Mariner’s Designated Hitter Plans Come into Focus

Arizona Diamondbacks v San Francisco Giants
Arizona Diamondbacks v San Francisco Giants / Thearon W. Henderson/GettyImages

There’s been a lot of consternation about the President of Baseball Operations, Jerry Dipoto, and the lack of movement on the free agent market. Reports have surfaced that he’s working with less money than expected. So, what do the best leaders do when they are thrown a curveball? They adjust their plans. Dipoto recently joined Seattle Sports 710, Brock and Salk, and shed some light on how the team might use rest days, platoons, and even a combination of backstops in the designated hitter spot. 

“One of the advantages of acquiring Cooper Hummel in the Kyle Lewis trade is the potential for having three catchers on our roster, which would then allow us to run one of our catchers into a DH day in an advantageous way,” he said. “That’s the way we’re looking at DH.”

Color me surprised, but I’m also intrigued if the team breaks camp with Cal Raleigh, Tom Murphy, and Cooper Hummel on the roster. 

Cooper Hummel’s struggles at the MLB level in 2022 were pronounced (.176/.274/.307), but the sample size is a miniscule 66 games. He has a track record of controlling the zone in the minors accumulating a .264/.397/.445 slash line over six seasons. Additionally, he might just be another late bloomer acquired from the Diamondback (see Haniger, Mitch). Two of the most important factors are Hummel’s ability to play corner outfield and that he is a switch-hitter, which adds another element to Manager, Scott Servais’ late game repertoire.

Tom Murphy, the man with the crazy eyes and seemingly unlimited strength is back after another injury-riddled year. Before you groan in disdain, try to remember what a healthy Tom Murphy looked like. In 2021, Murphy racked up a .232/.357/.437 slash line against LHP, which was good for a 125 wRC+. Also, he has demonstrated an ability to lead a pitching staff, call games, and the metrics have always loved his pitch-framing ability. 

Lastly, Cal Raleigh also known as “Big Dumper.” 2022 was an amazing year for the former Florida State Seminole, as he starred on both offense and defense in a 4.2 fWAR season. Between all the big hits and runners thrown out, we must remember he was basically forced to play through a gruesome thumb injury because of the lack of quality catching depth. 

It’s a given, catchers get beat up over the course of the year; catching Robbie Ray sliders and 100+ mile per hour fastballs from Andres Munoz will do that to you. By adding a healthy Tom Murphy and Cooper Hummel to the mix Raleigh could serve as a DH more often to keep him healthy. 

This isn’t the trio of Raleigh, Casali, and Torrens with limited skill sets. If the team rosters, Cal, Tom, and Cooper it is an upgrade. According to STEAMER, the group should amass a little more than a 5 WAR. I think that’s on the short side of the estimate. I’m a little more bullish on Hummel than most, and a healthy Tom Murphy is a quality backup catcher who rakes against lefty pitching at the least. Plans change and you hopefully get the point, and thankfully, Jerry Dipoto does too.