This story is excerpted from Daniel Kramer's Mariners Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And Participate To get it regularly in your inbox.
SEATTLE – The Mariners entered the week comfortable rolling out the overhauled roster they assembled after notable additions like Mitch Garver, Mitch Haniger, Luke Raley and others. But their trade to the Twins for second baseman Jorge Polanco on Monday night has put the lineup in a better place than it was on the final day of the 2023 season.
Polanco was acquired in exchange for leveraged reliever Justin Topa, starter/reliever Anthony DeSclafani and prospects Gabriel Gonzalez, an outfielder, and Darren Bowen, a right-handed pitcher, along with cash considerations.
A four-for-one swing clearly indicates a win-now move. Here are some takeaways from the trade:
1. How does Polanco fit into the crowded field?
Polanco brings versatility as a switch-hitter and center fielder who will lengthen Seattle's lineup and bolster the bench due to the trickle-down effect of where other players are spread out.
Raised as a shortstop, Polanco moved to second permanently in 2021, but also logged 103 innings at third after returning from a left hamstring injury in 2023. He also spent most of his 3,529 career appearances at center 1-3. Positions in the lineup, where he is likely to be installed under coach Scott Servais.
“Having a neutral guy, who can hit in the middle of our lineup from either side, is a huge advantage for Scott as he stacks up in the lineup,” Mariners general manager Justin Hollander said.
The intended platoon of left-handed hitting Josh Rojas and right-handed Dylan Moore at second base will now likely move to third, where offseason acquisition Luis Urias was scheduled to see the most reps. And when you consider that the Mariners have Dominic Canzone and Luke Raleigh, as well as right-hander Haniger flanking Julio Rodriguez in the outfield corners, on any given night, one of that group will be available on the bench, along with Moore, catcher Sepe Zavala, and Rojas or Urias. .
“It gives Scott a number of options every day to see who is the best depending on what the other team is doing from a pitching perspective,” Hollander said.
Perhaps quietly above all, Polanco's presence gives the Mariners much-needed injury insurance, given the depth and versatility of everyone.
2. How will they replace the tuba?
The biggest void created by Monday's trade is in the back end of the bullpen, where Tuba has become a reliable setup man, with a 2.61 ERA (155 ERA+, where the league average is 100). He will make $1.25 million next season.
The Mariners have been on the verge of turning little-known names into legitimate relievers — Topa and Paul Seewald headline — so it's understandable that they'll be comfortable entering spring training seeing what they have in Jackson Cowar, Carlos Vargas, Mauricio Lovera, Cody Bolton, Eduard Bazardo and Brelander Perua from Among others, even if they do not perform consistently in major tournaments.
“Tuba was great; “We're going to have to replace that,” Hollander said. “I think it will most likely be internal with the possibility, as always, of us adding it externally as well.”
DeSclafani was slated to be the sixth starter to be extended in the spring, then move into the bullpen to be the first rotation reinforcement, if needed. Austin Voth, a Washington State native signed to a big league deal earlier this month, now takes that spot.
3. What about the prospects they gave up?
The Mariners also parted ways with two high-profile prospects in Gonzalez (No. 3 in the organization, per MLB Pipeline, and No. 79 overall) and Bowen (who was not ranked but was a top-30 prospect in Seattle for 2024).
Gonzalez is a contact specialist but is limited to the corner area of the court, which puts more pressure on his racket. He crushed 18 homers last year between Low-A Modesto and High-A Everett, though his exit velocities and other metrics that measure impact didn't take the step forward some residents expected.
Bowen was a 13th-round pick in 2022, but he took a significant step forward last year in Modesto, where he peaked at 97-98 mph and sat at 94-95 mph. His long-term profile may be a reliever, but there is an interesting upside.
4. What are the next moves?
With most of the holes in their lineup filled and a rotation that has remained remarkably healthy despite looking like an area they need to address, the Mariners are likely done lifting their weight this offseason — smaller third-tier additions like Minor League deals with Spring Training is calling though.
“I feel like our team is more complete than it was yesterday, and it's better than it was yesterday,” Hollander said Monday night. “I don't want to rule anything out. I don't want to promise anything. It's impossible to say what might happen between now and the start of the regular season.
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