Churchill: Mariners Take Shot at Utility Upgrade

As we’ve discussed here at Prospect Insider, on Baseball Things and Twitter, the Mariners could use an upgrade to Taylor Motter’s utility role.

Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports tweeted Sunday afternoon the Seattle Mariners had signed veteran Danny Espinosa to a major-league deal.

This means he will be on the 25-man roster. This also means a roster move is coming and it has to be Motter, unless Jarrod Dyson’s foot injury necessitates a DL stint.

Motter had a 2-3 weeks stretch in April-May where he was pretty good, hitting for power and at times in big situations. But he’s been awful since, batting .185/.246/.238 with two home runs.

Espinosa, however, has been worse at the plate in 2017, posting a .162/.237/.276 triple-slash in 254 PAs with the Los Angeles Angels. So why did the Mariners sign him?

There’s a reasonable chance Espinosa, a switch hitter, was being misused. Being deployed as near-regular in Anaheim perhaps exposed his weaknesses, particularly as a left-handed batter. For his career, the 30-year-old Espinosa is a markedly better hitter from the right side: +35 points in average, +25 in OBP, +72 in SLG resulting in a 104 wRC+ as a right-handed batter and a 76 as a lefty.

Used exclusively as a right-handed batter, perhaps Espinosa finds some consistency and more success. His real advantage over Motter, however, is defense. Not defemsive versatility — Motter may have an advantage there since he’s passable at first base and the outfield, where Espinosa has limited experience in either spot — 44 innings at first base, all two years ago, and 23 innings in left field, also all in 2015.

Espinosa, however, is a better glove up the middle and at third base, which could allow skipper Scott Servais the confidence to sit Kyle Seager and Robinson Cano one or two times before the end of the season in attempt to avoid running both into the ground down the stretch.

Espinosa also is a better baserunner with a tick better speed.

It’s all marginal, but even if it all adds up to a slightly better player, it behooves the club to make the swap.

Motter can be optioned to clear space on the 25-man. Hisashi Iwakuma can be moved to the 60-day DL to create a 40-man spot for Espinosa.

Espinosa, however, hasn’t had a plate appearance since July 8, suggesting he may need a few games in Triple-A before a move is made.

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Jason A. Churchill

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