence.

“I think Jesse is going to help Jarred a lot,” Servais said. “[Winker] being a younger player when he first came up, coming out of high school, and then kind of figuring it out. Jesse really likes to talk hitting and Jarred does as well, being both left-handed hitters. It's just an instant connection and you saw it right away yesterday.”

For a team that was among the American League’s youngest last year, and which lost longtime fixture Kyle Seager to free agency then retirement, there is a leadership transition among position players to the likes of J.P. Crawford, Mitch Haniger and more. In their eyes, the 2021 Mariners went as far as they did in huge part due to their unapologetic loyalty to each other while relishing their underdog roles.

This year, there are higher expectations, which were compounded even more after Monday’s major trade. But it appears that they have found two personalities that are fitting right in.