SEATTLE — With one somewhat expected transaction, the Seattle Mariners addressed their needs at second base while also cleaning up their roster in terms of positional fit and clubhouse chemistry.
With the start of the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings looming on Monday in San Diego, the Mariners reached an agreement with the Milwaukee Brewers Friday on a trade that would send second baseman Kolten Wong and cash (reportedly $1.75 million) to Seattle in exchange for outfielder Jesse Winker and infielder Abraham Toro.
While the parameters of the deal were leaked to the media earlier, the trade wasn’t finalized until a few hours later upon final review of the players medical records. Winker underwent surgeries on his left knee and neck in the weeks after the 2022 regular season ended.
With the trade, Dipoto locked in his starting second baseman for the 2023 season — a player he tried to acquire before the 2021 season — while also moving on from Winker, who was an underachieving disappointment in his one season with Seattle.
“We have long coveted Kolten’s well-balanced, all-around game,” Dipoto said in a statement. “He also brings veteran leadership and a winning pedigree that will make a difference for us both on and off the field.”
Wong, who turned 32 on Oct. 10, posted a .251/.339/.430 slash line with 24 doubles, four triples, 15 homers 47 RBI, 65 runs scored, 46 walks and 88 strikeouts in 134 games last season.
“We’ve been talking with Milwaukee basically since the end of the season,” general manager Justin Hollander said in a video conference. “I would say over the last week or so against we discussed the trade in a bunch of different forms, directly with Milwaukee, some discussion of multi-team trade, roping in a third and potentially fourth team. Over the last 72 hours, it really picked up steam to the point where we felt like we were close to a deal that we consummated this morning.”
In 10 big league seasons, he has a career .261/.334/.398 slash line. Wong produced a 2.5 Fangraphs Wins Above Replacement (fWAR) for the Brewers while the Mariners got 0.4 (fWAR) from all of their second baseman combined in 2022. Wong won Gold Gloves at second base in 2019 and 2020, but had a down year defensively in 2022, registering a -1 defensive runs saved.
“I think he he owned it at the end of the season,” Hollander said of his defensive struggles. “He didn’t have his kind of year, particularly with his hands, that matched his own expectations he set for himself. He brought it up to me on the phone. He’s prepared to to be much better defensively next year. He’s always been an outstanding defender. We think the range is still plus, his arm is still well above average for the position and obviously we have a very good infield coach in Perry Hill as well.”
Wong and Hill already had discussions since being informed of the trade.
Following the COVID-19 shortened season in 2020, the Mariners tried to sign Wong as a free agent. However, the Brewers outbid Seattle, signing him to a two-year, $18 million contract with a 2023 club option for $10 million. Per sources, then-Mariners president Kevin Mather wouldn’t allow Dipoto to make a counter offer, citing payroll budget.
Winker, who turned 29 in August, was acquired from the Reds, along with third baseman Eugenio Suarez, to be an impact hitter in the middle of the Mariners lineup. He was coming off an All-Star season in 2021, having posted a .305/.394/.556 slash line with 32 doubles, 24 homers and 71 RBI in 136 games.
But Winker couldn’t replicate that production with Seattle. He got off to a slow start and never really recovered. He finished the 2022 season with a .219/.344/.344 slash line with 15 doubles, 14 homers, 53 RBI, 84 walks and 103 strikeouts. Beyond his struggles at the plate, he was also abysmal in the field. Forced to play in left field more than the Mariners planned due to the struggles of Jarred Kelenic and the injury to Mitch Haniger, Winker was statistically one of the worst defensive outfielders in baseball.
The Mariners did not disclose that Winker was dealing with knee or neck issues throughout the season. He was placed on the 10-day injured list on the final day of the 2022 regular season, ending speculation that he wouldn’t make make the Mariners postseason roster.
Winker will make $8.25 million in on 2023.
Dipoto announced that Winker underwent surgery on his left knee and was going to have neck surgery at a press conference three days after the Mariners were eliminated by the Astros in the American League Division Series.
Toro, who will turn 26 on Dec. 20, posted a .185/.239/.324 slash line with 13 doubles, 10 homers and 35 RBI in 109 games. His early season struggles at the plate dropped him behind Dylan Moore and Sam Haggerty for bench player usage.
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