Mariners pack off Austin Jackson and Justin Ruggiano for something

Before the Astros game (the Mariners lost 8-3), the M’s announced they’d traded Austin Jackson to the Cubs for a player to be named later and a cash slot in the $211,000 in international slot money.  After the game the team announced they traded minor-league outfielder Justin Ruggiano to the Dodgers for a player to be named later.

With the disappointing season winding down, and Monday being the deadline for waiver-wire deals, I’m not surprised. The M’s aren’t going anywhere this year and neither of these players seem to fit into their plans.

Jackson is a free-agent and was likely to walk at the end of the year. His performance after his acquisition at the 2014 trade deadline was lousy, and it took a while for him to kick into form during the 2015 season. Still, his .272/.312/.387 slash line is a maybe a tick under league average.  It looks like infielder Brad Miller will replace him in the outfield.

Justin Ruggiano was acquired during the off-season to be a platoon partner with Seth Smith in right field.  When Nelson Cruz took up residence out in there, Ruggiano didn’t really have a role. And I think he let manager Lloyd McClendon hear about it. I believe that Lloyd, like Lou Piniella, has a dog house, and when players get in it, it’s tough to get out. Ruggiano was DFA’d, and ended up in Tacoma, where he had a decent season in the PCL.

So the Mariners parted ways with two of their scarcest resources-serviceable major league outfielders.  Though Jackson and Ruggiano are not stars, and their trades will not shift the major league landscape, they do leave a hole in the Mariners’ collection of outfielders. Particularly at center field, the M’s are truly unprepared.  I know they want to see if Miller can roam the green pastures at Safeco, especially now that Ketel Marte seems to have a hold at shortstop.  But if Miller was a centerfielder, why wasn’t he playing there his entire career?  It’s a demanding position requiring athleticism and instincts.  Though Miller may have the former, it’s not clear at all he has the latter.

Though I’m not shocked at the trades, or necessarily disappointed by the return, we don’t know what that is yet, I am worried the Mariners continued practice of putting players in the outfield where they don’t belong. Nelson Cruz should not be an every day right fielder.  He’s another athletic guy who seems to lack instincts, and that makes him a less than league average outfielder.  Mark Trumbo should be nowhere near an outfield; he’s a natural, er, DH. Miller may turn out to be okay, but the M’s are gambling a key position on a guy who is an untested CF at any level. It should not instill confidence in the fans or the pitching staff.

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