Mariners upgrade at first base

 

The Seattle Mariners were clearly in the market for a new starting first baseman after they traded away Mark Trumbo and last season’s Opening Day first baseman Logan Morrison. Today, the club got their man when they acquired Adam Lind – who projects to be the best Seattle first baseman in over a decade – in a deal with the Milwaukee Brewers. In exchange for the veteran first baseman, the Mariners sent three right-handed minor league pitchers – Carlos Herrera, Daniel Missaki, and Freddy Peralta – to Milwaukee.

Since Lind has one year remaining on his contract with Milwaukee, the prevailing thought among baseball observers was that the rebuilding Brewers would move the 32-year-old during this week’s Winter Meetings. His relatively low $8 million salary, which currently ranks number 15 among major league first baseman, made him attractive to many major league clubs.

More importantly for Seattle, Lind’s acquisition makes sense on the playing field. In 2015, the left-handed hitter posted a .277/.360/.460 slash with 20 home runs. He’s been particularly effective against right-handed pitching throughout his 10-year career, especially in the power department where he’s hit a home run every 20.5 at bats against righties compared to once every 47.8 when facing southpaws. Defensively, his five defensive runs saved (DRS) ranked number-five among qualified major league first baseman in 2015.

Lind represents a significant upgrade at first base for the Mariners, who received no value from the position in 2015. Seattle’s first basemen ranked number-25 in the majors with a combined for a -0.1 wins above replacements (WAR). Conversely, Milwaukee ranked number-seven thanks to Lind’s 3.1 WAR.

In the past 20 seasons, Mariners first basemen have provided more value than Lind’s 2015 WAR on only six occasions. One player – John Olerud – produced three of those seasons.

Player WAR Year Age G PA H 2B 3B HR RBI BA OBP SLG OPS
John Olerud 5.2 2001 32 159 679 173 32 1 21 95 .302 .401 .472 .873
John Olerud 5.1 2002 33 154 668 166 39 0 22 102 .300 .403 .490 .893
Tino Martinez 4.5 1995 27 141 593 152 35 3 31 111 .293 .369 .551 .920
Richie Sexson 3.9 2005 30 156 656 147 36 1 39 121 .263 .369 .541 .910
John Olerud 3.6 2000 31 159 683 161 45 0 14 103 .285 .392 .439 .831
David Segui 3.2 1998 31 143 580 159 36 1 19 84 .305 .359 .487 .845
Richie Sexson 2.7 2006 31 158 663 156 40 0 34 107 .264 .338 .504 .842
John Olerud 2.7 2003 34 152 634 145 35 0 10 83 .269 .372 .390 .761
Russell Branyan 2.6 2009 33 116 505 108 21 1 31 76 .251 .347 .520 .867
Paul Sorrento 2.3 1997 31 146 513 123 19 0 31 80 .269 .345 .514 .859
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 12/9/2015.

 
As I discussed earlier this week, Lind was still with the Brewers because the club hadn’t received an acceptable offer for the veteran. Apparently, the Mariners’ offer was the best on the table. None of the trio sent to Milwaukee were among Seattle’s top-30 prospects, according to the MLB.com prospect rankings.

Missaki was the lone player mentioned during the Prospect Insider 2015 prospect rankings where he was mentioned in the “next 15” list. However, the 19-year-old’s 2015 season was ended due to Tommy John surgery.

In the end, the Brewers determined that the long-term potential of an 18-year-old and two 19-year-olds – including one recovering from major surgery – was the best deal available for Lind. Time will tell if Milwaukee chose correctly. For the Mariners – who want to compete in 2016 – the deal made complete sense.

Although he’s maintained relatively good availability throughout his career, Lind has experienced back-related problems since 2011 and has missed over 80 games due to his back – including three stints on the 15-day disabled list. His only other trip to the disabled list happened in 2014, when he suffered a fracture in his right foot.

To make room for Lind, Seattle opted to designate the recently acquired Andy Wilkins for assignment. As of today, Lind and holdover Jesus Montero appear to be the team’s first base contingent. Montero’s right-handed power bat in tandem with the left-handed Lind could potentially become an effective platoon, especially when there’s a tough left-hander on the mound or Lind needs a day off his feet due to his balky back.

If the season started today, the Mariners’ Opening Day lineup could look something like this…

Nori Aoki, RF
Ketel Marte, SS
Robinson Cano, 2B
Nelson Cruz, DH
Kyle Seager, 3B
Lind, 1B
Seth Smith, LF
Chris Iannetta, C
Leonys Martin, CF
Felix Hernandez, SP

General Manager Jerry Dipoto, once again, has added another player who gets on base and helps lengthen the Mariners’ lineup – both are stated goals of the 47-year-old executive. To date, Dipoto has made nine trades and signed four major league free agents. Moreover, he’s added minor league depth via free agency and waivers. In total, he’s netted 17 new players since taking over in late September.

Dipoto’s off-season agenda isn’t complete, yet. The team still needs help with its bullpen. Plus, I wouldn’t put it past the new general manager to make more deals involving position players. Even if he stands pat, Dipoto’s projected 2016 lineup is already far better than the 2015 version.

Overall, I view this deal as a win for the Mariners – as long as Lind is available on a regular basis and doesn’t suffer significant back problems. Sure, it’s possible that one – or all – of the three players traded away will turn into significant assets for Milwaukee. It’s a risk that contenders gladly accept in order to be relevant in September. I’m not ready to say that the Mariners are a contender. However, they took a big step in that direction today.

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