The day before Thanksgiving the Mariners announced they had signed Patrick Wisdom to a one-year deal. Having only stepped up to a major league plate 86 times, a fair question to ask is, “What’s a Patrick Wisdom?”
In search of this answer, I quickly discovered the most pertinent piece of information about Patrick. He really, really likes donuts. In lieu of a wedding cake, he had a giant donut. There are references to donuts scattered throughout his social media, including an adorable picture of his infant daughter next to a box of 11 donuts, marking her 1 month birthday.
Many of you likely know that he’s good friends with Marco Gonzales. The two became friends in the Cardinals organization, but they have more in common than a common organization. Each attended a West Coast Conference school, Wisdom matriculating at St. Mary’s and Gonzales at Gonzaga. At school, they each met their wives, both Seattle-area natives. Wisdom’s wife, Caroline, is also an athlete. The two-time lacrosse All-American at Mercer Island High School, also played while at St. Mary’s.
Wisdom has lived in the Seattle area during the off season, and got married in Seattle two years ago. So, it feels a bit serendipitous that he ended up on his wife’s hometown team and his best friend’s current team. (I like to think that major league baseball works the same way fantasy baseball does, with all transactions taking place under the blue light glow of a computer system. I imagine Marco snuck into Jerry Dipoto’s office late at night, cracked his computer password (deezTr@des, obviously) and secretly signed his friend. In the morning, Jerry fires up his computer and sees the signing in the system, yelling out to the office, “Hey, who did this? Very funny, guys. Seriously, who did this? Oh hey, you know what, it’s fine.”)
Whether it was of free will or sabotage, the Mariners signed Wisdom to a one-year contract. Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reported it is a split minor league/major league deal. In other words, Wisdom will remain on a minor league contract until he is added to the 26-man roster.
Wisdom has the makings of a journeyman. He was originally drafted in 2012 as the 52nd overall pick by the St. Louis Cardinals. He struggled a bit in his first step up to Triple-A in 2016, but broke out in 2017 when he slugged 31 home runs, putting up a wRC+ of 105. It wasn’t good enough for a September call up with St. Louis, who preferred to keep him off the 40-man roster and risk him to the Rule 5 Draft rather than lose him to waivers. The September snub admittedly stung, and Wisdom was open about trying to play his best to get a shot with Cardinals, but also knowing his opportunity would likely come with another team. The Cardinals’ president of baseball operations, John Mozeliak, recognized as much, telling the St. Louis Post-Dispatch during Spring Training in 2018 that Wisdom was “falling into that line I use a lot: You have nothing left to prove at Triple-A.”
Wisdom finally got his chance at the major leagues later that season. A couple weeks before his 27th birthday, he made his major league debut for the Cardinals on August 8th, 2012. He stuck with the team for the remainder of the season, largely as a pinch hitter. Over 58 plate appearances he slashed .260/.362/.520 and put up a wRC+ of 142. Despite a promising showing, the Cardinals traded him to the Texas Rangers during the off season. Having acquired Paul Goldschmidt, the Cardinals moved Matt Carpenter to third base. Wisdom was swapped for a more versatile utility player in Drew Jackson.
The Rangers followed up by trading Jurickson Profar to the Oakland Athletics and right there in front of Wisdom stood the shot at major league playing time. He didn’t make the opening day roster, but it wasn’t long before he got his second major league call up. Despite the hopes the Rangers had that he was a late bloomer who would blossom under the Texas sun, he only spent 9 games in Arlington last season, all in April. He slashed a disappointing .154/.185/.192. His typically high K% jumped to 53.6%. Of course, this was only over 28 plate appearances and given more time, he could have put up better numbers. Unfortunately, he never got the chance despite some impressive numbers the rest of the season in Triple-A.
With the Nashville Sounds, Wisdom would equal his career-high home run total of 31. In July, he was designated for assignment make room on the Rangers’ 40-man roster. Since they didn’t think he warranted a September call up, Wisdom opted for free-agency in the hopes that his skill set would appeal to another team.
What made Wisdom appealing to Jerry Dipoto and the Mariners? It goes without saying that Dipoto loves reclamation projects, and Wisdom, as a former supplemental first-round draft pick, is the type of player where you want to see the potential. Wisdom has been outspoken about his desire to play in the major leagues, but recognizes he can only do that by being the best version of himself. He’s a right-handed power hitter, who found some success working on driving the ball up the middle to open up the gaps. He has a high strikeout rate, 26.6% and 27.6% in his last two season at Triple-A, and 39.5% total in his major league appearances. His walk rate the last couple years has been above 10%. He’s not a high average hitter, but he tries to make up for it with power.
Defensively, he was drafted as a third baseman, but he has also logged quite a bit of time at first base. Those will be his main positions, although he has put in a handful of games in the outfield and at shortstop. While the Mariners do have Dylan Moore and Tim Lopes hanging around in the utility role, Wisdom has an impressive arm and better defensive prowess at the corner infield positions.
Wisdom has spent time reworking his swing, trying to get the most out of it. He has shifted his focus on driving the ball up the center without losing his ability to hit the ball in the air. He changed the way he held the bat. He seems open to whatever changes will help him. This is an appealing attitude for the Mariners, who are hoping he’ll be able to make some adjustments and join his friend, Marco Gonzales, at the major league level this season.
In the meantime, the donut shops between Tacoma and Seattle should be on alert.