Mariners looking past short-term success with Seager
Seattle searching for right-handed bat after locking up third baseman
A year ago, the Seattle Mariners made it known they were looking to be a factor in the battle for a postseason spot, signing second baseman Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240 million deal and adding closer Fernando Rodney with a two-year, $14 million deal off the free-agent market.
And having come up one victory short of advancing to October, the talk this offseason has been their search for a proven right-handed bat to plop into the middle of a heavily left-handed lineup. Focused as they may be on "now" mentality, however, the Mariners haven't lost sight of their long-term mantra.
And that is underscored by the pending seven-year, $100 million deal for third baseman Kyle Seager, which will put Seager alongside Mike Trout, Buster Posey and Freddie Freeman as the only players to have $100 million deals by the first year of their arbitration eligibility.
Seager's deal will make him the third-highest-paid player on the team, behind only Cano and right-hander Felix Hernandez, who has five years remaining on the seven-year, $175 million extension he signed prior to 2013. It also puts him in the position of being the cornerstone of the young position players that Seattle has been working to develop in its system.
Seager wasn't ever really a big-name prospect. He was a third-round Draft choice out of North Carolina in 2009, but in the pecking order of Mariners prospects that following offseason, he was considered to have potential, but not necessarily as much as at least 19 other position players in Seattle's system, including his North Carolina teammate and 2009 No. 1 pick Dustin Ackley.
Ackley has come along nicely, making the adjustment from second base to left field, but Seager has shot by Ackley and everybody else in the system.
Seager has become the poster boy for the offensive players the Mariners have signed and/or developed. He's the guy being handed the multiyear deal, the developing prospect who will stand alongside Cano and Hernandez as what Seattle feels the rest of baseball will view as a three-headed monster that eventually produces the first World Series championship in Mariners history.
While hitting .268 last season, Seager led the Mariners with 25 home runs and 96 RBIs. He was selected to the American League All-Star team. And Seager won a Gold Glove for his defensive skills at third base.
Seager is the pride of a homegrown roster nucleus that includes outfielders Ackley, Michael Saunders and James Jones, catcher Mike Zunino and shortstop Brad Miller. But he's also a left-handed hitter, like Cano and Ackley and Saunders and Jones and Miller.
And so the Mariners are looking elsewhere for that right-handed bat, very comfortable with Cano hitting third and Seager hitting fifth, but knowing they have to have a right-handed bat that is more productive than the likes of Kendrys Morales and Corey Hart.
Seattle's cleanup hitters ranked 28th in the Majors in RBIs (85) and runs scored (63), and were dead last in average (.218), on-base percentage (.295) and slugging percentage (.352). And that was despite 40 games in which Seager filled that spot and produced nine of the club's 19 home runs from the cleanup spot, 30 of the RBIs and 19 of the runs scored while hitting .293.
The Mariners have come up short so far, losing the free-agent hopes for the likes of Billy Butler (to AL West rival Oakland), Victor Martinez (to the Tigers) and Hanley Ramirez (to the Red Sox) and Michael Cuddyer (to the Mets).
There are still Nelson Cruz and Melky Cabrera on the open market, and also trade possibilities for the likes of Justin Upton, Yoenis Cespedes and Matt Kemp.
Does it, however, make a lot of sense for Seattle to strip down a rotation that is a strength by giving up the likes of Taijuan Walker and James Paxton, who are under control for five more years, or even Hisashi Iwakuma, a year removed from free agency but likely to re-sign at a club-friendly price in order to stay in the Pacific Northwest? Time will tell.
But the one thing that is known now is that Seager's not going anywhere soon. He's part of the Mariners' present, and with the deal that should be finalized early next week once he takes a physical, he's part of Seattle's future as well.