Last month, we published our best Seattle Mariners outfields list. Now, we’re turning our attention to determining the best Mariners infields ever.

As with our outfield comps, we’re relying on the Baseball Reference version of wins above replacement (bWAR) since B-R permits us to capture the approximate value individual players provided at particular positions during a season.

As with the outfield conversation, we’ll discuss the top-3 groups illustrated above. We’ll also reflect on two other units I thought were worthy of mention – 1990 and 2016.


1990

This version of the Mariners finished 26 games out of first place, although the infield boasted a future Hall of Famer – Edgar Martinez.

2B
HR AVG OBP SLG OPS+
1B Pete O’Brien 18 5 .224 .308 .314 75
2B Harold Reynolds 36 5 .252 .336 .347 92
SS Omar Vizquel 3 2 .247 .295 .298 67
3B Edgar Martinez 27 11 .302 .397 .433 133
1B Alvin Davis 21 17 .283 .387 .429 129

Martinez would eventually transition to designated hitter where he’d cement his Cooperstown legacy, but he was the starting third baseman in 1990.

Fun fact: Edgar’s 5.6 bWAR was best among MLB third baseman placing him ahead of Matt Williams of the Giants, Kelly Gruber of the Blue Jays, and Chris Sabo of the Reds.

At first base, Pete O’Brien made about twice as many starts as the previous regular – Alvin Davis. O’Brien would finish his MLB playing career with Seattle after the 1993 season.

Davis played one more year with Seattle before a short stint with the Angels. He’d retire in 1992 owning most franchise records for offense until Martinez, Ken Griffey Jr, Álex Rodríguez, and Jay Buhner supplanted him. That said; “Mr. Mariner” still holds the team record for home runs by a rookie (27).

A 22-year-old rookie named Tino Martinez would also make 19 first base starts. Tino eventually became the club’s main first baseman until the Mariners traded him to the Yankees after the 1995 season.

Long-time Mariner Harold Reynolds won his third consecutive Gold Glove in 1990 and led the team in stolen bases. Moreover, his 4.8 bWAR was third best among MLB second baseman behind Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg (7.1) and Julio Franco (6.8).

Second-year player Omar Vizquel (78 starts) was the primary stakeholder at shortstop, although Mike Brumley (39), and Brian Giles (28), and Jeff Schaefer (17) made double-digit starts too.

Vizquel remained the main shortstop until the Indians acquired him after the 1993 campaign for Félix Fermín, Reggie Jefferson and cash.

Other Contributors: Darnell Coles, Dave Cochrane, Scott Bradley, and Dave Valle.


1998

First baseman David Segui played just 233 games in a Mariners uniform, but was great in 1998. During the 1999 season, Seattle dealt the son of former pitcher Diego Seguí to the Blue Jays for Tom Davey and Steve Sinclair.

2B
HR AVG OBP SLG OPS+
1B David Segui 36 19 .305 .359 .487 119
2B Joey Cora 23 6 .283 .362 .385 96
SS Álex Rodríguez 35 42 .310 .360 .560 136
3B Russ Davis 30 20 .259 .305 .442 93

The team traded Joey Cora to Cleveland on August 31 for David Bell, but his contributions merit mention. At the time of the deal, Cora had played in all but five of Seattle’s games.

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Fun fact: Cora’s .355 OBP as a Mariner is the best ever by a Seattle second baseman edging out Robinson Canó (.353) for the top spot.

Third baseman Russ Davis came over with Sterling Hitchcock from the Yankees in exchange for Tino Martinez, Jim Mecir, and Jeff Nelson. Although we recently proved the Yankees don’t always fleece Seattle in trades, Davis’ performance wasn’t particularly memorable from a statistical standpoint.

Other Contributors: Raúl Ibañez, Rick Wilkins, Jeff Huson, Rich Amaral, Dave McCarty, Ryan Radmanovich, , Carlos Guillén, Giomar Guevara, Rico Rossy, Charles Gipson, Edgar, and Griffey.


2000

The team signed Seattle native John Olerud to play first base, which proved to be a shrewd pickup by then-GM Pat Gillick.

Olerud won the first of his three Gold Gloves with the team in 2000. He also delivered wit his bat with a team-best 45 doubles. The only teammates with a better batting average and OBP than the former WSU Cougar were Edgar and A-Rod.

2B
HR AVG OBP SLG OPS+
1B John Olerud 45 14 .285 .392 .439 117
2B Mark McLemore 23 3 .245 .353 .316 77
SS Álex Rodríguez 34 41 .316 .420 .606 152
3B David Bell 24 11 .247 .316 .381 81
IF Carlos Guillén 15 7 .257 .324 .396 87

Mark McLemore was the regular second basemen at the turn of the century. He’d steal 30 bases finishing one behind the team leader – a 41-year-old Rickey Henderson.

Bell initially replaced Cora at second base in 1998, but transitioned to the hot corner. The current manager of the Reds shared the position with Carlos Guillén before taking over the position on a full-time basis in 2001.

This would be Rodríguez’s last season in a Mariners uniform. Fans vilified him for leaving Seattle for more money, but there’s no disputing A-Rod’s greatness. He ranks top-3 in franchise history in batting average, OBP, and SLG. Only three players have a higher bWAR – Griffey, Edgar, and Ichiro.

Other Contributors: Stan Javier, Raúl Ibañez, Brian Lesher, Chris Widger, John Mabry, Joe Oliver, Dan Wilson, Charles Gipson, Carlos Hernández, and Edgar.


2001

Most of the key infielders from the previous year remained on the roster, but there were two significant changes. The first was Guillén drawing the unenviable assignment of replacing A-Rod.

Overall, Guillén performed admirably delivering the ninth best bWAR (3.3) by an MLB shortstop. After the 2003 season, the team traded the Venezuelan to the Tigers for compatriot Juan Gonzalez and infielder Ramón Santiago. The deal worked out well for Detroit, not so much for the Mariners.

Guillén would be a four-time All-Star for the Tigers. Meanwhile Gonzalez never reached the majors and Santiago spent most of two seasons with Class-AAA Tacoma before being released and re-signing with Detroit.

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2B
HR AVG OBP SLG OPS+
1B John Olerud 32 21 .302 .401 .472 136
2B Bret Boone 37 37 .331 .372 .578 153
SS Carlos Guillén 21 5 .259 .333 .355 87
3B David Bell 28 15 .260 .303 .415 92
UTL Mark McLemore 16 5 .286 .384 .404 115

The other game-changer was the club signing a familiar name to replace McLemore at second base – Brett Boone.

Originally drafted by the Mariners in 1990, Boone was traded to the Reds with Erik Hanson for fan-favorite reliever Bobby Ayala and some guy named Dan Wilson.

Yes, I know Bobby Ayala wasn’t a fan-favorite.

Boone’s encore with Seattle was incredibly productive with the USC alum finishing third in MVP voting in 2001. Eventually, he’d earn three Gold Gloves and two Silver Sluggers before leaving the team for the last time during the 2005 season.

This would be the Bell’s last year as a Mariner. The team dealt him to the Giants for Desi Relaford after the season.

Other Contributors: Ed Sprague, Stan Javier, Ramon Vazquez, Charles Gipson, Edgar, and Wilson.


2016

The most recent entrant on our list is the first infield of then-new general manager Jerry Dipoto. Most of the main contributors were holdovers from the previous regime with two exceptions at first base.

As long-time Mariners fans know, first base has been a black hole for the franchise since Olerud’s departure in 2004. Dipoto attempted to address the issue by landing Adam Lind from the Brewers for prospects Carlos Herrera, Daniel Missaki, and Freddy Peralta.

Herrera is still in the Brewers’ minor league system, while the team released Missaki last year.

The most successful of the three thus far is Peralta. The 23-year-old has been scuffling lately, although he did start the second game of the season for the Brew Crew.

Unfortunately, Lind didn’t live up to his advanced billing of possessing good on-base ability. In the three seasons leading up to his Seattle arrival, the left-handed hitter had a .364 OBP. With Seattle, he produced a .286 OBP, which ranked 22nd among 23 among MLB first baseman with 400-plus plate appearances.

Sharing time with Lind was Korean import Dae-ho Lee. Known for his prodigious power, Lee clubbed 14 home runs and produced a league-average 101 OPS+ in 317 plate appearances.

Individually, Lind and Lee didn’t deliver spectacular numbers, although they collectively managed to hit 30 dingers.

2B
HR AVG OBP SLG OPS+
1B Adam Lind 17 20 .239 .286 .431 94
2B Robinson Canó 33 39 .298 .350 .533 138
SS Ketel Marte 21 1 .259 .287 .323 68
3B Kyle Seager 36 30 .278 .359 .499 133
1B Dae-ho Lee 9 14 .253 .312 .428 101

While first base continued to be an enigma, Canó solidified the middle infield and lineup.

The only teammate with better offensive numbers than Canó was Nelson Cruz. Only Houston’s Jose Altuve had a higher bWAR among second baseman.

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Essentially, the 2016 season was Canó‘s best during his five-year stay in the Emerald City.

Canó’s double play partner – Ketel Marte – was just 22-years-old and in his first full big league season. Realistically, Marte’s biggest contribution to the Mariners was being a trade chip along with Taijuan Walker in the deal bringing Mitch Haniger and Jean Segura over from Arizona.

Having said that, Marte has developed into a fine player with the Diamondbacks leading the majors in triples last year. Walker is currently recovering from Tommy John surgery.

Kyle Seager delivered career bests in every significant offensive category and bWAR; he even netted a few MVP votes. Unfortunately, Seager’s banner season appears to be an outlier that now fuels unrealistic expectations for the North Carolina alum.

Other contributors: Dan Vogelbach, Luis Sardiñas, Stefen Romero, Shawn O’Malley, and Mike Freeman.


Loose Ends

During our outfield piece, we discussed the worst outfield in Mariners franchise record. We’re not going to do that with the infield.

Instead, we’ll simply illustrate Seattle’s best infielder seasons ever – based on bWAR.

All-Time Mariners Infield
bWAR
Year
HR AVG OBP SLG OPS+
1B Alvin Davis 6 1984 27 .284 .391 .497 147
2B Bret Boone 8.8 2001 37 .331 .372 .578 153
SS Álex Rodríguez 10.4 2000 41 .316 .420 .606 163
3B
Kyle Seager 6.9 2016 30 .278 .359 .499 133

Honorable mentions: John Olerud (2001 and 2002), Robinson Canó (2016), and Edgar Martinez (1992).

Seattle Mariners infielder Gold Glove winners: Harold Reynolds (3), John Olerud (3), Brett Boone(3),  Adrián Beltré (2), Omar Vizquel (1),  Kyle Seager(1).

In case you’re wondering, the worst Mariners outfield ever was the 1983 crew with a combined -0.7 bWAR. If you want to reminisce about that 101-loss team, you can find everything you’d like to know here

So when will the Mariners have a great infield again?

Probably not this year, but it’s worth nothing the 2019 infield has delivered 1.4 bWAR of value after 19 games. That’s better than what several Seattle clubs – including the 1983 squad – delivered in a full season.

My Oh My.

Luke Arkins

Luke is a native New Yorker, who grew up a Mets fan. After the US Navy moved him to the Pacific Northwest in 2009, he decided to make Seattle his home.

In 2014, Luke joined the Prospect Insider team and is now a contributor at HERO Sports also. During baseball season, he can be often found observing the local team at Safeco Field.

You can follow Luke on Twitter @luke_arkins