Are platoons in the Mariners' future?

May 17th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Daniel Kramer’s Mariners Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

BALTIMORE -- appeared to avoid a significant injury when taking a pitch off his right hand in what was presumably his final rehab game at Triple-A Tacoma. Word from the Mariners is that there is “low concern” on the situation, though he didn’t travel to Oriole Park with the team this weekend as initially planned.

If he does, or if it’s later on this three-city road trip, the Mariners will be nearing full strength offensively, after the activation of off the injured list. And that’s presuming that the issues that (right hamstring tightness) and (upper back spasms) are dealing with are minor.

“We're still not there yet,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “We're close but I think it's a good problem to have.”

If so, there could be a roster crunch that could see platoons extend at multiple positions.

Red-hot has warranted everyday at-bats against righties. The same for against lefties, having looked every bit of an everyday player since Crawford went down on April 24.

“I think it just gives you more options,” Servais said. “You can give guys some days off. We have not been able to do a lot of that."

So, how might it all look?

Red-hot Raley, Rojas
was already an everyday fixture against righties, but he’s doing so now at the top of the lineup, where he’s hit .344 with a .928 OPS since Crawford was sidelined. Servais likely will re-install Crawford at leadoff, but it seems clear that he won’t return Rojas to the No. 9 spot in the order that he was thriving in prior.

It’s also hard to see Servais moving out of the No. 2 spot despite struggles, especially given that he scorched some balls last homestand. That would seemingly point to Rojas at No. 3 in the order against righties.

Raley moved up to No. 5 in each of his past two games, has a 1.132 OPS this month and has positional versatility to play right field to back up and at first base, where he’s seen more pregame reps.

“I wasn't swinging the bat well, and you kind of have to earn your at-bats,” Raley said of his rebound. “That's just how it goes. So I took it upon myself to be out there for early batting practice all the time so I could see a little bit more velo and just try to get more comfortable. And it seems to be paying off.”

Rojas has played more second base, even earning a start there on Friday before Polanco’s injury. That said, the Mariners have been committed to protecting him against stingy lefties.

How about Haniger?
When Rojas first moved off third base, manning left field for a game, it was by design to get Haniger a day off. The 33-year-old veteran finished the homestand’s final two games 4-for-6 with a homer -- both out of the DH spot, filling in for Garver. For the season, Haniger was hitting .197 with a .596 OPS in 39 games prior to that hot stretch, and at times experienced defensive lapses in right field.

The Mariners had suggested in spring that Haniger playing 120 games this year (roughly 75%) would be a positive, given his injury history and age, yet he’s started 40 of their 44 games so far (90.1%)

“I do think a fresh Mitch Haniger or D-Mo with what he's doing now, you'll probably end up getting more production out of them because they are fresh, even though they might not have quite as many at-bats in a given week,” Servais said. “So that's the goal.”

About third base and left field
And with that, we circle back to the original platoon, and the one that developed shortly after.

The Mariners have been consistent about playing against lefties. He’s just 5-for-34 this month and has had a few defensive miscues, but the Mariners have been equally as adamant about protecting Rojas from elite lefty starters.

Moore, meanwhile, has a .720 OPS against left-handers and was already seeing time in left field against them before Canzone was sidelined. That’s likely where he’ll see a chunk of his time once the Mariners are fully healthy.