Day two of our free agency preview takes us to one of the positions that will be talked about quite a bit this offseason. While first base will likely be filled in internally, exactly who it will be is cloudy.
The solution is not very simple, and is mostly contingent upon what the Mariners do at second base and/or center field. Basically, will Dee Gordon be on the roster in 2019? If the answer is “yes,” then Robinson Cano will likely become their full-time first baseman. If not, it’ll be Ryon Healy.
To make things more interesting, let’s say Gordon stays on the team and slots in at second base. Of course, this is also contingent upon the Mariners filling their hole in center field in free agency (but we’ll talk about that at a later time *wink*).
We’ll say the Mariners do just that, hypothetically. This is the first scenario, in which Healy becomes an expendable piece for the Mariners. Though Healy does have a faint hint of versatility at first and third base, it’s hard to justify using a bench spot on a poor defensive player with the inability to walk.
The power is nice, but his value on the trade market could be more appealing to the Mariners in the end. Healy will turn 27 in January and still has four years left of club control, with three Minor League options. The Royals were interested in him near the trade deadline, and they probably weren’t the only ones. He’ll have takers.
Now, Healy isn’t necessarily guaranteed a spot even if Gordon is dealt elsewhere. But a Healy replacement isn’t very clear. The upcoming free agent class for first basemen is very, very thin. After Joe Mauer, Matt Adams, and Lucas Duda, there are no other potential upgrades that would justify Healy’s departure.
To be frank, Mauer and Duda may not even be upgrades at this point in their careers. They’re decent stop-gaps at best, which may be what the Mariners ultimately need with Evan White on the horizon. Adams might be the best option in the end, however.
In spite of all this talk about trading Healy, the 26-year-old slugger has improved his plate approach over the last month. While a 7.1 BB% is mediocre at best, it’s a monumental step for Healy. If he can learn to properly extend his at-bats on a consistent basis, the Mariners will have a dangerous threat at the bottom of their lineup at an extremely affordable rate.
Still, that’s how Healy’s projection laid out for the 2018 season. So, in short, we’ll see. Once an advocate for his trade, I now personally don’t think it would be in the Mariners’ best interests to trade Healy unless he either becomes expendable or is a key piece in a deal that brings back a better package
Now you really didn’t think I would write this article without mentioning Daniel Vogelbach, right? Unfortunately for Vogelbach and his loyal fanbase, there just doesn’t seem to be any chance for him to claim the starting role. In fact, I would not be surprised to see him dealt elsewhere this offseason, potentially for international slot money.
Vogelbach’s tenure in the Mariners organization has been confusing and ultimately disappointing. He was never really given a long look to prove his worth at the Major League level, consistently blocked by the likes of Healy, Yonder Alonso, and Danny Valencia. Considering that the Mariners paid a solid price for him in Mike Montgomery, it’s really never made sense as to why he’s basically been shut out.
The only way Vogelbach will get significant playing time with the Mariners is if they move on from Nelson Cruz in the offseason and shift Vogelbach to be the full-time designated hitter. Still, that’s a tough ask, and wouldn’t bode well for the Mariners’ 2019 outlook.
In the end, the future at first will likely be with Healy, leaving Cano to return to his home at second base. We’ll discuss what that means for Dee Gordon later in our free agency preview series.
First base is such an interesting position for the Mariners, as it deals with so many moving parts outside of it. It’s a position they’ve failed to figure out for countless years, and one that is once again hard to gauge.