The Los Angeles Dodgers find themselves in an enviable yet difficult position in which they have too many good outfielders. There’s an awful lot of talent between the trio of Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, and Andre Ethier but injuries have limited the playing time and effectives of all three over the last couple seasons and it’s been rare to see a time when a spot on the disabled list isn’t occupied by at least one of them. Add in superstar slugger Yasiel Puig and top prospect Joc Pederson who’s ready at Triple-A and you presumably have five guys for three spots — and that isn’t including one Scott Van Slyke who could be a useful pick up for a team like the Seattle Mariners.

There’s no question that despite their seemingly limitless payroll the Dodgers would love to get out from one of Crawford, Kemp, or Ethier’s contracts. Not including what’s still owed for 2014, Crawford is due $62.25 million over the next three seasons, Kemp is owed $107 million through 2019, and Ethier is owed $56 million including a buyout of his vesting option for 2018. At one time or another all three of the outfielders were some of the best in baseball and would’ve garnered plenty of interest had they been available by trade. How quickly things change.

Normally having overpaid former superstars occupying roster spots wouldn’t be a problem for the Dodgers, but they appear to be very interested in getting Pederson to the big league level, ideally before the end of the 2014 season. He’s currently destroying Triple-A pitching to the tune of a .327/.452/.584 line and his defensive abilities are very highly regarded. Pederson is still just 22-years old but is in his fourth minor league season and it looks as though he’s done verything Los Angeles could’ve hoped for in the minors.

Obviously Puig isn’t going anywhere and manager Don Mattingly would be silly not to keep the enigmatic star in the lineup everyday, but that leaves two outfield spots between Crawford, Ethier, Kemp, and Van Slyke. At first glance that doesn’t appear to be such a problem considering the injury history of the aforementioned trio and the luxury of having a couple of very good bats on the bench late in the game, but it’d be very difficult to add Pederson to that mix and maintain much roster flexibility.

Now there’s always the possibility that the Dodgers could pull off a trade for Kemp in the coming week, he’s said to be very open to going elsewhere, but this situation is far more likely to be resolved in the offseason. So, could that hypothetically make Van Slyke the most likely current Dodger outfielder to go if and when Pederson is summoned? He certainly seems like he’d be the easiest to move.

[pullquote]This year the Dodgers have primarily employed Van Slyke in left field but he’s seen some action in center and has made five starts at first base where he’s logged just over 100 innings in his major league career.[/pullquote]

The soon to be 28-year old Van Slyke has put together a decent 2014 campaign with a .259/.387/.504 triple slash line and eight home runs while playing slightly above average defence in right field and average defence in center according to UZR. The son of current Mariners first base coach Andy Van Slyke may not be the flashy big-name offensive addition M’s fans have hoped for, but on paper he certainly could plug some holes. He’s shown some home run power during his time in the minors and for his short major league career has 17 in 143 games played. His right-handed bat would also help balance the glut of left-handed hitters the M’s have near the top of the order. More importantly he’s handled left-handed pitching very well this year with a 214 wRC+ while seeing the majority of his at bats in the fifth and sixth spot in the lineup.

Van Slyke excels in the on base department and boasts a 12.6 percent walk rate so far in his young career and a 15.3 percent mark in 2014 alone. Perhaps if he was able to hit for a higher batting average he’d be an excellent candidate to hit in the No. 2 spot in the lineup, but he’s the type of player that can fit practically anywhere in a lineup and his ability to get on base could play well for for the top of the order if he hit in the eighth or ninth spot.

In a way Van Slyke is similar to Michael Saunders: he’s good in the outfield, has a decent arm and decent speed, and some home run power while hitting for a passable average — he basically does everything well, but he doesn’t excel in one particular area. Van Slyke is also three months Saunders’ senior. The pair could make a very interesting platoon as Saunders has had better success against right-handed pitching in his career. It’s also fair to say that the M’s already have a player like Van Slyke in Saunders based on the reasons above and there’s no reason to double up.

Van Slyke would be an upgrade on Endy Chavez and Stefen Romero in right field and should have no problem taking at bats from Dustin Ackley in left. He doesn’t seem quite good enough in center to push incumbent James Jones to right field, but the outfield would definitely become more athletic. Depending on what’s happening with Corey Hart and Logan Morrison on any given day mostly depending on match ups, Van Slyke could hypothetically slot in at first and his bat is good enough to start as the team’s designated hitter.

The big question, as with any potential trade target, is what’s he going to cost to bring in? While the Dodgers don’t have any glaring holes on their ball club they could definitely use some bullpen depth and another option for the infield. Hanley Ramirez is a free agent after this season and Alexander Guerrero isn’t quite ready to play everyday in the majors, which could makes Nick Franklin an enticing piece to work with given Dee Gordon‘s flexibility. The Dodgers could also have interest in one of Seattle’s relievers, be it Brandon Maurer, Dominic Leone, Tom Wilhelmsen, or whomever, as a potential return as well. The Dodgers are also in a position were they could take on a prospect with some serious upside but is still several years away from the majors like a Gabriel Guerrero for instance.

Now Seattle is said to be pursing Marlon Byrd as an outfield upgrade but the major hitch in a potential deal is the Philadelphia Philles asking price for the veteran. Not to mention that 2016 vesting option Byrd wants guaranteed in exchange for waiving his no-trade clause to come to Seattle. Compared with Van Slyke, Byrd is the superior hitter and had a very impressive age-35 season in which he amassed 4.1 fWAR and a 143 wRC+ in 2013. The now 36-year old isn’t a great defender, but he’s not a complete liability in the outfield. He will be owed $8 million in 2015 and 2016 however, should his option be exercised.

Van Slyke won’t be arbitration eligible until after the 2015 season so he’s a cost-controlled asset, and should the Mariners want to get really creative they could possibly explore using him in an offseason trade for a bigger fish should they acquire the 27-year old prior to the trade deadline. Or, they could really upgrade the offence and pick up both Van Slyke and Byrd. Again, they’re not perfect players, but they’re very usable within the M’s lineup.

There’s no reason to believe that the Dodgers are ready to deal Van Slyke, Mattingly has recently described him as the team’s best defensive outfielder, but he’d definitely be the easiest outfielder to move should the club decide to do so. Reports indicate that Seattle has many conversations on the go about several outfielders, and should Van Slyke become available he could be a solid fit.

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Tyler Carmont

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29 Comments

  1. Solid move Jack! Now lets upgrade 1B package Walker and Franklin to AZ. For Paul Goldschmidt.

  2. Howard is getting cut in the offseason. He isn’t even worth a roster spot . Give up prospects for him??? I wouldn’t even trade a bucket of baseballs for his sorry services. No thanks…

  3. The Phillies are reported to be willing to pay MOST of the 70 Mill that R. Howard is owed. If true R. Franklin and L . Morrison could net you R. Howard!!!

  4. Ok Jack, do the right thing and cut HART to make room for Morales on the 25 man roster!!!! Do this and I am ok with this move.

  5. Perfect move. Getting another competent bat in the lineup to pair with Cano and Seager. Just the type of move this club needed right now, still a week before the trade deadline. Great work JZ

  6. Morales for a RP is a solid add. If can do simil. If can make similar deals for Colon and Byrd. I would call it good for a run and have it not cost any of our top prospects. Still would be the favorite for the last wild card. Go small try and go for it without hurting your future so far JackZ is my kind of GM.

  7. Hopefully Morales starts hitting like he did in 2013. If not…..

    Morales: .234/.259/.325 (in 154 ABs)
    Hart: .212/.295/.332 (in 184 ABs)
    Morrison: .211/.267/.349 (in 152 ABs)
    Montero: .208/.264/.327 (in 101 ABs last year)

    That’s an incredible degree of redundancy of sucktitude!

    Really…that is incredible. All four of those guys have put up REMARKABLY similar lines…and they all are brutally shitty.

    They are all interchangable with…..wait for it……

    Willie Bloomquist! .278/.297/.346

    Actually, Willie Ballgame is a smidge better than the rest of those guys.

    One nice thing: there is literally no possible way it could get worse. This is rock bottom.

  8. Wow. Didn’t see that happening.

    I’d have rather had Billy Butler, but this is an alright move since it costs nothing.

    Wonder what will be the next shoe to drop. I can’t see the M’s keeping Hart and Morrison on the team with Morales. Perhaps they will, and just send Romero back. But that would leave them with Hart and Bloomquist as the extra OFers. If they do that, there will have to be another move when Saunders gets back. Not exactly ideal. Morrison should still have the option, so at least they can send him back down without losing him.

    Knowing Jack and the front office, I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the M’s don’t just punt defense. As I mentioned before, that’s a huge part of the reason we’ve been a good team this year.

  9. Bring up Montero and have him DH vs. left handers and play Morales at 1st. I know he is not much of a defender, but neither is Morrison. Morales shifts back to DH vs. right handers.

  10. Next to Russell Branyan, Kendrys Morales was the best hitting trade or free agent acquisition in Jack Zduriencik’s tenure as GM. Go down the list and find anyone better. Corey Hart is a bust. With Morales, the M’s, instead of two bats (Cano and Seager) should have three out of nine batters who can actually hit consistently. (And, yes, I subscribe to the theory that Morales really hurt himself by turning down the QO and 3yr/$30M deal and sitting out for a third of this season. We’re getting him at the right time since Minnesota gave him his defacto Spring Training tune-up). Jesus Montero hits lefties well, but not righties. Morales>>Montero

    This is not to say that the M’s do not need to make another significant move to shore up the OF with a hitter (I’ve been waiting for positive results on this need since 2007–Ibanez/Ichiro/Guillen when we actually had a productive OF). Morrison/Morales should work at 1B, but upgrade potential definitely exists there, too.

  11. The more I think about it the more I hate it. A useless move for a guy who’s another no field DH who isn’t even hitting. I like the Montero move more. JZ, you are so predictable and disappointing.

  12. So it’s Morales, a very safe move.

  13. Jerry
    The M’s do need to do something, but something reasonable,if able. I think that’s the point you were making. Of course I agree with that, but I also read somewhere recently that it’s tough for JZ to pull the trigger. Of course I don’t know what’s happening in the front office, but I can’t help but think, you keep shopping for that perfect deal, keep thinking about it, then go back and it’s gone.
    Montero will deserve a shot pretty soon. Can’t see where he’d be any worse than any DH we’ve thrown out there. Just not sure how much improvement that is.

  14. Jerry

    I like the Montero idea but it should be noted that his splits at home, in, perhaps, the only offense neutral park in the PCL, are not that great. A .250 .325 .451 triple slash is OK, at best for a DH.

  15. Speaking of DH upgrades…….

    Jesus Montero is up to .310/.374/.541 in Tacoma.

    Against lefties (one of our biggest problems): .389/.441/.778

    This month: .436/.463/.808

    I know that Montero has been a complete f’ing idiot at times, and that everyone likes to shit on him because of that, but the guy clearly has talent. Despite doing pretty much everything he can to torpedo his own career, he is still just 24 years old. Oftentimes guys just take a while to figure it out. Montero has natural hitting ability. Thats a rare tool. He’s put up great numbers his whole career until recently. I think its WAAAY to early to give up on him.

    Is he likely to dominate? Probably not. But he doesn’t have to.

    All he has to do is hit better than this:

    .196/.277/.293.

    That’s what we’ve gotten from our DH’s this year. I think Montero could beat a .569 OPS. If not, we have absolutely nothing to lose by giving him a chance. The guy he’d be replacing, Cory Hart, hasn’t shown any signs of returning to his pre-2012 self. Why not?

    That’s the best type of midseason upgrade: internal.

  16. Well said Jerry!!! I think if you look at the pieces Oakland, Angels, and Detroit gave up to make moves, it DOES NOT LOOK GOOD for potential buyers. Each one of these moves was a massive overpay IMO. I agree that the perception is that Jack is desperate. Sure hope he doesn’t do something stupid. A minor move for a bat would be fine. Then build on this thing in the offseason. I will be glad when the trade deadline comes and goes…

  17. Ripperlv and Snave,

    The one thing I think the M’s should avoid is the “we need to do something!!!” mentality.

    Just read an interesting Rumblings and Grumblings article by Jayson Stark. In discussing David Price, he says:

    “Other teams view the Mariners as potentially the most desperate shopper out there. But desperate for what?”

    http://espn.go.com/mlb/story/_/page/tradedeadline/factors-tampa-bay-rays-weigh-david-price-trade

    Thats not good.

    The M’s keep getting mentioned as a team looking for starters. But the further we get into the season, the less that looks like a serious need for me. Right now, we have Felix and Kuma pitching great, and Young still defying all doubts about his ability to keep this up. After that, Elias is still holding his own, and Walker, Erasmo, and eventually Paxton giving us some depth. And Wilhelmsen is a pretty intriguing option. The team has shown a willingness to mix guys in – and moving Walker, Erasmo, and probably Paxton back and forth between Tacoma and Seattle – to keep people fresh. I think that’s pretty smart. Right now, we’ve got six solid starters – Felix, Kuma, Young, Elias, Walker, and Erasmo – plus Paxton hopefully joining the fray soon and Wilhelmsen looking like a potential option if they get desperate. That’s not too shabby. If they could add a guy like Brendan McCarthy (low cost, solid option), it would be plenty. I don’t think David Price helps this team enough to justify the cost.

    In terms of the offense, there isn’t anyone who is rumored to be available that is a true impact player. Marlon Byrd is OK, but I wouldn’t give up anyone significant from the roster or any of our top 10 prospects for him. Not worth it. Besides his age, Byrd has put up most of his numbers in smaller parks and in the NL. I’d be very worried that he would be a bust. At his best, he’s a complimentary player. I think the Phillies will want more than he’s worth. Since we’d almost definitely have to extend him for 2016 to get him to veto his NTC, I don’t think he’s the best option. Alex Rios is a better option, but has the same caveats plus a bigger salary and the added problems of adding a player from a division rival. I don’t think the Rangers will deal him unless they get a great offer, since they should be contenders next year.

    Basically, the M’s are a young team, and they should be looking to add to that while still building toward the future. Thus, I think they should be looking at some under the radar types of additions. van Slyke is that type of player. Given the dearth of legit ‘seller’ teams, the lack of impact guys who are available, and the M’s position, I’d focus more on low cost additions with a bit of upside.

    The one nice thing about the M’s predicament: the absolutely brutal production they’ve gotten at 1B, DH, and LF mean that even modest upgrades will have a large impact. We are currently dead last in OBP and SLG in the AL, and within 2 runs of dead last in runs scored. The fact that we have the second best scoring differential in MLB is INSANE give that brutal offensive production. Eliminating some of the black holes in the lineup – again, DH, LF, and 1B being the lowest hanging fruit – would make a big difference.

    This, to me, makes a lot more sense than gutting the system for David Price.

  18. I agree with you, Ripper. This is frustrating and disappointing. The last two series against the Angels and Mets should underscore that they need to do something.

    I think the window for getting anything truly impactful accomplished is probably melting away. The A’s have fixed their rotation, the Angels have fixed their bullpen, the Yankees added Headley and McCarthy. The Mariners still haven’t started to fix their hitting… and there will be enough competition for the remaining hitters who are reportedly on the market (who may not be much in the way of upgrades anyway) that we might see the Mariners give up too much to get too little in return. None of the guys who are reported to be available are necessarily game-changers…

    I’m not advocating they stand pat, not by any means. They need to do something. As I see it, they have glaring needs at DH and 1B. To anyone who believes Morrison is an adequate replacement for Smoak, it seems to me their numbers are awfully similar this season. And while Morrison is younger by close to a year and a half, and has a higher career OPS by about .750 to .690…well… both guys are abysmal this season, and it’s this season the team has a shot at the playoffs. How much longer should the Mariners wait for one of those two to become an .800+ OPS guy when the team actually has a chance at post-season play this year? As for DH, I admire Hart’s commitment and effort in returning from his injuries, but he hasn’t homered since May 7. Maybe it’s time to make a business decision, cut him loose, and give Montero another shot? At any rate, if they can add a couple of decent bats at 1B and DH I think they can live with an inconsistent/anemic bat in LF and the whiffs from Zunino. Thank heavens for our great pitching and defense! Now let’s do something to fix the offense.

    But of course this is the Mariners, so we never know. Given how tight-lipped they are about their dealings, something big could be in the works. If so, we can only hope it’s something that 1) truly helps upgrade the offense, and 2) doesn’t empty the farm cupboard.

    If they think Van Slyke is really going to make a difference at 1B, RF or DH, go get him. But I just don’t know if a 28-year-old guy who is “spare parts” for LAD is worth trading a younger player like Franklin for…

  19. Yes!!!!! Yes!!!! Yes!!!! trade him for his Father and any pitcher in the bullpen

  20. Tried of rumors and speculation. If JZ doesn’t pull the trigger soon, it’ll be too late anyways. Maybe a better deal will happen in the off season, maybe not. But I feel a couple of good bats and we are as good as A’s and Angels. However, I don’t feel confident that the lineup will get better. Matter of fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if a call-up of Montero and Franklin is our great move at the pennant.

  21. Tampa Bay keeps winning, they are just 5.5 games out of a wildcard and playing as well as anyone. If they are no longer sellers, the talent Seattle needs might just not be out there. I sure hope they don’t make a move “just to make a move” (Jerry, I agree with you on Willingham). If they can’t get Rios from Texas for Brandon Maurer plus a prospect, then Jack may be stuck…I just hope he doesn’t get desperate and overpay for a piece that likely would not help us. His best option for a bat might be bringing up Jesus Montero (and actually playing him this time). With everyday that passes, and no Mariner trade, I get less and less optimistic that a positive outcome will result. Sure hope I’m wrong…

  22. Jack Zduriencik has struck out far too many times with “potential upside” outfielders such as Eric Thames, Casper Wells, Milton Bradley, Wlad Balentien, Dustin “CornerOutfielder” Ackley, Abe Almonte, Stefan Romero, or Cole Gillespie that a guy like Scott VanSlyke hardly seems worth the risk.

    My guess is that Mariner inquiries for the likes of legitimate proven OF studs such as Giancarlo “We Like Mike But He Ain’t Going Nowhere” Stanton, Starling Marte, or the more versatile Ben Zobrist (and possibly Matt Kemp) would be more the direction that Zduriencik is headed going into the deadline. The M’s with the albatross contract of the aging/declining Ichiro now two years off the books, would seem to be looking for another “aircraft carrier” in the OF to complement Cano and Felix in anchoring this team.

    Easier said than done, of course, but one would think even the über-tight-lipped M’s organization can recognize the need for a true statement deal right now to shore up an outfield that has sucked since 2007 (Raul IbanezLF/IchiroCF/JoseGuillenRF).

    Sorry, Scott VanSlyke is not much of a Band-aid for getting this team into the 2nd wildcard. (And after last night’s anemic one run offensive display against the Mets, even David Price is not the answer). A proven corner outfielder who can hit consistently is so long overdue, Jack Zduriencik’s very tenure as GM should hang in the balance of him finally securing one…NOW!

  23. Not to be a naysayer, but I wouldn’t expect van Slyke to continue to put up these types of numbers. He’s essentially playing above even he most rosy of projections for him leading into this season, and he’s been used sparingly this year. I’d expect some regression, especially if he plays every day and pitchers adjust to him. I’m not saying he won’t be a good player, but I’d expect solid regular instead of .265/.390/.530. I think Tyler’s comp of Michael Saunders is good. And that’s exactly what we need: a RH version of Saunders is a great fit!

    I’m really afraid that the Ms will add a guy like Willingham that will hurt the team defensively. The Ms defense has been great this year, and clearly has contributed to the stellar numbers the starting rotation and pen have been putting up. If you undermine the defense, it will have repercussions. Van Slyke is intriguing because he’d be a ggod fit for the lineup without much of a penalty for the OF defense.

  24. Yup.

    This is the type of deal the Ms should be looking at: a decent upgrade with som upside who won’t cost a ton.

    I wonder what the cost would be. Probably doable, tho.

  25. No, he was optioned to Triple-A and still has should still have one more remaining. Was optioned in 2012 and 2013.

  26. A quick glance at Van Slyke’s spray charts shows he’s largely a pull hitter — which isn’t surprising — so I don’t imagine Safeco would hurt him offensively more so than anyone else. I consider the fact he’d be able to play nearly everyday as a benefit to his stats as he’d have more consistency in his game, but I think his bat would play more or less the same. Tough to know until we see it. Has yet to hit at Safeco.

    As for Rios — it wasn’t that long ago that the Mets managed to grab Zack Wheeler from the Giants for a rental of Carlos Beltran so it wouldn’t be a stretch for the Rangers to began talks by asking for Walker since the M’s could get a year and a half out of Rios. That’d probably be a pipe dream however. I could see the Rays reported ask of Maurer/Franklin for Zobrist being comparable to what Texas could want for Rios but I don’t see Franklin as a fit for that club. Texas is tricky because they can reasonably hope to contend next year so they may want pieces that aren’t far from ready. I could see a guy like Maurer, a solid B-type prospect and maybe a flyer prospect in a situation where the M’s eat all of Rios’ salary, but it’s tough to know what the market will bare. Seattle doesn’t have much starting pitching depth to deal from and I’d imagine that’d be high on the Rangers’ priority list. My guess is Texas waits till guys like Byrd and Willingham are dealt before moving Rios so they can get a better glimpse of the market. Although if they get a deal they like, of course they wouldn’t wait to take it.

  27. Wasn’t Van Slyke DFA’d last year?

  28. Tyler. Rios from Texas is still my favorite OF target. What would we have to give up to get him?

  29. Van Slyke would be a good fallback option. I always get nervous when a player goes from the NL to the AL. Their numbers usually drop, especially in the beginning. What do you think his offensive numbers would look like in Safeco field? I think I would be disappointed if this is all we got for Franklin. Much rather trade a spare reliever for him.

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