SEATTLE >> Right before the start of baseball’s winter meetings, the Seattle Mariners checked off another offseason need, this time with a Gold Glove second baseman.
Seattle acquired Kolten Wong from the Milwaukee Brewers on Friday in a trade for outfielder Jesse Winker and infielder Abraham Toro.
“Second base is really an area that we’ve struggled to get production out of, particularly offensively,” Seattle general manager Justin Hollander said. “His game really seems to be trending upward year after year offensively, particularly against right-handed pitching. He’s learning to elevate the ball. He makes a ton of contact.”
Seattle also receives cash as part of the deal. ESPN reported the Brewers would be sending the Mariners about $1.75 million.
Milwaukee has been shedding payroll this offseason after going 86-76 and missing the playoffs for the first time since 2017. The Brewers picked up the $10 million team option on Wong’s contract for 2023 last month, then traded him away.
Wong, 32, batted .251 this season and had a career-best 15 homers to go with 47 RBIs and 17 steals in 134 games. He had a .339 on-base percentage and .430 slugging percentage.
Adam Frazier was Seattle’s primary second baseman last season but struggled at the plate and hit just .238 with a .612 OPS.
Wong, a two-time Gold Glove winner who played at the University of Hawaii, did have an uncharacteristically tough season in the field with 17 errors to match his career high.
“I think he owned it at the end of the season. He didn’t have the kind of year, particularly with his hands, that his own expectations are for himself,” Hollander said. “He brought it up to me on the phone that he’s prepared to be much better defensively next year. He’s always been an outstanding defender.”
After ending a 21-year playoff drought, adding a second baseman had been one of the Mariners’ chief offseason objectives. Wong was Milwaukee’s starting second baseman for the last two years after spending his first eight seasons with the St. Louis Cardinals.
The Brewers have a few options at second base next season. They could move Luis Urias from third, give Toro a shot at a full-time role or bring up top prospect Brice Turang.
“A lot of our players in our mix who have a lot of flexibility — you guys know that we value that very much as a franchise,” Brewers president of baseball operations Matt Arnold said. “Having added depth across the entire infield is something that we feel really good about.”
Winker gives the Brewers a power-hitting outfielder to help replace Hunter Renfroe, traded to the Los Angeles Angels last week.
The 29-year-old Winker struggled badly in his only season with the Mariners, hitting .219 with 14 homers and 53 RBIs in 136 games in 2022 after playing five seasons in the NL Central with the Cincinnati Reds. He batted .305 with a .394 on-base percentage, .556 slugging percentage, 24 homers and 71 RBIs in 110 games with Cincinnati in 2021, when he was a National League All-Star.
Winker had surgery after the season to clean up a meniscus issue in his left knee and had disk replacement surgery in his neck.
“When you’re dealing with things like that, it challenges the fun of the game,” Winker said. “But like I said, this is a no-excuse league. I didn’t have a good year. I had a bad year. So I got some things taken care of and I’m looking forward to being healthy.”
Toro, who turns 26 on Dec. 20, hit .185 with a .239 on-base percentage, 10 homers and 35 RBIs in 109 games this past season.