With Spring Training less than two weeks away, we're taking an in-depth look at the Mariners' roster. This is the second part of an Around the Horn series analyzing each position on the team. Today: third base.The big question: Can Kyle Seager get back on his previous path?
With Spring Training less than two weeks away, we're taking an in-depth look at the Mariners' roster. This is the second part of an Around the Horn series analyzing each position on the team. Today: third base.
The big question: Can Kyle Seager get back on his previous path?
Seager has been a fixture at the hot corner for Seattle since moving into the lineup midway through the 2011 season. In six seasons since, he's played all but 25 of the team's 972 games and his 920 starts in that span are by far the most of any Major League third baseman, with Evan Longoria second at 789.
Most remarkably, over the previous five seasons Seager's batting average and home run total increased each year as he established himself as one of the most consistent and productive third basemen in baseball. But that sort of annual improvement is virtually impossible to maintain over a lengthy Major League career and Seager's numbers finally took a dip in 2017, when he slashed .249/.450/.773 with 27 home runs and 88 RBIs.
Those numbers certainly aren't bad, but they didn't live up to Seager's expectations and his Wins Above Replacement dropped from a team-leading 6.9 to 2.5 as his defensive metrics also declined. All of which adds up to a very motivated 30-year-old who'll be looking to regain his momentum and, more importantly in his eyes, help the Mariners make a push for the playoffs.
The starter: Seager
Seager is sometimes overlooked because he's not flashy, he plays on a team where Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Felix Hernandez get much of the attention and not everyone appreciates the consistently solid performance at one of baseball's toughest positions.
But here's a testament to Seager's level of play over the years. Since 2012, the only Major Leaguers to crank out five seasons with 30-plus doubles and 20-plus homers are Cano, Arizona's Paul Goldschmidt and Seager.
Backing up: Andrew Romine and Taylor Motter
Seager started all but nine games last year and that was the most he's missed since breaking in as a rookie in 2011. So whoever wins the utility job -- which figures to be a battle between returnee Motter and the versatile Romine, an eight-year veteran who spent the last four seasons in Detroit -- figures to pick up whatever limited time Seager sits out.
Romine played 23 games at third last year, including five starts, and has played 154 games with 46 starts at that position in his career. He's a career .238 hitter with a 66 OPS+ and likely has the edge going into camp over Motter, who slumped to a .198 final average and 57 OPS+ last year after a fast start. Motter played six games at third last year, including four starts, and certainly has the arm strength to handle the position if needed.
General manager Jerry Dipoto acquired Ryon Healy by trade from the A's and he played third base in Oakland in his rookie season in 2016, but he's ticketed to be Seattle's everyday first baseman.
Depth: James Beckham, Matt Hague
Beckham is another veteran utility man who'll compete as a non-roster invitee. He started a game at third as a September call-up last year after a solid season in Triple-A Tacoma and can play anywhere in the infield. The 31-year-old started 102 games at third for the White Sox in 2009, but moved to second base the following year and has played mostly second over a nine-year Major League career in which he's slashed .239/.303/.369.
Hague also was brought in on a Minor League deal with a camp invite. He's a 32-year-old local product, a Kentwood High grad with 43 big league games on his resume between the Pirates and Blue Jays from 2012-15. He's primarily played first base, but is capable at third as well and started 35 games there last season for the Twins' Triple-A Rochester club, where he hit .297 with 10 homers and 65 RBIs in 136 games.
In the pipeline:
Joe Rizzo, 19, is the Mariners' No. 8-ranked prospect by MLB Pipeline after being drafted in the second round in 2016 out of Virginia's Oakton High. He slashed .254/.354/.346 with seven homers and 50 RBIs last year for Class-A Clinton before being promoted the final five games of the year to Class A Advanced Modesto.
By the numbers:
After six-plus seasons with Seattle, Seager has already moved into ninth place on the all-time RBIs list in franchise history with 525. And those ahead of him form a Who's Who in Mariners history -- Edgar Martinez, Ken Griffey Jr., Jay Buhner, Alvin Davis, Ichiro Suzuki, Raul Ibanez, Alex Rodriguez and Bret Boone. Seager needs 10 more to pass Boone into eighth on the list and 70 to catch A-Rod.
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.