Jesse Winker

Jesse Winker

Height: 6'3"    Weight: 215 lbs.

Bats/Throws: Left / Left

Born: 08/17/1993 in Buffalo, New York

Offseason home: Orlando, Florida

Nickname: Wink

Family: Daughter Wren

MLB Debut: 04/14/2007

Salary: Not available

Acquired: In trade from the Cincinnati Reds, with Eugenio Suárez, for Jake Fraley, Justin Dunn, Brandon Williamson, and Connor Phillips (03/14/2022)

Free Agent after: 2023 season

Awards: NL All-Star (2021)

Twitter handle: @JTWinker23

As is the case with Robbie Ray, Winker is another high-profile Mariner acquisition that, at least so far, hasn't panned out. While having Wink in the lineup does unquestionably improve things over 2021, he hasn't been anywhere near the force everyone was expecting him to be. There was a two-week stretch in May in which he hit reasonably well—16-for-57 (.281)—but his on-base mark actually went down during that span. On May 1st he was only batting .197, but his OBP was solid at .340 thanks to a mess of walks; since then it's been a steady decline to a season-low of .309 a week into June. And instead of the wild splits he'd been accustomed to, whaling on southpaws while struggling vs. right-handers, Wink's been terrible against righties (.196/.305/.243) and OK vs. lefties (.241/.343/.431). For a while he was hitting into a lot of bad luck, lining out hard right at defenders, but that was a short-lived phenomenon and now there's no outside influence to blame for the sad numbers.

Bizarro-Winker can't stick around if the Mariners are going to get back into contention this year. The team needs production out of his spot in the lineup. Thankfully, Winker's history does not suggest this is going to last; he hasn't put up a sub-.250 season since...well, maybe one time in Little League or something, but as a professional, Rookie league through the Majors, his worst year was 2020 at .255, and even then his OBP was .388. Before this year the worst on-base mark he posted at any level was 2019’s .357. So it's understandable that the M's have confidence he'll turn things around. Said third-base coach Manny Acta, "it’s impossible for this guy to continue to go through the season the way he’s gone so far." GM Jerry Dipoto voiced similar sentiments: "I’m sure Jesse’s going to get back to it. There’s no reason at 28 years old that he’s no longer going to be the player that he’s always been. He will recover. It would be nice if it started sooner than later, but he will recover."

TH, 6/9/22


Prior notes

The highest profile hitter the Mariners added this offseason, Winker made his first All-Star team in 2021 thanks to a first half that saw him bat .301/.382/.539 as a Cincinnati Red. There was no falloff after the break, either, though his season would be cut short thanks to an intercostal muscle strain that put him on the injured list for all but one game after August 15th. It was the third time in four years that Winker has spent significant time on the IL—in 2018 it was shoulder surgery, in 2019 it was neck strains—which some might have seen as a red flag. But the Mariners were not deterred and pursued him aggressively. GM Jerry Dipoto and his staff began reaching out to the Reds immediately after the ’21 season ended and continued talking throughout the winter meetings; the basics of a deal were reportedly in place when the lockout commenced and put everything on hold. The day the lockout ended, Reds GM Nick Krall called Dipoto to resume negotiations and within 30 hours, Winker was a Mariner. Said assistant GM Justin Hollander, Winker's "was a bat that that was not available anywhere else on the market" and thus the 2012 first-round draft pick was the Mariners' prime target.

That bat does improve the Seattle offense considerably. The M's were last in the American League in team batting last year, with only two players—Ty France and J.P. Crawford—above a .270 average. Winker's a career .288/.385/.504 hitter that absolutely destroys right-handed pitching. And therein lies the downside: as good as he is against righties, he's been easy pickings for southpaws. His left/right splits from a year ago were stark—.346/.428/.642 vs. RHP, .177/.288/.284 vs. LHP, and that wasn't an aberration. The mini-season of 2020, however, was aberrant. "I started to make strides in 2020," Winker said, referring to his .265 average against left-handers that year. "It’s something that obviously I’m looking to keep progressing with. It just takes reps, it takes ABs and it takes work and practice and I’m going to get it." Given the small sample of 2020 and last year's regression, you'd be forgiven for being skeptical. Even so, would you rather have Jesse Winker or any of last year's Mariner left fielders taking those at-bats? (Collectively, left fielders batted all of .191/.285/.333 for Seattle in ’21.)

For his part, Winker is happy to be here. "I’m really excited," he said, noting that the M's are a team on the rise and are serious about winning. (Of course, that's easy for him to say as he hasn't followed this team for the last 20 years.) He's focused on staying healthy and getting the Mariners to the postseason for the first time since 2001. "I'll be proud of a season when, personally, I'm on the field in the last regular-season game and I'll be more proud of it if we're holding up a trophy at the end of it."

TH, 4/3/22