The Mariners’ ongoing, roll-the-dice search for a first baseman has brought them to Oakland again.
This time, though, general manager Jerry Dipoto thinks he has a permanent solution.
In its first big offseason trade, Seattle acquired Ryon Healy from the Athletics on Wednesday night in exchange for right-handed pitcher Emilio Pagan and minor-league infielder Alexander Campos.
Dipoto said for now, he envisions the 25-year-old Healy in a “near everyday role” at first base, hitting sixth or seventh in the lineup.
“He is a young guy with power, and with five years of control ahead of him,” Dipoto said.
Last season was Healy’s first full season with the Athletics. He hit .271 with 25 home runs and 78 RBI in 149 games — 78 games at designated hitter, 54 games at third base and 39 games at first base.
But it became clear at the end of the season that Healy could be on the move, especially after Oakland gave Matt Chapman, a better defensive infielder, a full-time shot at third base, as well as playing Matt Olson every day at first base. And with the Athletics in the market for an outfielder, that move could signal a full-time switch to designated hitter for slugger Khris Davis.
Dipoto said the two clubs began talking about a deal in early October.
“Being that there was no game tomorrow,” Dipoto said, “it took a little time to unfold.”
A year ago, the Mariners acquired right-handed hitting Danny Valencia from the Athletics for reliever Paul Blackburn to become the platoon mate with Dan Vogelbach at first base.
But when Vogelbach was sent down to the minor leagues at the end of spring training, Valencia became the full-time first baseman for four months. He ended up hitting .265 with 15 home runs and 66 RBI in 130 games.
In August, Seattle made yet another deal with Oakland, getting left-handed hitting Yonder Alonso in exchange for outfielder Boog Powell. Alonso hit .265 with six home runs and 18 RBI in 42 games.
Both Valencia and Alonso are free agents.
Healy has hit both left-handed pitching (.314) and right-handed pitching (.271) pretty well in his one-and-a-half seasons with the Athletics, although his batting average against right-handers dipped to .257 last season.
Dipoto thinks his new acquisition will rebound in that area.
“He has hit righties in the minors, and has hit righties in the big leagues,” said Dipoto, who would not rule out a platoon at first. “Now it his time to adjust.”
Healy, who was at a Oakland teammate’s bachelor party in Miami when he was informed of the trade, said he has tweaked his offseason workouts to keep his 6-foot-4, 232-pound frame strong and agile.
And he think his power stroke suits Safeco Field very well.
“I love hitting in Safeco Field,” Healy said. “It is one of my favorite ballparks to hit in.”
As far as trading away Pagan, who went 2-3 with a 3.22 ERA in 34 relief appearances with Seattle, Dipoto said his overall depth with right-handed relief pitching allowed him to make this trade.
Campos, 17, began his professional career with the Mariners in the Dominican Summer League in 2017, batting .290 in 59 games. He appeared in a majority of games at shortstop, but also appeared in games at second base, third base and DH.
Dipoto said he will now turn his attention to two more primary needs: Adding another outfielder and finding more starting pitching.
“Adding Ryon ... and his affordability for the near and far future gives us the ability to do more creative things in other areas,” Dipoto said.