Oct. 29, 2002
by Jim Street
SEATTLE, Wash. - The Seattle Mariners finally have another All-Star left fielder.
Former Santa Clara baseball and basketball standout Randy Winn, a 28-year-old who has played center field for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, presumably became the Mariners' left fielder of the present and future Monday when it finally was announced that he is the compensation Seattle gets for allowing Lou Piniella to return home and manage the Devil Rays.
The Mariners sent minor-league infielder Antonio Perez to the Devil Rays to complete the deal. Though that part of the swap was a surprise, it has been rumored for more than a week that Winn would be coming to Seattle.
"It's nice to know what finally is going to happen," said Winn, who will be married this weekend.
"Randy is a player we've liked for quite awhile," general manager Pat Gillick said. "We think we've filled a hole we had on our club as we look to the 2003 season. Perez is a player that we think has a bright future, but the opportunity to add a player entering his prime like Winn was something we could not pass up."
With Mike Cameron returning to center field and Ichiro Suzuki in right field, Winn figures to take over in left, where the Mariners haven't had an All-Star since Phil Bradley in 1985. Cameron was an AL All-Star in 2001, and Ichiro has been an All-Star in each of his first two seasons with the Mariners.
Winn, who is eligible for salary arbitration, hit .298 with 39 doubles, nine triples and 14 home runs in 2002 while driving in 75 runs as the Devil Rays' leadoff hitter. He led Tampa Bay in hits (181), total bases (280), doubles, triples, runs (87), RBIs and stolen bases (27). He was second in average and on-base percentage (.360).
"I think he's a very good fit for SAFECO Field," Gillick said. "We've been looking for an athletic player with good defensive skills and a stroke conducive to SAFECO that could solidify our left-field situation. Randy is exactly that kind of player."
Winn, a 6-foot-2, 197-pound switch-hitter, was second in the AL in triples last season, seventh in steals and tied for eighth in doubles (with John Olerud). He made just three errors in 410 chances in the outfield (a .994 fielding percentage) and was third in the AL with 13 outfield assists. In his career, Winn has hit .375 and driven in six runs at SAFECO Field (15-for-40).
Not bad for a place regarded as one of the most difficult places to hit.
"I haven't had a whole lot of at-bats there," Winn said. "I had heard about how tough it was on hitters there, but I didn't see a problem. I love it and love how big it is -- offensively and defensively."
Winn, drafted by the Florida Marlins in 1995, became a switch-hitter in '96 on the advice of John Bowles, who later became the Marlins manager. Bowles told Winn it would help his career if he became a switch-hitter.
"I pretty much had to learn on the fly against some good pitchers," said Winn, who reached the Major Leagues in 1998. "I had my struggles, but each year I have gotten better."
He developed into a good hitter from both sides of the plate and was one of the Devil Rays' most dependable hitters.
Winn batted .316 (42-for-133) with 54 RBIs with runners in scoring position last season, including going 4-for-10 with a home run and 10 RBIs with the bases loaded. He earned his first trip to the All-Star Game and went 1-for-2 with a walk and scored a run in the game played in Milwaukee.
One thing he doesn't add is much power to the power-scarce offense. He hit 14 home runs last season and has 24 homers in 1,836 career at-bats.
Perez was one of the players Seattle acquired in the trade that sent Ken Griffey Jr. to the Reds. The 22-year-old batted .258 at Double-A San Antonio (Texas League) last season with two home runs, 24 RBIs and 15 stolen bases.