The last however many Mariners posts have been about some of the players I’m most interested in for the 2021 season. So, I thought, why not switch it up and talk about some of the players I’m least interested in? I really got my finger on the pulse of this whole blogging thing!
I would say the odds are better than 90% that 2021 is the last season with Kyle Seager in a Mariners uniform, so right there a lot of this is pointless. BUT! I don’t think it’s totally inconceivable that the Mariners figure out a way to keep Seager around, if he has a productive year.
Kyle Seager is the greatest third baseman the Mariners have ever had. He’s already a lock for the team’s hall of fame whenever he retires. We drafted him in the third round in 2009, he made his Major League debut in 2011, and he’s pretty much been our everyday third baseman ever since. He’s been durable; only in 2019 did he see extended time on the Injured List, when he needed surgery on his hand. Otherwise, day-in and day-out, you could rely on Seager being a mainstay.
And, he’s been pretty consistent. While it’s certainly true that his numbers have dipped in the second half of his career – as MLB has drastically increased its usage of the defensive shift with hitters like Seager – and he really struggled in 2018, he’s bounced back nicely over the last two seasons when he’s been in there. I remember early on in his career thinking that the sky was the limit; even when he signed his big money extension, I thought there was still better things to come. It’s clear his best years were from 2014-2016 (his ceiling, where his WAR ranged from 5.4 to 6.7), and his prime years were 2012-2017 (WAR ranged from 2.8 to 6.7). After the nadir that was 2018, his injury-shortened 2019 saw a return to that prime form. I’m willing to discount the second half slide in 2020 based on the wackiness of the year, but that first half continued on the promise of his resurgence!
My point is, it’s not outside the realm of possibility. He won’t be that peak player from 2014-2016, but he could return to Prime Seager very easily.
Now, I don’t think the Mariners would be interested in paying Kyle Seager his $15+ million option for 2022 (it can move up to $20 million based on performance escalators). But, he’s only 33 this year. It certainly seems like he has another three years as a productive third baseman, if he wants to keep at it. And, he could always transition to first base or DH towards the end of that; as a left-handed hitter who’s always been good against left-handed pitching, there’s a lot of value left in his bat as an everyday hitter; he had 43 extra base hits in 106 games in 2019, and 21 in 60 games in 2020.
For the Mariners to want to extend him, he’ll need to obviously be good-to-great in 2021. His WAR definitely needs to be over 3, probably approaching or even surpassing 4. I would also have to assume, in this scenario, the team won’t have a lot of confidence in Ty France taking over the everyday third baseman job next year. There already doesn’t seem to be much in the minor league pipeline, so that doesn’t figure to be an issue. At that point, it’ll boil down to whoever is out there in the free agent market. I don’t have those answers, as obviously a lot can change between now and next offseason. Assuming the Mariners don’t make a blockbuster trade, or try to land a whale in free agency, Kyle Seager figures to be near the top of the free agent third basemen available on a reasonable contract. So, why not keep him around and buy yourself some time?
Given what the market looks like, if the Mariners decide they don’t want to cheap out on the position, and they’re not confident in Ty France, they don’t have a lot of money guaranteed to players in 2022. The $15 million (or whatever it ends up being after the potential escalator) would actually be a likely reduction in salary for Seager over the $18.5 million he’s making this year. So, if he earns his money in 2021 through his performance, he could end up being a bargain for this team next season, while affording us another year to figure out what we want to do with the position in the long term. Beyond 2022 – if Seager stays – we could go year-to-year, if the Mariners are good and he’s still a valuable piece to our winning ways.
The bottom line, though, is we kind of know what we’re going to get from Seager. Solid defense, solid power from his bat, sub-optimal batting average in the .230’s or .240’s, and one of the few leaders on this team from a veteran standpoint. Any dip in that production will totally seal his fate, and even a continuation of what he’s been lately will also most likely result in this being his final year here. But, you know based on who he is – to say nothing of the fact that his next contract could be his last one – that he’s going to give it everything he has. You won’t find many players more motivated to be great and help their team win than Kyle Seager. So, it doesn’t feel like a stretch for this season to go reasonably well for him. He’s still going to be plopped right in the middle of the lineup as the cleanup hitter, he’s still going to be in there almost every single game; he’s Kyle Seager: our rock.
It’s not a super-exciting story, but much like our catcher position, it’s nice to not have to worry about third base for at least a year.