Why the Diamondbacks targeted Eugenio Suarez: ‘We feel like it’s a natural fit’

Nov 22, 2023, 8:23 PM | Updated: 8:40 pm

Eugenio Suarez...

Eugenio Suarez #28 of the Seattle Mariners reacts after his throw for an out during the ninth inning against the Houston Astros at T-Mobile Park on September 26, 2023 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Arizona Diamondbacks addressed three needs with one trade on the eve of Thanksgiving.

Arizona acquired 32-year-old third baseman Eugenio Suarez from the Seattle Mariners for backup catcher Seby Zavala and 24-year-old reliever Carlos Vargas in a deal that first came up at the General Managers Meetings two weeks ago.

Suarez fills the D-backs’ need at third base, adds a right-handed bat to the middle of the order and a veteran presence.

“We feel like this is a guy who adds a power element, good defender, everyday player at a position that we’ve been platooning for a few years now,” general manager Mike Hazen said on Wednesday. “I think it adds a little stability to that spot and an incredible clubhouse guy. Obviously, we lost some of our really good clubhouse guys at this point after the season via free agency. We feel like he’s going to step into that role. This is somebody we’ve liked for a long time and we feel like it’s a natural fit given what our team is looking for.”

Hazen joked that he and Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto only talk right before Thanksgiving and on July 31 given the recent trade history between the two clubs. Arizona added Kyle Lewis from Seattle before last Thanksgiving and closer Paul Sewald ahead of the Aug. 1 trade deadline. In 2016, Arizona acquired Ketel Marte and Taijuan Walker from the Mariners for Mitch Haniger and Jean Segura the day before Thanksgiving.

The Diamondbacks pulled this deal off without including a top prospect nor a postseason contributor since Zavala was ineligible. Suarez is owed an $11.3 payroll salary for 2024 with a $15 million club option for 2025, but Hazen made it clear the D-backs still have the resources to address needs such as starting pitching and right-handed outfielders in terms of prospects and payroll.

Diamondbacks fill 3B with Eugenio Suarez

The D-backs in 2023 had a revolving door at third base. Emmanuel Rivera played the most games at the hot corner with 65 followed by since-traded Josh Rojas, free agent Evan Longoria, Jace Peterson and shortstop Geraldo Perdomo.

Third base was Arizona’s weakest position with -1.9 wins above average, which ranked No. 24 in Major League Baseball. Eduardo Escobar in 2019 was the last Diamondbacks player to take third base in more than 100 games.

Suarez played every game this past season, earning 2.3 rWAR and 3.2 fWAR.

His offensive production went down some, as he blasted 22 home runs after consecutive 30-homer seasons. He also struck out a career-high 214 times.

But Suarez still hit the ball very hard — especially fastballs — with a well above average walk rate (10.1%). He drove in 96 runs for the first time since 2019, and he’ll join a lineup with Corbin Carroll, Ketel Marte and Gabriel Moreno potentially hitting in front of him.

Suarez was around league average with a 101 OPS+ in 2023, an upgrade over Arizona’s group of third basemen but also far from his own best seasons.

“I’m not sure in 2023 he had his career season, I get it, but sometimes it’s not always available to you when guys are coming off career seasons,” Hazen said. “We still think he’s very talented. He’s young, he has skills, he has great work ethic. I like all those things as a potential mix for helping players continue to be good and excel.”

Suarez doesn’t quite fit the contact profile that many of his D-backs teammates have, but Hazen feels the on-base and power mix will benefit the lineup.

Defensively, Suarez measured up much more favorably than he had in the past with a career-best 11 outs above average and eight errors, his fewest in a full season at third.

“Our scouts said he really worked hard this season on his defense, that’s going to be something we’re going to continue to push,” Hazen said. “He converts all the balls that he gets to. I think there’s a steadiness there.”

Diamondbacks add right-handed power

Suarez is a righty who has blasted at least 20 home runs every year since 2016, excluding 2020 when he came close with 15 in 57 games.

The Diamondbacks set out to add right-handedness to the order last offseason and at the trade deadline. Longoria, Lourdes Gurriel Jr. and Tommy Pham were Arizona’s three position players who hit the free agency market this offseason, all of whom bat from the right side. Arizona also non-tendered Lewis, another right-handed outfielder.

Suarez joins Christian Walker and Moreno as righties to pencil into the lineup as the roster is currently constructed.

The trade addition’s platoon splits vary from year to year, but in 2023 he owned a .743 OPS with three homers against lefties and a .706 OPS with 19 home runs against righties.

Eugenio Suarez’s clubhouse presence

It didn’t take long for Suarez to receive a glowing review from a teammate after the trade was reported. Sewald spent 1.5 seasons with Suarez in Seattle and told D-backs fans, “welcome to Good Vibes Only!!!”

DiPoto in a statement released by the club and acquired by The Seattle Times said Suarez brought the “good vibes only” mantra to their clubhouse. Suarez won the Mariners’ Heart and Hustle award and the Unsung Hero award during his tenure.

“From a makeup, clubhouse standpoint, there were just a lot of things for us to like,” Hazen said.

The veteran has 1,321 MLB games under his belt along with World Baseball Classic and postseason experience.

Why make this trade now?

There have not been many free agent dominoes to fall at this point in the offseason, especially with hitting.

Third base is not a deep position among free agents with Matt Chapman, Jeimer Candelario and Justin Turner headlining the class.

Hazen saw an opportunity to knock off a key component of his to-do list with this deal which allows him to move forward.

“The opportunity came up and, let’s be honest, Jerry moves aggressively,” Hazen said. “I don’t think this situation, maybe I’m wrong, was gonna sit out there forever. If that disappears on you, you’re back to other options you have no guarantee you’re going to get done. So that’s why we jumped on the opportunity we did. I do think it’s going to help us.”

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