What Jorge Polanco trade means for Mariners in 2024

What Jorge Polanco trade means for Mariners in 2024


This story was excerpted from Daniel Kramer’s Mariners Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

SEATTLE — The Mariners entered the week comfortable rolling out the overhauled roster they’d assembled after notable additions of Mitch Garver, Mitch Haniger and Luke Raley, among others. But their trade with the Twins for second baseman Jorge Polanco on Monday night has put the lineup in arguably a better spot than it was on the final day of the 2023 season.

Polanco was acquired in exchange for leverage reliever Justin Topa, starter/reliever Anthony DeSclafani and prospects Gabriel Gonzalez, an outfielder, and Darren Bowen, a right-handed pitcher, along with cash considerations.

The four-for-one swing clearly signals a win-now move. Here are some takeaways from the trade:

1. How does Polanco fit in a crowded infield?
Polanco brings versatility as a switch-hitter and up-the-middle infielder who will lengthen Seattle’s lineup and bolster its bench due to the trickle-down effect of where other players scatter.

Groomed as a shortstop, Polanco shifted to second more permanently in 2021, but he also logged 103 innings at third after returning from a left hamstring injury in 2023. He’s also spent most of his 3,529 career plate appearances hitting in the Nos. 1-3 spots in the lineup, where he’ll likely be installed under manager Scott Servais.

“To have a guy who is split-neutral, who can hit in the middle of our lineup from either side, is a big advantage for Scott as he stacks the lineup,” Mariners general manager Justin Hollander said.

The intended platoon of lefty-hitting Josh Rojas and right-handed Dylan Moore at second base likely now shifts to third, where offseason acquisition Luis Urías had been slated to see the most reps. And when considering that the Mariners have lefties Dominic Canzone and Luke Raley as well as righty Haniger flanking Julio Rodríguez in the outfield corners, on any given night, one among that group will be available off the bench, along with Moore, catcher Seby Zavala and Rojas or Urías.

“It gives Scott a number of options every day to figure out who fits 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’ infield much-needed injury insurance, given the depth and versatility of everyone else.

2. How will they replace Topa?
The largest void created by Monday’s trade is in the back end of the bullpen, where Topa became a reliable setup man, with a 2.61 ERA (155 ERA+, where league average is 100). He will earn $1.25 million next season.

The Mariners have been on the frontier of turning unknown names into legitimate relievers — Topa and Paul Sewald being the headliners — so it’s understandable that they’d be comfortable entering Spring Training seeing what they have in Jackson Kowar, Carlos Vargas, Mauricio Llovera, Cody Bolton, Eduard Bazardo and Prelander Berroa among others, even if they haven’t performed consistently in the Majors.

“Topa was great; we’ll have to replace that,” Hollander said. “I think it most likely will be internally with a possibility, like always, that we could add externally as well.”

DeSclafani was slated to be a sixth starter of sorts who would be stretched out in spring, then transition to 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 with two notable prospects in Gonzalez (No. 3 in the organization, per MLB Pipeline, and No. 79 overall) and Bowen (who is unranked but would’ve been among Seattle’s Top 30 for 2024).

Gonzalez is a contact specialist but one who’s limited to a corner-outfield spot, putting more pressure on his bat. He crushed 18 homers last year between Low-A Modesto and High-A Everett, though his exit velocities and other metrics that measure impact did not take the step forward some evaluators had predicted.

Bowen was a 13th-round pick in 2022 yet took a significant step forward last year at Modesto, where he topped out at 97-98 mph and sat at 94-95 mph. His longer-term profile might be as a reliever, but there’s intriguing upside.

4. What moves are next?
With most of their lineup holes filled and a rotation that remarkably remained intact despite looking like the area they needed to deal from, the Mariners are probably done with their heavy lifting this offseason — smaller, tertiary additions such as Minor League deals with Spring Training invites notwithstanding.

“I do 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 just impossible to say what might come along between now and the start of the regular season.”


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