Mariners Must Make Roster Decision For Seager Soon

PEORIA, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 22: Kyle Seager #15 of the Seattle Mariners bats against the Oakland Athletics during the MLB spring training game at Peoria Stadium on February 22, 2019 in Peoria, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
PEORIA, ARIZONA - FEBRUARY 22: Kyle Seager #15 of the Seattle Mariners bats against the Oakland Athletics during the MLB spring training game at Peoria Stadium on February 22, 2019 in Peoria, Arizona. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

The best third baseman in Seattle Mariners history will, by all accounts, be activated off the 60-day IL on Saturday’s game. But with Kyle Seager returning, the team will need to make a decision.

The decision for the Mariners is a simple one: they need to choose to DFA one player to make room for him on the 40-man roster. If the player they choose to DFA isn’t on the 25-man roster, they’ll need to send somebody down to AAA as well.

There isn’t a shortage of options for Jerry Dipoto but a hard choice will need to be made nonetheless. For most of the last month, the assumed move was just to send Ryon Healy down to AAA. The team had an open spot on the 40-man roster and had no PAs to give.

But now that 40-man spot is gone and Healy is on the IL. So where does it go from here? The simplest and easiest answer is usually the correct one. And the answer to our question is pretty simple: it is time to say goodbye to Jay Bruce.

Bruce, who was acquired from the Mets as part of a salary swap for Robinson Cano‘s contract, looks to be more or less cooked as a big league player. He still has power, as evident by his 12 home runs and .486 slugging percentage.

Unfortunately, that is all Bruce brings to the table. His 31% strikeout rate is below-average. As is his defense in both the outfield and at first base. His .248 OBP is well below league-average as well. So we have a below-average bat who plays below-average defense and gives you know the value on the bases. Why keep him around?

The most common answers I see are either: he is a good veteran presence or they need to wait for him to regain trade value. Let’s start with the “veteran presence” argument. Yes, Bruce appears to be well liked in the clubhouse and has reportedly been great with younger teammates.

But with Seager coming back, Edwin Encarnacion performing, and Dee Gordon on the roster, how much of a veteran presence do you need? Besides that, couldn’t you make a strong argument that what the Mariners actually need are their younger guys like Mitch Haniger and Marco Gonzales to become those guys?

So the argument that you just need to keep him around to be a mentor is pretty weak. But surely, the trade value argument is better right? Actually, it is worse. Bruce does one thing well and only if he is given a pitch he can handle. What is the most abundant skill in the game today? Power. What is Bruce’s only tool? Power.

And with all this power around, any team who is looking for it can surely find cheaper options than taking on Bruce’s $22 million still owed to him. There isn’t much chance of a rebound and even if he raises his OBP to his career norm (a 70 point jump), he is still below the league-average for OBP.

Even if the Mariners eat a massive amount of his contract, the acquiring team would have to use a 40-man and 25-man roster spot for Bruce and using a bench spot on a one trick pony isn’t something teams are lining up to do.

The simple truth is that Jay Bruce has no trade value. And as valuable as he may be in the clubhouse, that value doesn’t outweigh the need to give PA’s to young players like Domingo Santana, Mallex Smith, Braden Bishop, Healy, and Vogelbach. Nor does it outweigh the opportunity to increase the value of a player who might actually be tradeable like Tim Beckham or Edwin Encarnacion.

If the Mariners really wanted to drag things out, they could DFA a reliever like Ruben Alaniz and then option Dylan Moore to Tacoma. After all, once Seager comes back, Beckham can take over as the full-time utility option.

But even this would be a short-term answer. Can Seattle really carry Bruce when Healy is back? Perhaps if the send down Ryon Healy. But what about Dee Gordon? They aren’t going to DFA Beckham since he will actually have value. Bruce will still remain the right call.

At the end of the day, the correct move is to DFA Jay Bruce and just eat the money. You’re going to have to even if you found a trade partner. Bruce is a popular player, but his lack of production is too much to stomach for this long.

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Perhaps he survives the Seager addition to the 40-man. But even if he does, it won’t be long before reality sets in for Dipoto and the team. Bruce is a good guy and was a good player. But now with his slowing bat and declining plate skills, Bruce’s demise with Seattle is just a matter of when not if.