Analysis: Maurer for Smith

 The Seattle Mariners have acquired veteran outfielder Seth Smith from the San Diego Padres for right-hander Brandon Maurer, reports Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com. Presumably, Smith will be part of some kind of timeshare in one or both corner outfield spots.

The Mariners get a 32-year-old for the next two years at $12.75 million with a $7 million club option for 2017. The left-handed hitting Smith has a track record of strong production versus right-handed pitching and batted .266/.367/.440 overall in 2014.

Smith is a below-average defender but has played a passable left field for the Padres. More time in right field may allow him to track balls better in that corner, perhaps bringing his defense closer to average levels. Smith possesses a fringe-average throwing arm.

Smith, a former college quarterback at Ole Miss behind Eli Manning, struggles to drive the ball versus left-handed pitching but still shows some on-base production against southpaws. It’s his work versus right-handers that provides his value.

In 2014, Smith batted .270/.359/.455 against righties and for his career owns a .277/.358/.481 split, including a .362 wOBA and 123 wRC+. Weighted Runs Created plus is park adjusted and Smith’s mark versus right-handers this past year was 133 and a very strong 130 versus left-handers.

To land Smith the M’s sacrificed a nice piece in Maurer, who broke through as a reliever in 2014 after struggling in multiple stints as a starter. Out of the bullpen, Maurer sits 93-98 mph with a four-seam fastball that shows good life up in the zone. His best secondary pitch is a slider that firmed up a year ago into a cutter-like offering that can induce swings and misses. The pitch was better in the past as a true slider that darted down and away from right-handed batters, but as-is remains a weapon.

Maurer also possesses a changeup that flashes above average and a curveball that he didn’t use much in a relief role but ultimately might be his second-best pitch. The 24-year-old displayed inconsistent command in 2014, even out of the ‘pen, but showed an ability to dominate at times.

The Padres control five years of Maurer, and may consider giving him another chance to start this spring before letting loose in the same relief role.

The Mariners could use Smith in both corners and even occasionally at designated hitter. He’s never played first base in the majors but in a pinch could handle it without much question.

Smith has had limited success batting in the No. 2 hole over the course of his career but was good in that spot a year ago — .296/.329/.625 in 82 plate appearances — and has fared well batting third, fifth and sixth as well.

He’s also a very solid fastball hitter who adjusts well to changeups. Such success bodes well for his tenure in the American League.

The M’s could employ a lineup that looks something like this, particularly versus right-handed pitching:

  1. Austin Jackson, CF — R
  2. Seth Smith, RF — L
  3. Robinson Cano, 2B — L
  4. Nelson Cruz, DH — R
  5. Kyle Seager, 3B — L
  6. Logan Morrison, 1B — L
  7. Dustin Ackley, LF — L
  8. Mike Zunino, C — R
  9. Brad Miller, SS — L

And versus lefties:

  1. Jackson
  2. Ruggiano, OF
  3. Cano
  4. Cruz
  5. Seager
  6. Morrison
  7. Ackley/Smith
  8. Zunino
  9. Taylor

The Mariners’ payroll still sits in a position where I suspect salary will remain a non-issue in terms of continuing to add talent to the roster. The club still could use a veteran backup catcher, a veteran lefty reliever and should not rule out more outfield help, including an everyday player.

The club probably shouldn’t have much interest in James Shields unless they have a deal set up to acquire another hitter in exchange for Taijuan Walker, and there are no indications the club has discussed any such deals of late.

As they sit, the Mariners appear to be a club set to win 85-90 games or so, dependent on health and other variables, and the loss of Maurer in the bullpen probably won’t be felt at all with Carson Smith ready to step in immediately and handle high-leverage situations and pushing down Yoervis Medina into more of a middle role.

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Jason A. Churchill

Churchill founded Prospect Insider in 2006 after getting his start at InsidethePark.com. He spent several years covering prep, college and pro sports for various newspapers, including The News Tribune and Seattle PI. Jason spent 4 1/2 years at ESPN and two years at CBS Radio prior to joining HERO Sports in July, 2016. Find Jason's Mariners podcast, Baseball Things, right here and follow him on Twitter @ProspectInsider.

17 Comments

  1. If WFB is on the DL to start the year it would be Miller as the backup third baseman.

  2. This is likely the most “complete” team we have fielded in years. I agree with the 85-90 win potential, which is typically good enough to push for a WC. But, I would add that if things break right, this team has a lot of potential. Improvements/solid years/etc from a number of our young players and a few lucky breaks could push us above 90 and have us competing for the division.

    So, I do not want to get my hopes too high. But we should be looking at some competitive baseball.

  3. Oops meant DH and 1B with Montero.

  4. I agree with Kaehleone’s assessment ….also this club has 2 free agents next year…i am excited even way out here in frigid NE Ohio

  5. So if WFB is on the 60 to start the year, who is the backup 3B?

  6. I don’t see Montero playing one pitch in the outfield. If he makes the team he will play 1B/DH/PH…

  7. I myself see Taylor and Miller making the team. I’m thinking Miller and Cruz will see some outfield and Montero will see some OF and DH. At least until Bloomy returns because I don’t think he’ll be ready to start the season, then we’ll see what happens. I still think Zobrist is the perfect fit for this team, but then so is Scherzer, and we know that ain’t going to happen. Still this is the most excited I’ve felt about this team at this stage since JC was a little leaguer.

  8. I don’t see anything major happening at this point. This roster is pretty much set outside of maybe adding a veteran backup for Zunino or some bullpen arms for depth, particularly lefthanded. I think the real battle inSpring is going to be between Taylor, Miller, Bloomquist, and Montero for three roster spots. I get the feeling, per Jack Z’s comments yesterday, that they are going to give Montero a real chance to make the team and backup Morrison at firstbase. I personally would rather see him on the team than one of Taylor or Bloomquist. I really think Miller takes the shortstop job so you could stash Taylor in AAA to start the year. It’s also possible that Bloomquist may not be ready at the start of the year. They could also potentially, although unlikely, eat the last year of Bloomquists contract. In the end, at least we have options that can potentially help out the team. I personally don’t see James Jones on this roster to start the year, barring injury. He is best served by playing CF everyday in AAA while continuing to work on his bat.

  9. I think there is more to come via trade and or F/A signing. Aoki still makes sense for this team to me. As does the talk about Desmond to Seattle. 3 team deal Zobrist to Was, Desmond to Seattle and prospects to T.B.?

  10. Jack,

    Not a ton out there but those No. 2 catchers haven’t started flying off the shelves yet, either.

  11. Smith has never played a game at 1B during his MLB career. Not saying he can’t do it. Just that he hasn’t so far.

  12. Ackley can back-up firstbase, if needed. He’s played quite a few games there, as can Willie if needed.

  13. 13 position players:
    LoMo, Cano, Miller OR Taylor, Seager, Ackley, Jackson, Smith, Zunino, Cruz
    Sucre?, WFBloomquist, Ruggliano, PLUS ONE

    Seems logical––as part of the notorious Bloomquist Effect––that whichever of Taylor or Miller does not win the starting SS role, then the other will start the year in Tacoma (Taylor as SS insurance, Miller to learn the craft of Centerfield???)

    As for the PLUS ONE, if the last player on the 25 man roster is James Jones for his baserunning and back-up CF, then will the M’s encourage Nelson Cruz to learn the craft of playing First Base to spell Logan Morrison?

    The other direction (and I’ve said it before) is that the M’s make Cruz part of their outfield rotation and Jesus Montero, who has been learning the craft of First Base and is ostensibly in the best shape of his young life, will spell LoMo against Lefties. This leaves Jones in AAA.

    So, other than perhaps Beimel signed as a lefty reliever (and the expected rehab pitchers and AAAA possibilities signed to Minor League ST invites), I don’t see more acquisitions by the M’s prior to Spring Training. Rather, I think JackZ will retain the flexibility to acquire a bat or an arm at the All Star Break depending on what is needed at that time due to underperformance or injury.

  14. Jason,

    What’s the market looking like for a back-up catcher?

  15. We gave up a promising young pitcher, but Baltimore or another team would have gotten him had we not done it.

  16. Good deal for the M’s.
    However is surprises me that the Friers would trade one of their few left handed bats. Maybe the market just was not there to trade Venable or Maybin. I figured they would have traded one of those two and kept the other to be the late defensive replacement in center next year.

    Smith will be a solid platoon in the OF and he can also play first.

  17. PLEASE push Medina into a middle relief role!

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