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40 in 40: Give Dylan Moore life

Próspero año y felicidad, por fin.

Seattle Mariners v Kansas City Royals Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

In a world of technicalities, Dylan Moore fits like a glove. He is technically the longest-standing continuous current Seattle Mariners big leaguer, and until Mitch Haniger’s recent return, the only remaining Mariner to have been an active teammate of Ichiro. Signed to an extension that will keep him under Seattle’s control through the 2025 season, Moore is on the cusp of his age-31 season. Last year, it seemed he might have a shot to grasp the second base role with greater force, particularly once Kolten Wong crumbled at the dish, but instead it was Moore himself who struggled to find a rhythm as well. Slotted in once again as the primary utility man, Moore finds himself surrounded by similarly-tooled players, needing to prove his playing time should come first.

2023 continued the frustrating streak of injuries that Moore has had, making an appearance on the injured list at least once in every season of his career. This past season was more troubling, however, as an oblique injury, along with scarring from offseason surgery waylaid Moore for the first couple months of the season. With traditional spring training wiped out and a thin M’s roster, Moore hurried back into service and struggled massively for the first month. His rusty start was balanced out eventually by a far more impressive second half of power at the plate, but Moore’s athleticism did not return in full. Normally a 75-85th percentile burner, Moore dropped to 58th percentile in sprint speed, losing a foot per second off his average he’d held around for each full prior season. That cannot remain for Moore to edge ahead of Sam Haggerty, Luis Urías, Ryan Bliss, and any other utility types who hit righty in Seattle this year.

What sets D-Mo apart has always been his power-speed combo, with a tasty crumbling of OBP atop. He takes walks and wears hit-by-pitches at a tasteful clip, compensating for an often-ugly batting average by reaching base or punishing mistakes and then letting his dirt bike wheels kick up a cloud of dust as he burns around the basepaths. In Mariners history, only six players have racked up at least 40 home runs and 72 stolen bases: Ichiro, Ken Griffey Jr., Álex Rodríguez, Mike Cameron, Phil Bradley, and D-Mo, with Moore doing so in fewer than half the plate appearances of any of the others. Since Moore debuted in 2019, just 19 players have managed that 40-70 combo (including Ronald Acuña Jr., of course who reached both thresholds in 2023 alone).

Stathead / Baseball Reference

It’s not right to say Moore is capable of holding his own with the many stars he shares this power-speed category with, but a healthy D-Mo is integral to the type of roster the Mariners desire to construct. Moore has and can play every defensive position, affording J.P. Crawford even the possibility of a day off, and with cost-saving platoons once again the Plan A for Seattle at 2-4 positions at present, there’s immense need for Moore to not only be available but effective once more. For his struggles to cover defensively in recovering from his oblique injury, Moore did mash the ball more consistently on contact than at any other stage in his career, and continues to boast an exceptional barrel rate.

Sure, he’s a fastball hunter, and he’ll strike out enough to make you gnash your teeth here and there. But your molars will forgive you if and when Moore puts the ball over the fence against a strong lefty, taking quality plate appearances against southpaws and lessening the load on Dominic Canzone, Luke Raley, and Josh Rojas. For the team, dealing away Jose Caballero was an endorsement once again of Moore’s abilities, particularly with the hopes of a healthy outset to 2024. The best free agent position player signing in the Jerry Dipoto era has a chance to continue building the resume of a fine career.