The Mariners’ Right-handed Bat Options

 For some reason the Seattle Mariners believe they are so littered with left-handed hitters that they are narrowing their search for offense to right-handed hitters. I’m not saying they won’t even consider lefties, but it seems they are fascinated with getting more right-handed after signing Robinson Cano.

Corey Hart is right-handed. Clearly he’s in the plans to get a lot of plate appearances, no matter how he’s used in the field. Mike Zunino appears to be a big part of the club’s plans at catcher, there’s another 300-450 PAs from a right-handed bat. The No. 2 catcher is probably going to be right-handed, too, since there are so few lefty-hitting catchers in general and ZERO available, so that brings us to 2 righties and a lefty. Sure, Kyle Seager is going to be in the lineup 145-155 times, and he joins Cano as another left-handed hitter. If we assume Logan Morrison is in the plans for 400-500 PAs, there’s one more lefty. Three left-handed bats and two right-handed ones. Brad Miller, assuming he’s the starting shortstop, is another left-handed bat.

The chanced the club’s centerfielder is a left-handed hitter are slim, unless they make no other acquisitions for the outfield. Michael Saunders are Dustin Ackley are each lefty bats, but Abraham Almonte is a switch hitter. Reserve Willie Bloomquist is also a right-handed bat.

If the season started tomorrow, Cano likely would bat No. 3 in the order with the right-handed Hart batting cleanup. Seager probably bats No. 2, and Morrison at No. 5. That’s a left-right-left middle of the order. Yes, Miller probably leads off — or Almonte in certain matchups — but how in the world is this lineup lacking proper balance?

Last I checked, Safeco Field was death to right-handed fly ball hitters, not left-handed hitters in general. If you’re going to be imbalanced at all, you want to be a bit left-handed. Most pitchers in baseball are righties, and Safeco is more fair to left-handed hitters. Worth noting: Cano is a career .290/.340/.450 hitter versus left-handed pitching, and batted .291/.356/.432 against them in 2013. He’s the equivalent of a solid righty stick versus lefties.

If the search for a right-handed bat lands them on a significantly lesser right-handed bat than they could have landed in a lefty, it’s an enormous mistake to care so much about handedness. Shin-Soo Choo, however, is so bad versus left-handers that he hurts the attempt at balance quite a bit, not to mention being a much higher risk than Cano to be a financial burden on even a 7-year contract.

Nelson Cruz has been mentioned a lot — he doesn’t fit so well, as he shouldn’t be playing the outfield and that’s the Mariners’ biggest area of need — but there are zero right-handed hitting outfielders on the free agent market, and there aren’t a lot of right-handed hitting outfielders that even could be trade targets.

I’m sure Seattle would love Giancarlo Stanton, but without gauging the organization’s talent base no team is well-equipped to pry Stanton from the Miami Marlins right now. After that, there’s a drop-off in talent and an increase in risk as well as cost.

There are some ideas, however, I’m just not sure how likely any of them are. Michael Cuddyer and Matt Holliday come to mind. Neither seems very likely to go anywhere, particularly Holliday with the Cardinals having lost Carlos Beltran to free agency and adding glove-first centerfielder Peter Bourjos.

I mentioned Carlos Gomez in October, but it seems highly unlikely he’ll be moved after the Milwaukee Brewers dealt Norichika Aoki to Kansas City earlier this month. Can’t imagine the Baltimore Orioles are looking to part with Adam Jones just yet, nor is it likely the Cleveland Indians move Nick Swisher, a switch hitter.

I also mentioned B.J. Upton earlier this offseason, but that does indeed appear to be too big a risk, considering the money owed to him and the slim-to-zero chance the Atlanta Braves are willing to cover enough of the remaining salary.

Tampa Bay’s Desmond Jennings is a nice fit; he can play center field, will not be arbitration eligible until after 2014 and is a right-handed hitter with a good track record versus left-handed pitching. Problem is the Rays value those things, too. Surprised?

I did dig up some smaller, part-time type pieces that if used properly by skipper Lloyd McClendon, could be legit targets.

Drew Stubbs
Stubbs may be available to some extent with the Indians having Bourn, Swisher and Michael Brantley in the fold, and having acquired David Murphy via free agency. The club also employs Ryan Raburn, who had a great year in 2013 and bats right-handed like Stubbs.

Brantley can spell Bourn in center, so Stubbs isn’t necessary there, and he’s due a raise via arbitration. He earned $2.825 million in 2013. Cleveland’s motivation for moving Stubbs could be partly financial, too. Paying a fourth or fifth outfielder upwards of $4 million when you have two others like that on the roster — one lefty, one righty — seems ridiculous, especially for a frugal club like the Indians.

The price for Stubbs? Can’t imagine it’s very high, though if he’s available to some level there are certain to be more than one team interested.

Stubbs can go get it in center field and batted .266/.361/.357 versus lefties a year ago. Overall, he strikes out a ton and doesn’t hit for enough power to even begin to make up for a career .310 on-base percentage, but as a part-time player can be valuable.

Alex Rios
Rios was acquired by the Rangers in August for a song, so perhaps another song is enough to acquire him from them with one year and $13.5 million, $1 million buyout included.

The Rangers are out looking for a bat and have been mentioned in the Choo rumors all offseason. Perhaps shaving off Rios’ salary makes the investment in Choo easier to push through.

Texas may prefer not to become so left-handed in their lineup — they traded Ian Kinsler for Prince Fielder last month and Kinsler’s replacement at second base, Jurickson Profar, is a switch hitter who is a bit better from the left side.

They did acquire Michael Choice, a right-handed hitter, from the Oakland Athletics, though he’s still a prospect and may or may not be ready for an everyday gig early in 2013.

Rios, while a not a center fielder, really, is a solid corner outfielder who can run and provide decent production somewhere in the No. 5 or 6 hole. His numbers have come in hitter’s ballparks, so that’s something to consider, too. He also comes with no long-term commitment.

Chris Denorfia
Denorfia has been mentioned quite a bit because he can defend, hits well versus left-handed pitching and is set to earn a paltry $2.25 million in 2014. The San Diego Padres aren’t going to give him away, but barring another multi-year extension of sorts, they’re likely to try to get something of value for him by July 31.

Whether or not they are inclined to listen on him now is unclear. As a platoon partner for Ackley and/or Saunders in a corner, however, he’s a good idea.

Some have asked me about switch hitter Chase Headley, but he’s really a third baseman. He last played the outfield in 2009 and wasn’t very good. Furthermore, the price will be for Headley, third baseman, which costs more in trade, and he’s a free agent after the season.

Another idea tossed at me is Alfonso Soriano, who appears to have gone from terrible outfielder to passable, but he’s a low-OBP guy and while the trade cost may be minuscule, he’s set to earn $19 million in 2014. The Yankees received $14 million in cash to cover Soriano’s ’14 salary, but the Yankees aren’t required to transfer any portion of that in a future trade. Plus, Soriano has a full no-trade clause, which probably kills the idea altogether… not that it’s a good one, anyway.

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Jason A. Churchill

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