We’re at a point in the offseason where the Mariners seem relegated to minor transactions to raise the floor of the 2023 roster. We’ve discussed AJ Pollock and Mike Moustakas, two mid-thirties veterans who could offer Scott Servais the depth this lineup desperately needs. Both players are free agents, but what about working the trade market to round out the roster? According to MLB Analyst and former GM, Steve Phillips, Max Kepler, a veteran outfielder who plays elite defense (DRS 10 – 2022), hits left-handed pitching and manages the strike zone is available.
Kepler Controls the Zone
Max Kepler is a seven-year veteran who doesn’t hit for the highest average, .232/.317/.427 slash line for his career. But he does put the ball in play, draw his fair share of walks (10.3%), and strikes out below the league average (17.9%). Those numbers equate to what the Mariners want in their players.
While his approach is spot on, he doesn't provide much lift in his swing, which results in line drives and groundballs mainly to center and right field. At this point in his career expecting him to adjust his swing probably isn't the best idea, but his skillset does provide something the current lineup doesn't have outside of J.P. Crawford.
Kepler Provides Depth to the Lineup
The great thing about Max Kepler is he’s not the guy you acquire and plug in the top of the lineup. Ideally, Servais would slot him somewhere in the 6 to 8 range. This approach will help provide depth and take any pressure off him to be one of the team’s top-run producers. If Hollander and President of Baseball Operations Jerry Dipoto wrapped up the offseason by acquiring Kepler, the lineup could look something like the following:
2B – Wong
1B – France
CF – Julio
RF – Hernandez
3B – Suarez
DH – Kepler
C – Raleigh
LF – Kelenic
SS – Crawford
Kepler could bounce between the corner outfield spots and designated hitter providing double-digit home runs and sneaky athleticism to the roster. A fun fact to chew on, he is one of eight players who is under 30 years old with at least 100 home runs, 400 RBI, and positive defensive runs saved.
What would Max Kepler Cost?
The Twins have already signed Joey Gallo. Kepler without the strike zone judgment and A LOT of swing-and-miss. That move made Kepler available. Additionally, they’ve stated the desire for major league pitching, which the Mariners have a surplus between Chris Flexen, Marco Gonzales, and a stable of young arms in Arkansas. Finally, Kepler has two years of control, including a club option for 2024 at $10M. Adding up all those factors, one would think the Twins would take Chris Flexen and Michael Morales (#20 Prospect), a minor league arm with the upside of a number three starter.
Again, this isn’t a splashy move everyone wanted, but at this point, we have to take the wins where we can get them.