The Mariners traded their starting third baseman this afternoon, sending Eugenio Suárez to the Diamondbacks for reliever Carlos Vargas and catcher Seby Zavala. That leaves a few paths that Seattle could explore at the hot corner.
Internally, it seems recent trade acquisition Luis Urías has the upper hand on the job. Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic (X link) and Daniel Kramer of MLB.com each report that Seattle is likely to give Urías the third base job.
That’s a risky play for a team that expects to contend in 2024. The right-handed hitting Urías is coming off a disappointing season. He had hit only .145/.299/.236 in 20 MLB games for the Brewers early in the ’23 season, spending a good portion of the year on optional assignment to Triple-A. Milwaukee moved on at the trade deadline, sending him to the Red Sox. Urías’ production was improved but still pedestrian in Boston, where he hit .225/.361/.337 over 32 contests.
It was essentially a replacement level showing overall. Urías looked like a roughly average regular over the preceding two seasons in Milwaukee. He had hit .244/.340/.426 in a little over 1000 plate appearances between 2021-22. He combined for 39 home runs with a strong 10.8% walk rate and standard 20.6% strikeout percentage.
The M’s clearly believe that he’ll bounce back from his 2023 season. Seattle dealt reliever Isaiah Campbell to Boston for Urías, who had seemed a non-tender candidate before that trade. MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz forecasts him for a salary in the $4.7MM range for his penultimate arbitration season. While hardly an overwhelming sum, it’s not an entirely insignificant amount for a player who had fallen down the infield depth charts in Milwaukee and, to a lesser extent, Boston.
With four months remaining in the offseason, there’s obviously plenty of time for the Seattle front office to bring in another option. MLB.com’s Jon Morosi floated the possibility of a run at free agent Jeimer Candelario, although it’s not clear if that’s something the Mariners are actually considering. The switch-hitting Candelario is coming off a far better offensive showing than Urías is. Between the Nationals and Cubs, he ran a .251/.336/.471 batting line with 22 homers in 576 plate appearances.
There’d be a viable roster fit for Candelario even if the Mariners wanted Urías to play every day. The latter has plenty of second base experience in his big league tenure. Seattle has a few options at the keystone — Josh Rojas and José Caballero primary among them — but none who stands a clear regular.
A run at Candelario would be out of character for a front office that has shied away from adding offensive talent in free agency. The M’s have rather incredibly not signed a single free agent position player to a multi-year contract in seven offseasons under president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto. MLBTR predicts Candelario for a four-year, $70MM guarantee.
While the trade adds some uncertainty to the infield, Zavala now seems the choice to back up Cal Raleigh behind the plate. Kramer writes that the M’s are no longer planning to pursue a reunion with veteran backstop Tom Murphy. He’d played in Seattle since 2019, struggling with injuries but generally making a strong power impact in limited playing time. Murphy hit .250/.324/.460 over his Mariners tenure. He has a shot at a two-year deal in his first trip to free agency.