J-Rod poised to make history in Year 3

December 12th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Daniel Kramer's Mariners Beat newsletter. MLB.com reporter Paul Casella filled in on this edition. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

The Mariners were always going to rely heavily on  in the coming years, but the club’s moves so far this offseason may result in Seattle needing even more out of its soon-to-be 23-year-old superstar in 2024.

While the club’s front office insists it’s far from done putting the 2024 roster together, Rodríguez is the only returning full-time outfielder. Thus, it’s no surprise that president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto said last week: “We would like to add, at least I would call it, one and a half corner outfielders.”

That, of course, is easier said than done. Given the free-agent landscape, Seattle’s best bet to add outfielders is via trades -- but that would seemingly require the Mariners to move one (or more) of their young starting pitchers, which they’re hesitant to do.

So while it remains to be seen what the Mariners’ 2024 outfield alignment may look like, it’s never too early to start wondering what type of production they might get from their one known entity in the outfield -- and that outlook is, not surprisingly, quite bright.

Per FanGraphs’ Steamer model, the early 2024 projections for Rodríguez are 33 home runs and 31 stolen bases. That seems plenty realistic for a player who has 60 homers and 62 steals through two big league seasons -- and is coming off a 32-homer, 37-steal campaign in 2023.

But let’s take a moment to reflect on just how remarkable Rodríguez has been through two years, and how another similar season could push him even further into a class of his own.

For starters, J-Rod is already the only player in AL/NL history with at least 25 home runs and 25 stolen bases in each of first two seasons.

Now, consider this: Only one player in big league history (Darryl Strawberry) has racked up at least 70 of each through his first three seasons. That means Rodríguez needs only 10 home runs and eight stolen bases to join Strawberry.

But given the projections for 33 homers and 31 stolen bases, Rodríguez seems like a safe bet to breeze past Strawberry to become the first player with 80-80 through three seasons -- and he could very well end up in the 90-90 club.

That’s all well and good, but Rodríguez -- who has racked up no shortage of individual accolades -- has always been up front about his main goal being to win a World Series in Seattle. And you have to look no further than the division-rival Angels, who have not qualified for the postseason despite having arguably the two best players on the planet for the past six seasons, to know that even a world-class superstar can’t do it on his own.

“Obviously, the offseason doesn't end on Dec. [4],” GM Justin Hollander said recently. “We need to go out and we need to get better.”

With J-Rod providing unprecedented production -- and not going anywhere any time soon -- Seattle is eager to find the right solutions to pair alongside him in the outfield.