Seattle Mariners Double-Play Combo At Second and Shortstop

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - AUGUST 15: J.P. Crawford #3 and Dee Gordon #9 of the Seattle Mariners celebrate a 7-2 win over the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on August 15, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MICHIGAN - AUGUST 15: J.P. Crawford #3 and Dee Gordon #9 of the Seattle Mariners celebrate a 7-2 win over the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on August 15, 2019 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /
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Most of this season J.P. Crawford and Dee Gordon have been the Mariners double-play combo at shortstop and second base.

The season began with Tim Beckham at shortstop with J.P. Crawford playing at Triple-A Tacoma. Crawford was kept in the minors for the first month of the season to let him figure things out at the plate, but also to take advantage of his service time. However, an injury to Dee Gordon and poor defensive play from Beckham forced the Mariners’ hand to call up Crawford on May 10.

Both Crawford and Gordon have played together often, though injuries caused both of them to spend time on the injured list. Currently, Crawford is injured with a hamstring. Not sure when he will return. Utility player Dylan Moore is now playing shortstop in Crawford’s spot. This will give us more of an idea where he fits on the Mariner ball club next season. He has shown he can play outfield when needed.

Austin Nola is another player who has spent time playing at second, as well as first base, when Gordon went on the injured list recently. Nola has been hitting the ball well after being called up in mid-July when they traded Edwin Encarnacion to the New York Yankees. Also, he has played solid defense at second base as well as first base. He is versatile as the Mariners’ third catcher too.

Both Crawford and Gordon have both been inconsistent hitters this year. Gordon’s defense hasn’t been as good as in past seasons, though he looks better when he is playing together with Crawford. Crawford’s hitting has allowed him to bat second in the batting order most of the time though he did spend a little time at the bottom of the order. Gordon, on the other hand, has spent most of the season batting ninth.

Crawford is expected to be the Mariner’s shortstop for the foreseeable future; however, the same can’t be said for Gordon. This season, Gordon’s salary is $13 million, then it goes up to $13.5 million in 2020 and $14 million in 2021. The Mariners do have a $1 million buyout on the 2021 season.  The question is, though, do the Mariners want to have Gordon around next season, and will they be able to trade him to another team during the off-season or before the trading deadline next season?

This last spring training the Mariners picked up Shed Long, a minor leaguer the Yankees had acquired from the Cincinnati Reds for starting pitcher Sonny Gray. Long began the season at Triple-A Tacoma, then the Mariners recalled him on May 10 for a few days. He was sent down again to Tacoma, but again, only for a few days. He spent three weeks with the Mariners before going back to Tacoma on June 14. Long went on the injured list at Tacoma on July 3 and he didn’t play again until August 30. The Rainiers were hoping to activate him a couple of weeks ago, but instead he had been rehabbing in Arizona. The Mariners brought Long up on September 3 when the Rainiers’ season ended.

The Mariners could platoon second base with Long against righties and either Nola, Moore, or Tim Lopes against lefties. This could depend on these three making the Mariners next season. Nola may platoon with Daniel Vogelbach at first base, or play catcher as well.

Major League Baseball is expected to expand to 26 players on the roster next year. This will mean probably 13 pitches along with 13 position players. Now this means the Mariners will have four players on the bench. How this will all work will depend on whether catchers Omar Narvaez and Tom Murphy will still be on the roster or one of them will be traded. Nola could be the second catcher or the third. In any case, the Mariners will see him playing some first base and at second when needed.

One thing we do know, unless Jerry Dipoto decides to throw us a curve, is Crawford will be the shortstop for a few years to come.  The Mariners have two top prospects at shortstop in Noelvi Marte, 17, who played his first year professionally in the Dominican Summer League this season, and Juan Querecuto, 18, who played in the Arizona Rookie League this season. Both players are over six feet tall so the Mariners could decide to move one or both to another position.

Marte had an excellent year hitting .309 in 65 games while mashing nine home runs and driving in 54 runs. Also, he had 17 stolen bases. He probably will start next season at Low-A West Virginia; however, he could move up to HighA Modesto at some point like fellow Dominican and Mariners prospect outfielder Julio Rodriguez did this year at the same age.

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The Mariners should have a good double-play combo over the next few years whether Gordon sticks around or not. Crawford will play almost every day if he stays healthy and the Mariners should have a good second baseman whether Gordon sticks around, they bring in another one, or go with someone who is still around.

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