Dipoto’s first domino has fallen: Teoscar Hernández is a Seattle Mariner
What the Mariners are getting in their new All-Star slugger and how he impacts the team moving forward
The Trade: Mariners acquire OF Teoscar Hernández (30) from the Blue Jays for reliever Erik Swanson (29) and pitching prospect Adam Macko (21)
Teoscar Hernández in 2022: .267 avg/25 homeruns/35 doubles/77 RBIs/.807 OPS
The Mariners got their guy, or in other words: an impact player who makes the team better in 2023. Jerry Dipoto, Justin Hollander, and the Mariners entered this offseason prioritizing adding to their middling offense in the hopes of closing the gap between themselves and the Astros. Adding former Astros prospect and current Blue Jay slugger, Teoscar Hernández, is a significant first step towards accomplishing that goal. If you need a refresher on what Teoscar brings to the table, you may recall Game Two of the Wild Card Series where he homered twice off of former teammate Robbie Ray…
How does Teoscar make the Mariners better in 2023?
A two-time silver slugger award winner and 2021 All-Star, there is no denying his elite offensive production. Yes, he strikes out at an above-league-average rate and draws walks at a lower rate than most, but his ability to get on base at a high rate has never been his calling card. What Teoscar excels at is consistently hitting the ball extremely hard. With an offensive profile not so different from his new teammate Julio Rodriguez, he finished 2022 with a hard-hit rate, average exit velocity, and max exit velocity all in the 98th, 96th, and 94th percentile among MLB hitters, respectively. This has been a consistent trend ever since his first season as a big league regular in 2018. The Mariners are getting a guy that crushes baseballs and should finish 2023 with around 30 homeruns/100 RBIs assuming he stays healthy. Teoscar essentially replicates Mitch Haniger’s production with the potential to hit for a higher average, produce more extra base hits, and incorporate much greater speed. Even after a down 2022 season to his standards, he is only a year removed from a season where he hit 32 homeruns and drove in 116 runs. The one word that should come to mind when Mariners fans think of Teoscar is explosive.
As of now, it appears that the plan is to play Teoscar in left field which should solidify 2/3 of the outfield going into 2023. Although he possesses a rocket of an arm, his outfield defense rates as average at best. That being said, his speed and strong arm should make his defense in left field lightyears better than the effort (or lack thereof) that Jesse Winker put forth this past season. Depending on what the Mariners decide to for right field, they will field one of the faster outfields in baseball that should also throw out its fair share of baserunners. All in all, the addition of Teoscar Hernández makes the lineup significantly deeper and more explosive while also improving the outfield defense from a year ago.
While Mariners fans should be excited to usher in Teoscar, it does hurt to see one of the most dominant bullpen arms from 2022 leave in the process — not to mention an exciting pitching prospect in Macko. At the end of the day, Swanson pitched only one inning in the Mariners playoff run after faltering a bit late in the season. This should tell you that despite his 3 years of team control beyond 2022, they did not view Swanson as a high leverage arm and were likely selling high on a reliever who has yet to prove he can be consistently productive. Adam Macko on the other hand is risky — albeit high reward — pitching prospect that has struggled with command issues and injuries in the minors. The Mariners were able to deal from areas of strength (bullpen arms and starting pitching prospects) in order to acquire one of baseball’s most productive hitters over the past several seasons. Whether or not he is extended beyond the 2023 season, Teoscar makes the Mariners much more of a threat in the AL West and in the Postseason in the present.
Even after the departure of Kyle Lewis, the Mariners still have more outfielders than they do roster spots. Teoscar’s arrival may spell the departure of the beloved Mitch Haniger in free agency and also significantly decreases the likelihood that Jesse Winker is a Mariner to start the 2023 season. Assuming the team is not satisfied rolling the dice on a Jarred Kelenic resurgence or Taylor Trammel breakout, I think this means they are looking to add at least one more big-league outfielder this offseason. With Jerry Dipoto you never truly what to expect, but don’t be surprised to see the Mariners go after a top-of-the-lineup on-base specialist to fill that final outfield spot. Regardless of what happens — and best believe more things will happen — this move alone makes the Mariners a better and more exciting team looking to build on a magical 2022 season.