It’s no secret that the Seattle Mariners have been aggressively striving to upgrade their offense during this off-season. The team has been rumored to have interest in every free agent slugger and several hitters under the control of other teams including Justin Upton (Atlanta Braves), Yoenis Cespedes (Boston Red Sox), and Matt Kemp (Los Angeles Dodgers).
After pitchers Taijuan Walker and James Paxton, the players most often mentioned in trade speculation are shortstops Brad Miller and Chris Taylor; the New York Mets and Los Angeles Dodgers are said to be looking for a new shortstop.
On the surface, it may appear that Seattle enjoys a surplus at shortstop and that the team could easily move either Miller or Taylor to upgrade their offense without missing a beat. But, Prospect Insider’s Founder Jason A. Churchill believes that both players equate to one total player at the shortstop position.
I cannot stress the following enough: The Seattle Mariners have ONE shortstop, and their names are Brad Miller and Chris Taylor.
— Jason A. Churchill (@ProspectInsider) December 7, 2014
Jason’s contention can be easily substantiated by analyzing the performance data of both shortstops as a tandem and individually. First, the combined 2.8 fWAR of the left-handed Miller and right-handed Taylor would have ranked sixth among all American League shortstops. Individually, the young shortstops ranked 10th and 11th respectively.
|Leading AL Shortstops
|Erick Aybar (LAA)
|Alcides Escobar (KCR)||3.4|
|J.J Hardy (BAL)||3.4
|Alexei Ramirez (CWS)
|Jose Reyes (TOR)||3.3
|Eduardo Escobar (MIN)||2.3
During the first half of the 2014 season, Miller struggled mightily at the plate. The 25-year-old had a .204 batting average (AVG) and a .272 On Base Percentage (OBP); he did provide some pop with eight home runs (HR).
|Brad Miller 1st Half Stats|
Miller’s season improved during the second half of the season, which coincided with the arrival of the 24-year-old Taylor from AAA-Tacoma in late July when he replaced the injured Willie Bloomquist. After the all-star break, the joint effort of both players delivered respectable offensive production and helped keep the Mariners in postseason contention until the last day of the season.
|Miller/Taylor 2nd Half Stats
Against southpaws, Miller scuffled quite a bit. Taylor provided more balanced numbers against both left-handed and right-handed pitching, although it’s important to note that there’s only a half season’s worth of data available. Similarly, Miller enjoyed better “handedness” success in his first partial season in 2013. Hence, it’s too early to determine what each hitter’s “normal” handedness performance will eventually be.
|Brad Miller vs RHP/LHP|
| vs RHP
| vs LHP
|Chris Taylor vs RHP/LHP|
| vs RHP
| vs LHP
Unless Seattle firmly believes that either Miller or Taylor is the long-term solution at shortstop, there shouldn’t be a rush to trade either player. Their collective effort provides above average value and at a much lower cost than any individual player. Weakening one position in order to strengthen another would be counterproductive.