The Seattle Mariners began 2019 season with Dylan Moore as the utility player on the team. They acquired Shed Long during spring training having the idea he would be more than the typical utility player.
Long did come up for the Mariners in early May, thanks to injuries to Ryon Healy and Dee Gordon. He played mostly second base before returning to Tacoma in June. He hit .232 during his time in Seattle along with his first major league home run. Long is currently on the injured list in Tacoma.
The Mariners have gone through a lot because of injuries, not only in the infield but the outfield as well. The Mariners lost both Braden Bishop and Mitch Haniger only days apart in June. We still don’t have time tables on when they will return.
The Mariners signed outfielder Mac Williamson to a minor league contract, and then he was called up the same day to replace Haniger. The Mariners only had Williamson for about a month but he wasn’t hitting so the Mariners released him in mid-July.
This all happened after Kyle Seager was hurt in spring training and missed action because of his injured shoulder that kept him out for two months. Though he has returned Kyle is struggling at the plate though he has had some key hits.
The only positions the Mariners haven’t had any injuries costing a lot of playing time is first base and catcher, although the Mariners did trade Jay Bruce to the Phillies and Edwin Encarnacion to the Yankees.
With the trade of those two has given more playing time to Dan Vogelbach at first base and DH. Omar Narvaez and Tom Murphy haven’t been hurt this year and now they have Austin Nole as the third option though he has played first, second and third so far.
The Mariners though promoted Austin Nola when they traded to Edwin Encarnacion to the Yankees. Also, when the Mariners promoted JP Crawford in May and making him the everyday shortstop put Tim Beckham in the same spot.
When the Mariners released Williamson they brought up Kristopher Negron from Tacoma who can play multiple positions as well both in the infield and outfield. Both he and Beckham played both infield along with left-field until last week when Domingo Santana hurt his elbow missing a couple of games. Negron switched over to right field with Beckham playing in left.
Last week Dee Gordon has hurt once again and had to go on the injured list for the second time this season. Right now don’t know when he will return though news came out he is progressing well so may return sooner than expected.
The Mariners promoted infielder Tim Lopes from Tacoma to take Gordon’s spot. He made an appearance late in the game last Wednesday then started on Thursday but had to be removed after being hit in the head. He actually stole a base after the hit in the head and scored two runs though he didn’t have a hit in the game. On Friday he was placed on the 7-day concussion list.
The Mariners recalled Ryan Court from Tacoma. Like Austin Nola and Tim Lopes before him never played in the major leagues before debuting with the Mariners. Court ended up pinch-hitting on Friday for Dylan Moore where he lined a hard one on the very first pitch to left field just before Mallex Smith hit a single for a walk-off in Mariner win over Detroit.
On Saturday Ryan Court made his first start in the major leagues where he had his first hit and RBI at the same time then, later on, hit a double driving in two more runs. He played in right field where he never had played before at any level of baseball. On Sunday he started at first base in place of Dan Vogelbach who was hit in the elbow on Saturday.
After Sunday’s game, the Mariners made a trade where they sent Kristopher Negron to the Los Angeles Dodgers for a minor league infielder.
So my point? The Mariners idea during spring training was to have a super-utility player in Shed Long who would start most days, but playing multiple positions while he did. But instead, the value of that versatility has been shown by a half dozen players. I also show how valuable it can be to have several players playing multiple positions.
Analyst Mike Blowers, the former Mariner third baseman, said during pre-game workouts he saw Domingo Santana taking grounds at third base though he didn’t make any throws he looked good at the position.
The talk around was to make him DH some as he is doing now because of his elbow. It does make me wonder whether Santana could play some third base well as well as first base when he is back to full strength. I believe it shows how much the Mariners should look at versatility amongst their players.
Depending on injuries and situations, with JP Crawford and Kyle Seager being the everyday players at shortstop and third base, along with Dee Gordon at second when he returns, all players should be available to play multiple positions. So the idea isn’t just for Shed Long to be a super-utility player.
We do know that when Mitch Haniger returns, he will likely go back to right field while getting some time in center on occasion. Mallex Smith would be better in left field than center. Keon Broxton will likely play center field, allowing Braden Bishop to play all three outfield positions when healthy.
With the trading deadline coming up on Wednesday, there is a chance Tim Beckham might be traded, along with starting pitcher Mike Leake. If that happens, the Mariners will still continue to deploy their versatility strategy.
As a result, I would continue looking at the Mariners finding other players who can play multiple positions in the infield and outfield. Also, drafting infielders to play multiple positions is a very good idea as well. It isn’t easy to have the label of a utility player, however, it allows them to play in the major leagues is a good thing.
Though the Mariners are out of contention this season with guys like Nola, Lopes, and Court over the last few days has made things feel excitable. It would be great to see young guys along with little older players trying to make their mark in the major leagues. Go M’s.