New evidence emerges to clarify purpose behind Mariners’ Eugenio Suarez trade

Seattle sent their starting third baseman to the Diamondbacks, causing quite a stir among fans. However, they might have been on to something.

Houston Astros v Seattle Mariners
Houston Astros v Seattle Mariners / Steph Chambers/GettyImages
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All things considered, Eugenio Suarez had a productive two years in Seattle. He slashed a cumulative .234/.327/.423 for an OPS+ of 114 and hit 53 doubles and 53 home runs. His defense improved to be first class in 2023 and he accumulated a total of 6.2 rWAR for the team, so why was traded away for what many believed to be a very discounted package?

A few days ago, Ryan Divish wrote a piece for the Seattle Times reviewing each move of the offseason for the Mariners and when talking about the Suarez move, said this:

"The 32-year-old started showing signs of a rapid decline in 2023. The Mariners were frustrated at his conditioning level when he arrived at spring training, and his time in the World Baseball Classic made it worse. Though his strikeout rate (30.8%) and totals (214) were still high, his power numbers, which made those punchouts somewhat palatable, were down and his bat speed appeared slower. Would that trend continue? And were the Mariners willing to pay Suarez’s $11 million salary and $2 million buyout of his 2025 club option to find out?"

Ryan Divish

Sure, Suarez saw a steep decline in offense and led the American League in strikeouts for the second year in a row. However, what other signs of regression did he show? Based on Statcast data, it wasn't much. Between 2022 and 2023, Suarez still had great quality of contact numbers along with consistent performance in other batting categories.

2022

2023

Average Exit Velocity

89.8 mph

90.3 mph

Barrel Rate

14.8%

13.2%

Hard Hit Rate

43.5%

43.0%

Sweet Spot Rate

36.4%

37.7%

Chase Rate

21.5%

23.6%

Whiff Rate

33.1%

32.8%

Strikeout Rate

31.2%

30.8%

Walk Rate

10.1%

11.6%

It would seem that he didn't slip too much in any one area and actually improved his walk, strikeout, and whiff rates slightly. However, his xSLG still decreased from .454 to .419, so what was the cause if it wasn't a decrease in average exit velocity or increase in punchouts? What other areas could the front office have been worried about?