Kolten Wong has quickly taken the title as the most likely Mariners player to start an argument between fans. Some of us think he is going to be great this year, having gotten back to health and providing a solid 3.5-4.0 WAR for the Mariners at second. Others think he is nothing more than a fill-in, a weak choice at second that will be outplayed by Dylan Moore.
It seems like every time any conversation surrounding him gets brought up, an argument soon follows. In a way, I think it's a good thing. It makes for, well potentially makes for, a spirited and intelligent discussion surrounding Wong.
Could the defense be a problem, with 2022 not being a blip on the radar but instead the new norm? It's possible. Wong is 32, and had his worst defensive season since 2017. His exit velo was a bit below his career average, his fly ball rate (23.5%) just eclipsed his previous career high, and he had his lowest batting average in four years.
The big question here, is health. Reportedly, Wong was playing with a calf issue through a fair part of 2022. It would make sense that it played a part in some of the errors he made at second base last season, and even showed a bit in his baserunning. While it didn't affect his SB/CS (74% compared to a career averaged of 76%), his XBT rate (extra bases taken) was only 39%, 15% lower than his career average. To me, this shows he was being a bit cautious and careful, not pushing like normal for that extra base.
There is something else besides health to talk about though, and that's his splits. Kolten Wong is a lefty, and hit .277/.357/.489 against RHP in 350 AB last season. Compare that to facing LHP, where he put up a line of .138/.266/.175. Is that going to be the new norm? Or was it just a bad season, since his career line against LHP heading into 2022 had been .266/.316/.362. Definitely less power and a lower OBP, but still very respectable for a second baseman with a bit of speed.
Is Wong only going to succeed against RHP going forward? If so, it diminishes his value a bit. that's the larger part of a platoon, but it's still a platoon player. I think he's valuable regardless, and even with the injury in 2022, still had his second-highest oWAR of his career. Whether or not he's regressed a bit on defense, I still think he could be a great piece for the Mariners for the next few years.
Which, 450 words or so later, gets me to the point of the article. What would an extension for Kolten Wong look like? I don't propose anything crazy or even a long deal. There is no reason to lock him up through his age 38 season or anything of that nature. Instead, I think we could see something like this.
The Mariners could offer Kolten Wong a 3YR/33M contract extension.
Wong is a good second baseman, bordering on great when things are going right. However, there is a recent contract that shows great prespective on what type of market we could see for Kolten Wong. Jeff McNeil just signed a 4YR/$50M extension with the Mets. Wong is good, but a step below McNeil. I think that one year less and $1.5M per year less would be a good expectation for a deal.
There are actually only five second baseman who average $10M or more a season, and this would make Wong the sixth. (He's making $10M this season but is on the second year of a 2YR/$18M contract.) It would also sign him through his age-35 season, likely getting you to the point of seeing an actual decline and the final phase of Wong's career.
I think there is something else here as well. It goes through 2026, which is the same final year as JP Crawford. Is there a chance that Dipoto and Hollinger look at that as the middle infield transition year for the Mariners? Prospects are never a guarantee, but the Mariners do have a couple of MI that are supposed to be good in Cole Young and Felnin Celesten. Axel Sanchez and Michael Arroyo are trying to enter that conversation as well.
If the Mariners want to adjust by a year, they could either make the 3rd year a club option with a small buyout, or extend it with a 4th year option. It would give Wong extra guaranteed money at the expense of a lower possible final amount, but give the Mariners a bit of protection in case something goes wrong.
I think a 3YR deal would be perfect. Even if nothing along those lines happens with Wong and the Mariners, I'm really excited to see what he can do on this team in 2023.