The Seattle Mariners have not been an organization to go fill its holes with big name free agents who cost tons of money in President of Baseball Operations Jerry Dipoto's tenure. They have made many moves where they acquire players who are on the verge of a break out. That was the case when they traded for Ty France in a trade with the San Diego Padres back in 2020 and there is a player out there who I think could be the Mariners next Ty France type of player.
In 2020, 24-year-old Ty France was coming off of a 69 game rookie campaign where he put up ok numbers for a rookie who wasn't a top prospect at all, but he was below average overall. He did play 76 games in Triple-A and absolutely mashed in a hitters paradise of a league, having a .399 batting average and a 1.200 OPS. The problem with France is San Diego was that he was blocked at third base, his position as a minor leaguer, by superstar Manny Machado.
Having Machado ahead of him and France not being a great utility player at the time led to him being an expendable player for the Padres. The Mariners were able to acquire him in a package deal with the Padres where the Mariners got France, current reliever Andres Muñoz who was a prospect coming off of elbow surgery, catcher Luis Torrens, and then highly touted prospect Taylor Trammell in exchange for relievers Austin Adams, Dan Altavilla, and catcher Austin Nola.
The trade has been a huge win for the Mariners, but the reason for that is because they acquired France right before he broke out because he did not have a clear path towards playing time with his current team. Fast forward to 2023 and the Mariners appear to have some financial limitations restricting their ability to add players to their roster. This is where Dipoto and co. have to be as creative as ever and acquire another player in a similar situation.
Enter Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman/utility infielder Jared Triolo. He is in a very similar place to France when he was in San Diego. Triolo played in 54 games last year and had almost the same number of plate appearances as France did in his 2019 campaign. Triolo played last season at 25 years old, just one year older than France. Triolo also had a good partial season in Triple-A, not as great of numbers as France had, but Triolo was in a less hitter friendly league.
The biggest difference in Triolo's 2023 and France's 2019 is that Triolo was actually an above average hitter in the big leagues. He had a .298/.388/.398 slash line that contributed to a 118 wRC+. Those numbers are really impressive for a rookie who wasn't a top prospect. The other major difference in Triolo and France is that Triolo was a third round pick and appeared in the top 30 Pirates prospects according to MLB Pipeline, but only topping out at 20.
I like the profile of Triolo for the Mariners. He was worth a total of 5 Outs Above Average in 2023 in just 54 games. He is a good defender who has even played some shortstop in the high minors and can play all four spots on the dirt. He also hit well in his first big league stint and while he had a very high batting average on balls in play, he consistently had high marks in that category during his time in the minors.
Triolo is athletic and I think he can put the bat on the ball. He doesn't have plus power but there is value in a guy who can hit .260-.280 and run well. I think if he were given some runway to play 130 games to play in a season at the big league level he could turn into something. He might have gotten lucky on batted balls in 2023 but I think he will make enough contact to be decent.
Just like France was blocked by Manny Machado at third base and Eric Hosmer at first base, Triolo is blocked by a lot of infielders in Pittsburgh. Ke'Bryan Hayes is signed to a long term contract at third base, Oneil Cruz is their star young shortstop with lots of potential, Liover Peguero is a recent top prospect graduate who is looking to lock down the second base job for years to come, and they signed Rowdy Tellez to play first base. So at best Triolo could compete with Tellez for first base time.
The infielders ahead of him in Pittsburgh make Triolo a target for the Mariners in my opinion. He shouldn't cost a ton in trade, but the Pirates might not want to give up depth unless they get something they want in return. Triolo could be a better option at third base than Luis Urias in 2023 and beyond, and perhaps he could even play some second base to platoon with Josh Rojas if Ryan Bliss isn't ready to take that on yet.
Overall I think Triolo is an interesting young player who has an intriguing future ahead of him, especially if he gets traded. The Mariners have a big question mark at third base and I like the upside of Triolo and he could be a worthwhile bet to hold down the third base spot. He also is going to make the league minimum, something becoming increasingly important to Seattle this winter.