4:18 p.m.: The teams announced the trade.
4:01 p.m.: Ken Rosenthal of Athletic Reports (on Twitter) that the agreement also contains a player who will be named later. He adds that Cincinnati thinks the still-unknown player “improves” the quality of his comeback.
3:53 p.m.: In return, Cincinnati acquires the outfielder Jake Fraleypitch prospect Brandon Williamson and right-handed Justin Dunnfine sand adds. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports (on Twitter) that Seattle assume the remaining three years and $35 million on Suárez’s contract.
3:48 p.m.: Mariners finalize deal on deal that would bring in star outfielder jesse winker of the Reds, reports ESPN’s Jeff Passan (Twitter link). Seattle also acquires a third baseman Eugene Suarezreports Mark Feinsand of MLB.com (on Twitter).
Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto has been open about his search for offensive help throughout the winter. Seattle has already signed defending AL winner Cy Young Robbie Ray to a five-year contract, but they hadn’t done much before to bolster the offense other than a deal that brought Adam Frazier of the padres.
Winker got his due as an all-star for the first time last season, but he’s quietly been a great hitter for quite some time. He had a wRC+ of 127 or better (outgoing at least 27 percentage points above league average) in four of his five career seasons. The former extra first round has been particularly impressive for the past two years. Going back to the start of the 2020 campaign, he owns a .292/.392/.552 line with 36 home runs in 668 plate appearances.
Last year, he had 485 trips to the flat and hit a personal best of 0.305/0.394/0.556 with a strong walk rate of 10.9% and strikeout percentage of 15.5%, more seven points below the league average. Winker rarely swings and misses or chases throws outside the strike zone, and he’s capable of doing a lot of damage when he makes contact. It posted well above average ratings in barrel rate, hard contact percentage, and average exit velocity.
It’s easy to see the appeal for Seattle to add that kind of offensive firepower to a roster. Despite winning 90 games, the Mariners didn’t have a particularly productive offense last year. The Seattle batters ranked only 21st on the wRC+ team (excluding pitchers) last season. They finished 22nd in total runs scored. Winker should be a huge boon to a unit that will need to improve if it is to break a 20-year playoff drought.
That said, Winker isn’t entirely without its flaws. He’s limited defensively to the outfield of the corner, and he’s never rated well in the eyes of public stats. Defensive Runs Saved ranked him 20 under in 2,335 career 2/3 innings in corners (in addition to three under in 138 innings as a center fielder). Statcast’s Outs Above Average puts him at -21 games as a major leaguer, including a -7 mark last season.
Left-handed hitter Winker also has some of the most notable squad splits in the league. He’s been downright elite in his career against right-handed pitchers (.313/.405/.556), but his numbers without the peloton advantage (.188/.305/.295) haven’t been impressive . Winker probably isn’t a strict squad player — he at least draws a boatload of steps against left-handers — but his impact has been focused on feasting right-handers.
Perhaps more concerning than any aspect of his talent, however, was his lack of volume. Winker has been on the disabled list every full season of his MLB career. Prior to last season, the 28-year-old had never made even 400 plate appearances in a major league campaign. He picked up a personal-high 485 trips last year, but ended the season on the injured list after suffering intercostal strain in mid-August (from which he unsuccessfully attempted to recover in September).
All of this makes Winker a tough player to assess, but there’s no doubt he’ll improve Seattle’s overall offense. He will likely step in as the M’s regular left fielder, joining an outfield that could feature Jarred Kelenic in the field and Mitch Haniger To the right. Former Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis just suffered another serious knee injury, and Dipoto told reporters (including Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times) he is unlikely to be ready for the start of the season as they are proceeding with caution in his recovery. Former top prospect Taylor Trammel and utility Dylan Moore could be depth options behind the presumed season-opening trio of Winker, Kelenic and Haniger. Julius Rodriguezamong the game’s top prospects, was crushed at the Double-A at the end of last season.
Winker will likely be in the Pacific Northwest for at least the next two seasons. He is pitched by MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz for a salary of $6.8 million per officiating this year. He will be controllable via that process once again next winter before reaching free agency ahead of his 30-year season.
In order to entice the Reds to part ways with a player of Winker’s caliber, the M’s are taking far more money than his projected refereeing numbers. Cincinnati signed Suárez to a $66 million extension in March 2018, of which three years and $35 million in guaranteed money remain. (The deal also includes a $15 million club option for 2025). Initially, this seemed like a wise investment by Cincinnati’s front office, as Suárez continued to earn MVP support on the lower ballot in each of the next two seasons. Still, after combining for a .277/.362/.550 line on that stretch, he’s struggled for the past two seasons.
Suárez hit .202/.312/.470 in the shortened 2020 campaign. That’s an abysmal batting average, but he made up for it somewhat with a robust 13 percent walk rate and 15 homers in just 231 plate appearances. However, his problems at the plate mounted last year. His walk percentage is down to a solid but more elite 9.8 percent, which isn’t enough to make up for an even weaker .198 batting average. Suárez reached base with just a .286 clip — the sixth-lowest rating among 135 players who have totaled more than 500 plate appearances. He always hit for power (31 homers), but on-base issues and his inability to successfully acclimate to an ill-advised move from third base to shortstop kept his overall production in the field of replacement level.
Obviously, the Mariners assumed Suárez’s deal was a way to acquire Winker. That said, it seems likely that they’ll give her a chance to try and right the ship in her new surroundings. Seattle bought out the longtime third baseman Kyle Seager at the end of the year. Abraham Taurus looks like the inside favorite for playing time in the hot corner, but Toro can also bounce between corners and second base as a bat-first utility option. to divide tweet that Suárez is likely to step in as a primary third baseman, at least to start the year, with Toro deployed around the diamond as needed.
The acquisitions of Suárez and Winker will add approximately $20 million to the Mariners’ 2022 books. That brings this year’s estimated spending to $106 million, according to Jason Martinez of Roster Resource. That’s well above last year’s season-opening mark of $73 million, but nowhere near the franchise’s record payroll that topped $150 million from 2017- 18. It’s unclear exactly how much is left in the coffers, although it looks like they’re content with the group of positional players. Dipoto told reporters (including MLB.com’s Daniel Kramer) the club was unlikely to make any further moves on that side of the ball. Seattle had been linked with big-ticket free agents like Kris Bryant and Trevor’s Story this offseason, but Dipoto called their pursuit of free agent hitters a “dead end.”
It is a continuation of wage bill reduction efforts for the Reds, who have signaled their willingness to cut wage bills for months. Cincinnati traded Tucker Barnhart and lost Wade Miley on waivers for little or no return, in November. They listened to offers from their best starting pitchers, and they moved Sonny Gray to the Twins for the prospect of throwing chase petty during the weekend. This afternoon’s trade is the most notable of all, as the Reds slashed Suárez’s back-to-back salaries by $11.285 million 2022-24 and Winker’s expected $6.8 million arbitration price in books.