It seems odd to call a $100 million man underappreciated. How could you call Kyle Seager underappreciated? According to Cot's Baseball Contracts, Seager has the 61st most lucrative contract in baseball history. The Mariners clearly recognize his value and were unwilling to let their third baseman take his talents to Arlington, or New York. He's won a Gold Glove and been an All-Star. Since his first full season in 2012, Seager is the 19th most valuable position player in all of baseball by fWAR, and he's even better per Baseball Prospectus' WARP.
It seems odd to call a $100 million man underappreciated, and yet outside of Seattle, Seager is often overlooked by national observers. He's lived with the spectre of his younger brother's potential, and now he'll have to grapple with direct comparisons to Corey's play. Corey is younger, quicker, more highly touted. He has the good face and the sure bat you'd expect of baseball's top prospect. And he has the advantage of playing for an October-bound team. Kyle has been around longer, but Corey will likely soon be more famous, and threaten to make Kyle "the other Seager."
It seems odd to call a $100 million man underappreciated, and yet within Seattle, Seager's consistency is so dependable, so reminiscent of clockwork, that he is often taken for granted. Like an ‘A' student in study hall, he's quickly forgotten after roll has been called. He is regularly named by the Mariners' front office as an indispensable part of the team's core. Yet because the highs of Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano, and Nelson Cruz are more visible and highlight worthy, Seager's role is comparatively muted. He's a pivotal gear rarely discussed because he never malfunctions.
The completeness of Seager's game makes him great, but also appear mundane in the wrong light. It's a game marked by his dig, dig, dig into the batter's box, before scooching down into his stance and delivering a deep drive to right. It's the confident, four pitch walk. It's the bunt the other way. It's his barehanded throw to first, perfectly on target, to nab a runner. He certainly has his share of big moments. His difficult grab on a ball in foul territory to keep Hisashi Iwakuma's no-hitter alive, and his grand slam in Tampa Bay were magnificent plays, as important as any Nelson Cruz home run or perfectly delivered changeup from Felix. But mostly, he's balanced. Seager's game is the sort that sneaks up on you. An efficient cog, better than many know, if rarely transcendent. He's at the center of the team's next core as much as he is a significant part of this one. But he doesn't play the starring role now, and perhaps he never will.
There is work to be done. Seager recently acknowledged he needs to improve his on-base percentage. He will have to contend with the limitations of his speed, or lack thereof, on the basepaths. Fans eager for another clutch star will hope he hits closer to 2014's .301 with runners in scoring position than 2015's anemic .179. His hitting remains pull dependent. And his offensive output can be choppy, with stretches of torrid hitting followed by a month-long dalliance with the Mendoza line.
In Seager's college bio, there is a small personal section. His interests aren't surprising. They're those of a young man who has played baseball most of his life and dreamed of doing little else with the rest of it. His favorite team growing up was the New York Yankees; like many players of his generation, his favorite major leaguer was Derek Jeter. He liked The Sandlot. But he lists The Giving Tree as his favorite book. It is the story of a boy and his favorite tree, whose shade provides a respite from the beating sun, and who, over the course of the story, gives the boy more and more, often unthanked and unrecognized until the tale's conclusion. When he wants to make money, the tree surrenders his apples. When the boy needs to build a house, the tree gives him his branches and trunk. He gives and gives, until by story's end, the tree has nothing left to offer but a quiet stump on which to sit a while and rest.
It seems odd to call a $100 million man underappreciated, and Seager certainly has the talent and the drive to transcend the facelessness of being the best homegrown position player on a team many people don't care about. But perhaps it is no surprise that this underappreciated $100 million man's favorite book would be one of giving your all despite little renown. Perhaps it is no surprise that Seattle's grit player made good would come back better and better, year after year, compensated in dollars but not fame, destined to be appreciated much more in hindsight than at present. Perhaps it is no surprise because amidst all the years of disappointment and "almost rans," with more failure than fame, Seattle's underappreciated $100 million man has offered a stump on which to sit a while, and rest, and finally see something worth watching.