As soon as the baseball lockout ended, Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto was focused on two things he wanted for his lineup. He wanted another power bat, and he wanted a left-handed hitter who could play in the outfield.
Dipoto landed both in one deal, acquiring All-Star outfielder Jesse Winker and third baseman Eugenio Suárez from the Cincinnati Reds on Monday in exchange for a package of players.
“We feel like these guys make our lineup longer, a lot more ominous. We feel like it gives us the lineup depth that playoff teams have,” Dipoto said at the Mariners’ spring training complex in Peoria, Arizona. “This was a goal of ours heading into the offseason.”
Winker gives Seattle a left-handed hitter who has thrived when facing right-handed pitching in recent seasons and can player in the outfield. And while Suarez has been inconsistent since undergoing shoulder surgery in early 2020, he provides a major power boost and is just three seasons removed from hitting 49 home runs.
“This is what we cited as a goal, and during the offseason, was to make our lineup longer to find impact,” Dipoto said. “It’s hard to make trades and this one was especially painful because this is the first time truly that we’ve gone out and acquired what I would call now premium offensive players and we haven’t been in that position. We were forced to give up maybe a little bit more than we would have liked to and that’s part of the business.”
Seattle is sending pitcher Justin Dunn, outfielder Jake Fraley and top pitching prospect Brandon Williamson and a player to be named to the Reds. Dunn has appeared in 25 career games but was shut down due to shoulder trouble last season. Fraley hit .210 with nine homers and 36 RBIs last season. Williamson was one of the top-rated prospects in Seattle’s system, but has yet to pitch above Double-A.
Winker is coming off the best season of his career after hitting .305 with 24 home runs and 71 RBIs. He’s precisely the type of player that Dipoto had said he was hoping to add to the lineup.
Winker seems likely to be in a rotation in left field and will get plenty of at-bats as a designated hitter.
“I’m looking forward to getting to Seattle. I can’t wait,” Winker said. “It’s an opportunity to win. It’s an opportunity to win a division, to play in the postseason. I’ve been looking forward to that opportunity for my whole life.”
Adding Suárez to the deal helps solidify the Mariners’ lineup. Suárez hit just .198 last season but still added 31 home runs. He closed the season on a surge, hitting .370 with an .808 slugging percentage in the final month of the season.
Suárez hit 83 home runs and had 207 RBIs during the 2018 and 2019 seasons combined. Seattle will be taking on a chunk of salary with Suárez. He’s owed $11 million each of the next three seasons as part of a deal signed with the Reds in 2018.
Suárez seemed surprised by the trade and was saddened to be leaving the Reds.
“This is not easy this stuff, but I understand this game is like that,” Suárez said.
Suárez also answers the question of who is going step in at third base after the retirement of Kyle Seager. Abraham Toro was acquired from Houston last season but played mostly at second base. Seattle traded for Adam Frazier prior to the baseball lockout with the idea he would play second base primarily with a little bit of outfield as well.
Toro will likely be in a utility infielder role now for Seattle.
Dipoto indicated the trade likely ends Seattle’s attempts to add more to its offense. He said the team was engaged in talks with free agents through the weekend but ran into “dead ends.” Dipoto said the communication with the Reds about this deal was constant and led to the move.
“We won’t stop with the intent to go out and try to get better, but we do feel really good about our offseason,” Dipoto said. “If this is the last move in our offseason we feel good about where we ended up.”