Ty France is not your prototypical first baseman. Most first basemen are expected to make up for their defensive weaknesses with a plus-bat. They often hit for power over contact and usually boast the highest OPS numbers on the team. Last year, Matt Olson (.993 OPS), Freddie Freeman (.977 OPS), and Yandy Diaz (.932) were the three best-hitting first basemen while Ty France (.703 OPS) was 17th out of 20 qualified players. More importantly, the difference between 16th ranked Andrew Vaughn (.743 OPS) and France was bigger than the difference between France and last-ranked Jose Abreu (.679 OPS).
While it might be concerning that his OPS+ went from 125 in 2022 to 99 in 2023, what's more important to look at is the fact that his expected stats were actually quite similar. In fact, his xwOBA of .342 was the second-highest mark of his career, trailing just his 2020 season where he had 500 fewer plate appearances. Between 2022 and 2023, his average exit velocity, barrel-rate, and strikeout rates have all remained within the same ballpark (no pun intended). The thing that has changed the most has been his luck.
The biggest difference between his expected stats and his realize stats were in his slugging. His xSLG of .420 was significantly better than his actual SLG of just .366. Whether he fell victim to defensive wizardry, poor wind conditions, or some divine action is still unclear. What's not unclear is that at his newly agreed upon salary of $6.775 million, France will have to make significant improvements to his hitting if he wants to stick around.
With offense still their primary concern, Seattle is also incentivized to pursue power bats at the position if they want to stay competitive in an increasingly sweaty division. Hopefully his time at Driveline this offseason will pay dividends for him and the Mariners organization.