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

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.

16 Comments

  1. If I were the m’s, I’d be talking to the Padres about extra OFers.

    Jason mentioned Chris Denorfia. They also have Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quentin, who are both coming off injury-plagued seasons. Both Will Venable and Denorfia were good filling in for those guys. To that list they just added Seth Smith in a trade from the A’s. Plus, they have Alexi Amarista (who played CF for them quite a bit last year), Kyle Blanks, and a few solid OF prospects in Reymond Fuentes, Rhymer Liriano and Hunter Renfroe.

    Thus, the Padres have five guys who could start for most team (if healthy) in Maybin, Quentin, Venable, Denorfia, and Smith, as well as two ML guys with some upside in Fuentes and Blanks. And the Padres need pitching.

    The M’s match up well. Maybin would be an interesting addition, as the Padres will probably give a lot of playing time to Amarista. Maybin is still only 26, and has some upside. If the M’s want to stick with their obsession with “RH power bat” then maybe they could work out something for Quentin, although he would cost more. He’s a great hitter when healthy, and his salaries are very reasonable. The M’s could add him to the glut of OF/DH types they already have. However, he’s a brutal defensive player, and finding playing time with Morrison, Hart, and the rest would be tough. The one guy I really like is Blanks. He’s never really gotten a shot at consistent playing time, but has put up good numbers in the minors. Most likely, he’d be a backup for us, but possibly a good one: he can play 1B and corner OF positions, and hits LHPs well. I’d take a chance on him since the cost would be minimal.

    I’m still hoping that the M’s can snag someone who can really help the club via trade (ideally for Franklin). But adding multiple options to the team is a good plan, especially give the dearth of really good options left in free agency.

    I’m hoping they focus on depth, and increase their chances of getting a diamond in the rough. If they could get Blanks for cheap, resign Guti, plus in house options like Saunders, Ackley, Almonte, and Hart, they’ll probably be in good shape. Guti will either be good or on the DL. And they could further hedge their bets with some good NRIs in addition to players like Julio Morban, James Jones, and Steffen Romero already on the roster. Why not? What do they have to lose?

  2. The D-Backs are pretty right-handed. Trading Parra makes little sense without getting aa LHB back or from elsewhere FIRST.

  3. That’s understandable, but it seems like Parra would be fine in CF as well. I wonder if the M’s/Dbacks would go for an AckleyPollock swap. Seems like Ackley would fill Arizona’s needs well, as would Pollock for the M’s.

  4. Safeco is just more generous to left-handed bats and it is notably less generous to righties. That’s a fact of Mariners life. We need more lefties and less righties. If our lineups were right-handed prevalent we’d have a problem. I get we need some righties to match up with opposing pitching but we should always be stronger from the left hand batters box.
    On Taijuan Walker: “He’s ready. I think we saw that starting around last June, but it was good that he got more innings in Triple-A. It just got to a point where — at least for me — it was tough to hold him back. He was ready for more challenges. That doesn’t mean he’s 100 percent ready to do everything. He’s still learning, and he’s hungry to learn. He’s a tremendous kid, and I think he’s ready to pitch in the major leagues.”
    On James Paxton: “All of a sudden, about the middle of this year, the delivery, the curve ball, the change-up, the fastball command — everything came together. That came from all of his hard work, his continuing to stay at it. He came up and pitched very well in September. He’s still got some things to learn, especially hitters in the league. But with the kind of student he is, there’s never been a doubt in my mind that he would figure it out.” Seattle Mariners pitching coach Rick Waits as interviewed by David Laurila at FanGraphs Read the whole interesting interview here…
    http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/qa-rick-waits-seattle-mariners-pitching-coach/#comment-4270857

  5. I think the M’s need to be patient and not do something stupid. It seems like RH power hitters are insanely overvalued right now. The money being discussed for Cruz is INSANE. And I don’t think Choo is a great fit.

    IMHO, there are two guys who make sense: Matt Kemp and Franklin Gutierrez. Kemp is a risk, but he’s the only real impact hitter on the market who is a good fit. He is also a potential bargain.

    If they can’t work out a good deal for him, the should just bring back Guti, plus look into cheap under the radar options who can be stashed in the upper minors. Guti is great when he’s on the field, and Almonte helps hedge their bets a bit. Alex Castellanos just got DFA’d and would be a decent player to add for depth. Plus, Steffen Romero remains a possible option. Between Ackley, Guti, Saunders, Hart, Almonte, and a few minor additions, they should be at least passible. I’m hoping we see an internal guy come from nowhere and help the team. It would be awesome if someone like Julio Morban, Carlos Peguero, or Julio Morban came from nowhere and earned a role on the team.

    We also have some promising RH bats coming up through the system. Everyone is writing off Montero, but he still is young and has talent. Hopefully he bounces back after a disastrous season. The early reports on DJ Peterson are great. He’s a potential impact bat. It would be awesome if he could develop into a passable option in LF. Austin Wilson is one of the more talented players in the system, and Tyler Marlette had a great year. Plus, most of the high upside players in the lower levels of the system – Gabriel Guerrero, Tyler O’Neil, and Wilton Martinez – are RH hitters.

    Baring a trade for Kemp, I think the M’s should be smart. There just aren’t good options in free agency, and making a desperation move would be short sighted. It’s not ideal, but simply resigning Gutierrez and going with players already on the team – plus a few under the radar additions for depth – could be the best strategy.

  6. Trading Eaton made Pollock untouchable unless they were to acquire another centerfielder. Adding Trumbo gives AZ a lot of RHBs in the middle. Trumbo, Pollock, Goldy, Hill, Ross (eventually, probably not ready for ST, may not be ready until summer), Tui, Prado, Davidson if he makes the team… otherwise I’d suggest Parra could be bait.

  7. I wanted Pollock from the start…but with Trumbo now next to him in left, he’s probably untouchable.

  8. Ideally Seattle needs two more outfielders. But if they only get one, then I want a glove first center fielder to help solidify the outfield defense. Ackley and Saunders work much better in the corner. If we are focusing on right handed bats, then I’d target AJ Pollock or Lorenzo Cain – both who seem expendable on their current teams. Aiming higher would be Jennings or Austin Jackson.

    I’d feel way better about the 2014 team, if we target a good center fielder.

  9. I think that in this ballpark for this club we don’t have to have more right handed hitters. If you can get a right handed hitting outfielder great, but don’t force the issue…

    Signing Nelson Cruz for big dollars would be FORCING THE ISSUE. Right handed power bat or no, look at his Safeco field numbers over the past THREE YEARS:

    86AB, 17 hits, 4RBI, 6BB, 30SO, .198 AVG, .250 OBP, .337 SLG, .587 OPS

    Then you figure in his poor defense, performance enhancing drug suspension, and the fact he is 33 years old. You also lose a draft pick. I just don’t get it…

    I think Hart is going to put up better numbers than Morales did last year, although coming off the injury I am nervous about him playing in the outfield so soon after his injury, but we will see.

    I am fine with bringing Gutierrez back on an incentive bases deal to be a 4th outfielder, but if I was him I would want to get a fresh start somewhere else. The guy has been cursed here in Seattle.

    The team has just too many holes to expect them to fill them all this year. At least now they are picking up pieces that they can build for the future with.

  10. The pressure we seem to be operating under is the ‘Cano clock’–in other words, unless we complete the team immediately, we’re wasting his best years.

    While there’s certainly logic in this, it doesn’t mean we need to make all moves THIS year.
    I would be shocked if teams weren’t begging to take Ackley and Franklin and Saunders and Smoak off his hands…at highly discounted prices. Jack knows the history as well as we do on Ortiz and Choo and Asdrubel, etc.
    People can make a good case for saying Smoak has had enough time–but remember his career ABs are divided between both batter’s boxes. I don’t know if that makes a difference, or not…but his OBP last year was not horrible. And with both Ackley and Saunders, you saw very encouraging second halves. What if that was a sign that they’ve finally turned the corner? Does Jack really look forward to finding out those answers…with the players wearing someone else’s uniform? Only if he feels confident with what he’s getting back in return.

    All along I’ve wanted a solid defensive center fielder. But maybe there are no outside options left. In that case, I’d be fine with re-signing Guti as a right handed platoon. And even if that fails, I’d be 100% in favor of giving at bats to Almonte all year long instead of giving them to a stiff like Cruz.

    Finally, I think it’s suicidal not to sign another starter. But it doesn’t have to be a trade for Price. Capuano or Maholm is fine with me–maybe both. We just can’t be put in a repeat of last year where Erasmo’s injury forced us into wishful thinking with Maurer. Hoping on three spots among Walker, Paxton, Erasmo, a FA signing–or maybe two–makes a lot more sense. Let one or two of them falter–we’ll still be OK.

    And of course, bullpen pieces may also be required.

    But I don’t believe everything needs to be fixed this offseason. There’s a realistic chance that at least one of Ackley and Saunders and Almonte proves a valuable commodity this year–and I’d like to find out with them wearing our colors.

  11. I know it is not a RHB. But getting D. Murphy from the Mets shores up on OF position most likely LF. He is available and the Mets are looking for a young controlable SS.

    As to a RHB the Cubs have several young controlable RHB’s. Junior lake, Jorge Soler, Matt Szczur. Ackley to them could be an option to start trade talks and get one of these guys to play RF..

  12. They should resign Guti on an incentivized contract. If he can hit Saunders is adequate in CF, Ackley the same in LF. RF should be Hart’s to lose in spring training. Unless they make a trade and lose Smoak or LoMo one looks like being the DH at this point. If they sign Morales or Cruz who knows how they will all fit in? Almonte could be interesting too. I don’t think the real JZ is finished shopping or dealing yet either.

  13. Thanks for the data comparison. I guess that’s the question what’s the aquisition cost? there is bat upside there and the salary is pretty reasonable.

    Do people really view Ackley as a decent CF? I have heard his arm isn’t great for the position.

    His numbers translate to a much better 2B and if its a new roster I take Ackley at 2nd vs Maybin @ CF, but we don’t need a 2B anymore. Unless Ackley can be a decent CF he almost has less value to us than most other teams. I am not advocating Ackley should be traded straight up for Maybin either. Ackley for Gardner makes sense for both teams… But we would need more than 1 year of Gardner for Ackley.

    I like the Denorfia idea… Would you take him or Maybin?

    Assuming we have Morrison, Smoak and Hart all on the roster then there is your DH, 1B and say 100 odd games as a CO shared between Hart and Morrison. Maybe Willy and Almonte picks up the balance. So we then have 320 games to go between Ackley and Saunders. I think a defensive RH platoon with upside is a need and then you have to make a call if you want to eek out a few more wins do you go get Gardner.

  14. Good point about the leftyness thing hang up. Jennings is good idea but the Rays don’t come out on the wrong end of trades very often. They are always in the position to over charge. I really like Gardner, who can hit lefties ok, lead off, speed, defense in CF, perfect for the Ms. I think the Yanks are being a bit coy, so they can get the better side of a trade. Another lefty who I think would work is Will Venable, who I would guess is available at some reasonable level. Could Gutt possibly, nah. Finally, can Franklin play CF? Put him in coach, he can play – center field.

  15. Cameron Maybin can’t hit. He’s really never shown he can, doesn’t show a lot of signs that he will. He’s 27 in April, he’s injury prone already — played 14 games in 2013 and has just two years of 130 games or more.

    There may be some upside here, still, but he’s basically a right-handed Dustin Ackley with a firmer hold on center field defense.

    If you go further into it, here’s a quick table to illustrate how close the two players are. The numbers are from 2010-2013, so it does not include Maybin’s early years when he was so young that it’s unfair to hold it against him. Ackley made his debut in June, 2011.

    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/pub?key=0AoNgwgYhmCJPdGMtZWNmYWw5WXpMaE1ONVVFLWwzbVE&output=html

    Maybin strikes out a lot, doesn’t hit for much power and while he shows flashes of plus defense, he’s really just about average, perhaps slightly above average. Due to his contract — $5m per year through 2017 including the option — I feel like he’d cost a hell of a lot more than he’s worth.

    I mean, what YOU trade for four years of Ackley?

  16. I would love Jennings, but doubt he is available too. Ay chance Maybin is worth a go? I think we missed a trick not going after Fowler, he would be almost a perfect fit.

    I think Gardner would be perfect, he hits well against Lefties too and would really shore up CF. where do people think Ackley sits as a CF’er? It to me seems crazy, he has so much more value at 2B a team that needs a 2B should be all over Ackley.

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