When it comes to second base, the question and the answer are the same – Jose Lopez.
Can he play defense well enough to make the Seattle infield an asset, or will he continue to be a make fans and occasionally pitchers seethe about? No, his range isn’t good and yes, catchable ground balls do get by into right field.
And yes, there is depth now in the organization, with Ronnie Cedeno, Reegie Corona, Calix Crabbe, Oswaldo Navarro and Chris Woodward.
But Lopez remains the starting second baseman, a man whose offensive skills – and lack of defensive versatility – give the Mariners few options.
He cannot play shortstop. He could play third if a) there wasn’t a Gold Glover over there already and b) you didn’t really need a good third baseman. Lopez could play first base but a) doesn’t want to and b) the Mariners have better options there.
So, second base it is, and that’s not all bad.
Lopez has worked hard at improving his double play turn, which two years ago was more a thought than an action. And offensively, he’s a 25-year-old whose game is on the rise. When he batted .297 last season, it was while hitting all over the lineup – anywhere from second to eighth to third – he put up career highs with 17 home runs and 89 RBI.
Those are good numbers in any batting order. For a runs-starved Seattle offense, they’re nuclear.
Cedeno is going to make this team and his defense will be a plus when he spells Lopez or shortstop Yuniesky Betancourt. And should Lopez go down with an injury, there are now viable options on defense, if not offense.
Seattle is a deeper club at second base but one without a real option. To improve the Mariners defense at second, they’d have to give up one of their steadiest bats, and that’s a trade they’re not likely to make.