The Mariners have informed Kyle Seager that they won’t be exercising their $20MM club option on the third baseman’s services for the 2022 season, The Seattle Times’ Ryan Divish reports. Seager will instead receive a $2MM buyout and enter the free agent market.
The team has yet to announce the move, but the front office informed Seager and his representatives at Jet Sports of the decision earlier this week. That notification followed the typical process for moves of this sort; after trying but failing to reach Seager personally over the phone, president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto contacted Jet Sports. Assistant general manager Justin Hollander then formally notified Seager of the buyout via email, as is standard procedure.
It brings an end to the longtime relationship between Seager and the Mariners, as he played 11 seasons for the M’s after being selected in the third round of the 2009 draft. This long tenure has placed Seager among the likes of Edgar Martinez, Ichiro Suzuki, and Ken Griffey Jr. near the top of many of the franchise’s all-time statistical lists, as Seager has hit .251/.321/.442 with 242 home runs over 6204 plate appearances in a Mariners uniform.
Seager’s time in Seattle didn’t include any postseason appearances, however, and his performance did naturally dip as he got older. Seager generated 13.8 fWAR over his first three-plus seasons, and then after signing a seven-year, $100MM extension in the 2014-15 offseason, has compiled 21 fWAR over the life of that contract. (By Fangraphs’ valuations, Seager has been worth $267.5MM over his 11 seasons.) Among the many inflammatory comments made by former Mariners CEO Kevin Mather in his infamous rotary club speech back in February, Mather praised Seager for being a good clubhouse leader but also referred to the third baseman as “probably overpaid.”
It seems like Mather’s opinion might have extended throughout upper management, given by Dipoto’s rather odd avoidance of the team’s longest-tenured player. As Dipoto revamped the Mariners’ roster over the last few years, Seager was the last veteran remaining, in large due to a provision in his contract that would have turned the 2022 club option into a player option in the event of a trade. In short, there didn’t seem to be much of a chance that the Mariners would exercise Seager’s option, and they will now move on to looking for a new third baseman (if Abraham Toro isn’t given a clear crack at the everyday job).
Seager turns 34 this week, and he’ll now make his first trip into the open market after a mixed bag of platform year. Seager slashed only .212/.285/.438, with a career-high 24% strikeout rate and 29.6% whiff rate — disturbing numbers for a player who has been a pretty solid contact hitter for much of his career. Seager’s hard-hit ball rate was also below average, though on the plus side, he did hit a career-best 35 home runs. His third base glove has also remained strong in the eyes of the Outs Above Average (+4) and UZR/150 (+3.9) metrics, though Defensive Runs Saved (-3) wasn’t as impressed.
Editor’s note: This post has been updated to reflect that the Mariners’ front office followed the standard procedure for informing Seager his club option was being bought out, as Divish expressed in a follow-up thread.