PEORIA, Ariz. -- While general manager Jerry Dipoto went about his Mariners makeover this offseason, Kyle Seager underwent a personal transformation of his own back home in North Carolina.As Dipoto changed the roster and traded away much of the veteran nucleus, Seager switched up his diet, dove into workouts aimed
PEORIA, Ariz. -- While general manager Jerry Dipoto went about his Mariners makeover this offseason, Kyle Seager underwent a personal transformation of his own back home in North Carolina.
As Dipoto changed the roster and traded away much of the veteran nucleus, Seager switched up his diet, dove into workouts aimed at improving his flexibility, and healed up a broken toe he acknowledges now was the result not of a foul ball off his foot, but the rigidness of the muscles in his legs and feet.
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While Dipoto traded Robinson Canó, James Paxton, Edwin Díaz, Jean Segura, Mike Zunino and others, he didn't swap Seager, largely because bidders weren't exactly lining up to acquire a third baseman slated to make $19 million a year for the next three seasons, plus a $15 million player option for the fourth year if he gets dealt, as he came off the worst year of his career.
Instead, the Mariners put Seager in the "bounce-back" bin, hoping he can rebound from his difficult 2018, live up to that large contract and be a veteran leader on the retooled roster.
While the real test won't come until the Mariners begin Cactus League games on Thursday and the ultimate answer won't be evident until the regular season plays out over the long haul of 162 games, Seager looks and feels different already.
Not only has he lost considerable weight with a diet that features more eggs and spinach than meat and potatoes, he's carrying himself better and the confidence in his voice is clear as he talks about working with trainer Jason Lindsay in Charlotte, N.C., to gain flexibility that allows him to rotate his back and hips better at the plate in order to free up his swing and presumably drive the ball better.
"I am excited," Seager said on Tuesday, standing at his locker in a clubhouse now filled with new faces. "I've been an extreme tinkerer over the years. I've constantly changed my swing and constantly done all these other things. For lack of a better term, it always felt like it could and should have been better.
"So that's why I always wanted to change. Even if it was a good week results-wise, it may not have felt that great. Now I actually feel pretty good about at least the direction, the plan and how my body feels making these moves. There's still work that needs to be done. It's not a finished product. But it's exciting for me."
Fans may roll their eyes, given the number of players who talk each spring about being in the best shape of their lives, only to see the same results. But Seager knew he had to change something as his numbers declined while his age climbed.
Now 31, he's looking to put last season in the rearview mirror after posting career lows with a .221 batting average and .273 on-base percentage in 155 games.
"It wasn't a good statistical season, that's for sure," he said. "I learned things. It helped me in a couple of different aspects. One being, I know what doesn't work now, so that was good for me. I know the swings that didn't work. But it also really opened my eyes and pointed out that I needed to make some adjustments, and I needed to make some changes, physically.
"I always worked out in the winters to try and get as strong as I could. I understand now that's maybe not the most important thing for me at this point in my career. It happened. It is what is. And I've learned from it."
"Kyle looks great," manager Scott Servais said. "It's certainly a testament to the work he put in this offseason. He feels great and is anxious to see how he moves around and how this helps him in the batter's box as well. Give him credit. Sometimes it's really hard when you've been doing things a certain way for a long time, but Kyle is sharp enough to understand he wasn't getting the results he was looking for the last couple years."
As Seager lost weight, he also lost teammates. He acknowledges the difficulty of hearing that, one by one, his veteran compatriots from recent years were being dealt away. But he's intrigued to see how things get pieced back together around the younger core.
"It's a different energy," he said. "It's a fresh energy. You have a lot of young guys in here that are extremely hungry, extremely motivated and extremely athletic. Not that last year we were old and bored, but we didn't have this many young guys on the team. There's a ton of new faces and I'm still trying to figure that out. And a lot of new coaches, too.
"Change doesn't always have to be bad. Frankly we didn't win last year, and when you don't win, you have to make changes. So that's what they did."
The same applied to Seager himself. Of course, for both makeovers, the proof will lie in the pudding. Or in Seager's case, perhaps, the eggs and spinach.
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.