The Mariners’ desire to add a bat has been no secret, with the team linked thus far in the offseason to the likes of Kris Bryant, Seiya Suzuki, Trevor Story and the since-signed Javier Báez (Tigers) and Marcus Semien (Rangers). Though Seattle has already acquired left-handed-hitting infielder/outfielder Adam Frazier in a deal with the Padres, president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto figures to come out of the lockout intent on further deepening his lineup.
MLB Network’s Jon Heyman indicated recently on his Big Time Baseball podcast that Seattle indeed made an offer to Story prior to the lockout — presumably with the idea that Story would move off of shortstop in deference to incumbent J.P. Crawford. Dipoto plainly stated earlier in the winter that the organization’s plan was to keep Crawford at that position, and reports since that time suggested the team’s interest in Story would likely be predicated on a move to second base.
In his latest mailbag column Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times expands on some of the Mariners’ free-agent targets, reporting that the team never had a one-on-one meeting with Semien — seemingly due to a lack of interest on Semien’s end. Regarding the potential of an infielder changing positions to come to Seattle, he further notes that Crawford himself has never expressed that he’s unwilling to change positions, but the Mariners aren’t keen on moving a player they believe to be a high-end defender at a time when he’s making strides offensively.
Regarding Story, a move to the keystone might be preferable even independent of Crawford’s presence at shortstop. Divish hears from some scouts who suggest Story’s arm might play better at second base than it does at shortstop long-term. The former Rockie is coming off a season in which he ranked fourth among shortstops with 11 throwing errors, his fourth straight season ranking among the top ten at the position in that category.
Story’s strong durability and range paradoxically contribute to those error marks — a player can only commit a throwing error on balls he’s able to field in the first place — but inconsistency with his arm likely played into mixed reviews from public defensive metrics. While Defensive Runs Saved has continually pegged Story as a plus gloveman over the years, Statcast’s Outs Above Average tabbed him at six plays below par at shortstop in 2021.
While Story has never played an inning outside of shortstop as a big leaguer, it’s generally expected he’d acclimate well to second base if needed. That’s a less strenuous position on the defensive spectrum, and one need look no further than the aforementioned Semien (who won a Gold Glove at second base with the Blue Jays this past season) as an example of a player successfully bouncing from the left side of the diamond to the right. If the M’s were to land Story, his pairing with Crawford would make for one of the stronger all-around middle infields in the game.
After acquiring Frazier, the Mariners arguably don’t need another infielder. Yet adding a player like Story or Bryant would raise the team’s overall offensive ability while freeing up Frazier and/or Abraham Toro to assume a multi-positional role. That’d give manager Scott Servais far more with which to work than he had in 2021, when Seattle hitters combined for an underwhelming .226/.303/.386 slash line (pitchers excluded). Even after accounting for the club’s pitcher-friendly home ballpark, that offensive output ranked just 21st among the league’s 30 teams by measure of wRC+.