Multiple reports, led by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, state that the Seattle Mariners are acquiring 2B Kolten Wong and $1.75 million from the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for OF Jesse Winker and 2B/3B/cOF Abraham Toro.
Mariners acquiring Kolten Wong from Brewers for Jesse Winker and Abraham Toro, sources tell @TheAthletic.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 2, 2022
The move is pending medicals, as Winker is coming off an injury-wracked season.
Wong is in the final year of a three-year, $26 million deal he signed ahead of the 2021 season, with a $10 million team option for the upcoming 2023 season that Milwaukee picked up this winter. That Milwaukee was willing to spring for a few million more and an extra season was the separator for the former Cardinals’ two-time Gold Glover in signing with the Brew Crew. Wong rewarded their signing with his two best offensive seasons, posting a 110 and 116 wRC+ in 2021 and 2022, primarily as a platoon bat. The lefty-swinging Wong has just one season with over 500 plate appearances in the past seven years due to severe platoon splits, however it seems Seattle will likely utilize Wong and Dylan Moore in a pairing at second base.
Wong’s defensive numbers took a surprising step back in 2022, as did his foot speed, cutting into his range as well as his execution. That’s a troublesome trend that may give fans reminiscence of Dee Gordon, another fleet-footed defensively gifted 2B whose production slipped (albeit while being asked to learn an entirely new position) in Seattle. Thankfully, Wong’s bat picked up some of the slack, with an improved swing path that helped him put more power on the ball, lashing line drives and career-highs in home runs in back to back seasons. Wong is still more of a balanced hitter than a slugger, and between him and J.P. Crawford the M’s will hope for a pair of bounce-back seasons in the field. If Wong’s body was ailing him and can return to form, he could easily pair with Moore for a trio among the best in the game defensively, and clearly capable at the plate.
On the way out are Winker and Toro, a pair of players seen as centerpieces in trades who did not manifest their best selves in Seattle. Toro battled a shoulder injury during 2022 and was unable to put together consistent production on either side of the ball despite several clutch hits.
Winker’s season was fascinating, and ultimately disappointing, though given his multiple surgeries upon entering the offseason it is hard to say whether he was ever his best self. He’ll be remembered for the brawl in Anaheim, a stellar and provocative series against the Mets in New York, and, well, adventurous defense.
This was probably the highlight of Winker’s Mariners career— Zach••• (@zachleft) December 2, 2022
and it was awesome pic.twitter.com/lmkwP8qUKG
The move is a courageous one in a certain sense from Jerry Dipoto and the front office, as they are avoiding the oft-easy trap of the sunk cost fallacy. Dealing two players acquired in major trades who underperformed shows a willingness to move on that is vital in this sport. However, it also ominously suggests the team remains more beholden to cheaper, marginal improvements with more significant risk than more expensive, safer, dramatic improvements like signing one of the several major free agent middle infielders. Should Dylan Moore get injured or underperform, the M’s will be slated to run deeper into their depth or run out a well below-average player against southpaws, as well as needing to aggressively utilize their bench players most days.
On the other hand, this frees up the outfield and DH position for significant spending and upgrade, which may be where the club has decided to focus their resources. The upside is one of the best defensive infields in club history. Hopefully they can score enough runs to make it count.