3:47PM: The Mariners have officially announced France’s IL placement, which is retroactive to June 24. Infielder Drew Ellis was called up from Triple-A to take France’s spot on the active roster.
France was playing first base on Thursday when Sheldon Neuse hit a ground ball that resulted in a close play at the bag. As France reached for the throw, he and Neuse made contact, with Neuse’s body appearing to bend France’s wrist back. France dropped to the ground in obvious pain and left the game.
Losing France will undoubtedly be a blow to the Mariners, as he has been the club’s best hitter over the past two years. Acquired from the Padres in a seven-player deal at the 2020 deadline, France hit .291/.368/.445 last year. That resulted in a 129 wRC+, the highest such mark among qualified Mariners on the year. This season, he’s taken his game to an even higher level, as he’s currently hitting .316/.390/.476, which gives him a 157 wRC+. That’s easily the best mark among qualified hitters on the team and the 11th-best in all of baseball this year.
Subtracting that kind of production would hurt any lineup, but the Mariners will face a particular challenge, given the lack of obvious options to step up and take his place. France has started all but three of Seattle’s game at first base this year, with Abraham Toro getting one and Dylan Moore getting the other two. Toro is having a miserable season, currently sitting on a line of .167/.217/.307. He’s also the team’s utility infielder, being used to give the occasional off-day to players like Adam Frazier and Eugenio Suarez, making him ill-suited to take over everyday action at first. Moore is hitting .170/.342/.330 in a part-time role. Despite the low batting average, his 14.2% walk rate is helping him to a wRC+ of 107, though that might be harder to maintain with full-time at-bats. Evan White, who once seemed like the club’s first baseman of the future, is currently on the 60-day IL. Kramer recently noted that he’s not close to a return and won’t be able to fill in.
Despite an aggressive offseason and high expectations coming into the season, the Mariners are in a tight spot right now. Their 33-39 record places them six games out of a playoff spot as of today. The trade deadline is just over a month away, making the next batch of games very important for teams to determine how aggressive they want to be as the August 2 deadline approaches. The Mariners will now have to navigate at least ten days of that stretch without their best bat.