Seattle Mariners 2019 Position Preview: Middle Infielders

PEORIA, ARIZONA - MARCH 06: Dee Gordon #9 of the Seattle Mariners fields a ground ball during the spring training game against the Oakland Athletics at Peoria Stadium on March 06, 2019 in Peoria, Arizona. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images)
PEORIA, ARIZONA - MARCH 06: Dee Gordon #9 of the Seattle Mariners fields a ground ball during the spring training game against the Oakland Athletics at Peoria Stadium on March 06, 2019 in Peoria, Arizona. (Photo by Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images) /

Trades of Robinson Canó and Jean Segura have broken up a perennial All-Star duo in the Mariners’ middle infield.

In what will likely be a transition year for the Mariners at both second base and shortstop, will they be able to find any future value amongst their current crop of middle infielders? It’s a tough question to answer, and one that has fallen by the wayside in a sea of uncertainties surrounding the team.

As it stands, Dee Gordon will be the Mariners’ starting second baseman to begin the season. Gordon is, of course, coming off the worst season of his career. The struggles he endured weren’t entirely his fault, however, as he played the majority of the season with a broken toe suffered in May.

Before that, Gordon had been a force at the plate, slashing .340/.362/.431 through the first six weeks of the season. He also had 15 steals up to that point, which counted towards half of his total 30 by the end of the year. The toe clearly never healed properly and greatly restricted his game moving forward.

Gordon was also dealing with dubious positional placement, starting the year by learning center field then quickly returning to his home at second base following Robinson Canó‘s suspension. This season, second base is all his, and the security and consistency in that should help him a great deal.

In all likelihood, this will be Gordon’s last season in Seattle. Even if he doesn’t fully bounce back this year, a contending team will likely value his unique skillset enough to bring him aboard as long as the Mariners eat a bit of his remaining salary for this season and next.

Opposite of Gordon will be Tim Beckham at shortstop. The former first overall pick in the 2008 draft is now with his third team in as many years. After disappointing in his time with the Rays, Beckham was shipped off to the Orioles in the middle of the 2017 season and bust onto the scene with a 3.4 fWAR year.

Beckham wasn’t able to follow that up in 2018, dealing with a groin injury that limited him to just 96 games. In the times he played, Beckham slashed an abysmal .230/.287/.374 while committing a total of 19 errors at third base and shortstop, finishing the year with a -0.5 fWAR.

For better or worse, Beckham is no more than a stopgap for the Mariners. Beckham has the propensity to be a serviceable player, but the Mariners aren’t desperately relying on him to be something he isn’t. They just need him to stay healthy and be a sturdy bridge to J.P. Crawford.

Crawford is certainly under the microscope of the majority of Seattle’s fanbase, who were openly less than thrilled about the circumstances of his acquisition. Going from one of the game’s best shortstops in Jean Segura to an unproven commodity in Crawford is a tough pill to swallow in itself, but swapping the players for one another straight up has, admittedly, been one of Jerry Dipoto’s more head-scratching moves to date.

Beckham’s presence on the roster is simple; it helps the Mariners manipulate Crawford’s service time in order to notch an extra year of club control off him. However, this isn’t as mischievous as it may initially seem.

The Mariners aren’t keeping Crawford in the minors solely for this purpose, as the former consensus top prospect could use the time to work on some mechanical issues both offensively and defensively. So don’t expect Crawford to be up immediately after his service time has been clocked.

Another young name that could get some work in the middle infield this year is Shed Long, who’s been fantastic thus far in Spring Training. Long has yet to play beyond the Double-A level, though some believe he’s played himself into the conversation to break camp with the team. This likely won’t be the case, however, barring significant injury to one of the Mariners’ starters.

Long is a bat-first second baseman who may be better suited as a super-utility at the Major League level. The converted catcher has yet to really find a home in the field, though the Mariners have displayed confidence in his ability to handle multiple positions. Unquestionably, the bat will play and ultimately be the reason Long reaches the bigs rather quickly.

Next. Mariners 2019 First Base Preview. dark

Depending on how the current utility battle plays out, expect to see Kristopher Negrón and/or Dylan Moore to fill in from time to time. Moore has appeared to be the better hitter of the two, though Negrón has had the better overall Spring and may have the inside track due to his lack of Minor League options.