After a breakout season both at the plate and in the field, Mariners first baseman Ty France has solidified himself as a key component of the team’s future. France put together a .291/.368/.445 slash line with 18 homers and 73 RBIs at the top of Seattle’s batting order in 2021, and made a flawless defensive transition to first base after Evan White went down with a hip injury in the first half of the season.
Mariners President of Baseball Operations Jerry Dipoto has publicly noted that Ty France will move forward as Seattle’s starter at first base, but as we all know too well, it’s impossible to predict what can happen over the course of a season. The Mariners value defensively versatility, and France’s ability to play other infield positions could come in handy as the team evaluates its roster options throughout the year.
Due to the current MLB lockout, it’s easy to forget that offseason roster shakeups still remain in the fold. The Mariners are expected to aggressively pursue stud right-handed hitters Kris Bryant and/or Trevor Story once the offseason resumes, who would both figure to slot in at third base in Seattle. However, actually putting pen to paper with either of those players remains far from a sure thing, so the Mariners are certainly keeping their eyes on other options to bolster their lineup.
If Seattle misses out on Bryant or Story, they could turn their attention to two star first basemen available on the market: free agent Freddie Freeman and trade candidate Matt Olson, who could both be game-changing left-handed sluggers in the middle of the Mariners’ batting order. If Seattle is able to acquire either of those players, who are both limited to first base defensively, Ty France would be required to shift to the other side of the diamond.
Another scenario that many fans seem to avoid in discussion is the impending return of young first baseman Evan White; as mentioned, White suffered a significant hip injury in the early part of the 2021 season, but he appears on track for full participation in Spring Training. The Mariners signed White to a 6-year contract when he was still at Double-A, so they clearly have faith in his abilities. If he performs well in Spring Training (and improves his hitting, primarily), it will be completely possible for him to make the Opening Day roster and push France to third.
Regardless of Seattle’s remaining offseason moves, the Mariners will be eager to provide at-bats for Luis Torrens, a catcher whose offensive breakout in the second half of last season should merit him future playing time (despite his below-average defensive abilities behind the plate). If Seattle sees consistent output at DH from Kyle Lewis and/or Mitch Haniger next season but still wants to give Torrens opportunities, we could see him garner a few innings at first base, moving France over to the hot corner.