Mariners' Top 5 shortstops: Johns’ Take

April 20th, 2020

No one loves a good debate quite like baseball fans, and with that in mind, we asked each of our beat reporters to rank the top five players by position in the history of their franchise, based on their career while playing for that club. These rankings are for fun and debate purposes only. If you don’t agree with the order, participate in the Twitter poll to vote for your favorite at this position.

Here is Greg Johns’ ranking of the top five shortstops in Mariners history. Next week: left field.

Mariners' all-time team: C | 1B | 2B | 3B

1) , 1994-2000
Key fact: His 10.4 bWAR in 2000 is highest in franchise history for any position

Though many Mariners fans are still bitter that Rodriguez chose to sign with the Rangers for 10 years and $252 million in free agency in 2001 after being drafted No. 1 by the Mariners in 1993 and developing into a rising star in Seattle, there’s no question he’s the top shortstop in franchise history.

After debuting as a teenage backup in 1994-95, A-Rod was a four-time American League All-Star and four-time AL Silver Slugger Award winner over the next five years. He finished second in the ’96 AL MVP voting after leading the league in batting at .358 while ripping 54 doubles, 36 homers and 123 RBIs despite not turning 21 until midseason.

In his seven years in Seattle, Rodriguez posted a .309/.374/.561 line with 189 homers and 595 RBIs. All those are No. 1 in franchise history for shortstops, along with his games played (790), at-bats (3,126), hits (966), doubles (194), runs (627) and stolen bases (133). He owns the top five bWAR seasons by a shortstop in team history and his total bWAR of 38.1 is more than the next five Mariners shortstops combined.

“Alex was a great talent,” said Lou Piniella, who managed Rodriguez throughout his time in Seattle. “Just a great, great young man. He really was. He had a wonderful work ethic and respected the game of baseball. There wasn’t anything this young man couldn’t do on the field. He could hit, he could hit for power, he could field. He developed into a wonderful ballplayer, a superstar.”

2) , 1989-93
Key fact: Won the first of his 11 career Gold Gloves with Seattle in ‘93

Vizquel was a wizard with the glove and he began an outstanding 24-year Major League career with five seasons in Seattle. The Mariners signed him as a 17-year-old out of Venezuela in 1984 and he broke into the Majors as Seattle’s full-time shortstop in ’89.

Though defense was always his calling card, Vizquel hit .294 with 15 stolen bases in ’92 and he posted a .252/.309/.303 line in his five seasons before being traded to the Indians for Felix Fermin, Reggie Jefferson and cash prior to the ’94 season. His 660 games and 10.3 bWAR are second to A-Rod among all Mariners shortstops.

3) , 2017-18
Key fact: Hit .302 in two seasons with Seattle

Segura posted two strong offensive seasons after being acquired from the D-backs and was elected to the 2018 AL All-Star team by MLB as the Final Vote winner and hit a three-run home run off Josh Hader in that Midsummer Classic.

Segura’s batting average of .302, on-base percentage of .345 and slugging percentage of .421 are all second to A-Rod among Mariners shortstops and he totaled 21 homers and 108 RBIs in his two seasons. His 42 stolen bases are also second to Rodriguez despite being 10th in games played at 269, with the Mariners trading him to the Phillies in ’19.

4) Carlos Guillen, 1998-2003
Key fact: Second to Rodriguez for most career RBIs by a Seattle shortstop with 211

Guillen was acquired from the Astros along with Freddy Garcia and John Halama in the Randy Johnson trade in ’98 and initially played second base and third base before replacing A-Rod at shortstop in 2000. Though he dealt with some injuries and illness in his time with the Mariners, Guillen played a key part in several outstanding Mariners teams.

His walkoff squeeze bunt in the bottom of the ninth inning to score Rickey Henderson and finish off a three-game sweep of the White Sox in the 2000 American League Division Series stands as one of the franchise’s highlight moments and he played an integral role on the 116-win team in 2001 when he batted .259/.333/.355 in 140 games.

5) Brendan Ryan, 2011-13
Key fact: His 4.2 bWAR in 2011 is sixth behind only five A-Rod seasons for Mariners shortstops

Ryan was one of the best defensive shortstops in the game during his time in Seattle and he backed that up by batting .248/.313/.326 in 123 games in his first season with the Mariners in ’11 after being acquired from the Cardinals.

But the average slipped to .194 in 2012 and was at .192 in ’13 when he was traded to the Yankees for the final month of the year. But he was the Mariners’ Wilson Defensive Player of the Year in 2012 when he led all AL players in defensive bWAR at 3.6 and he and Vizquel stand as the best defensive shortstops in club history.

Honorable mention
Yuniesky Betancourt hit 38 doubles in 2007 and 36 in ’08, which stand as the third and fourth most in Mariners history for a shortstop behind only a pair of A-Rod seasons.

Craig Reynolds was the Mariners’ AL All-Star in 1978 when he posted a .292/.336/.374 line with five homers and 44 RBIs.