When the Mariners traded Logan Morrison to the Rays for Nate Karns in the opening shots of what would be busiest Hot Stove season in Mariner history, it was an acknowledgment the M’s situation at first base was far from optimal. General manager Jerry DiPoto confirmed that when he traded away Mark Trumbo, another first base candidate
It’s been a long time since the M’s have had a solid first base candidate. Maybe 2009, when the M’s had a full year of a quality Russell Branyan. Justin Smoak was a disappointment and eventually run out of town. Morrison was engaging on Twitter, but never more than, meh, at the plate. DiPoto dug up a hole at first and had to fill it.
The M’s avoided the gargantuan free agent contract dangled by Chris Davis and opted instead for the trade route, and on December 9th traded for Adam Lind. Seattle sent minor leaguers Carlos Herrera, Freddy Peralta, and Daniel Missaki to Milwaukee for one year of Lind, who will make $8 million in 2016.
The players sent to Milwaukee were all quite young, under 20 years old. Of the three, only Peralta has a current assignment in the United States. The 19 year old right-hander is currently pitching for the Wisconsin (Appleton) Timber Rattlers, A ball. Hard to know what happens to the others. Difficult to know if Peralta will turn in to anything special. But Milwaukee, in a semi-rebuilding mode, was happy to part with Lind and his salary.
In picking up Lind, Dipoto acquired a righty-masher. Lind carries a career .290/.350/.502 slash with 147 home runs against right handed pitching. Against lefties it’s only .214/.263/.329 with 22 home runs. Three quarters of Lind’s career at bats are against right-handed pitching, so, coming to the Mariners, he was comfortable in the knowledge he would be hitting in a platoon. The M’s did due diligence in their search for a right-handed platoon partner, settling on Japan League star Dae-Ho Lee to partner with Lind.
Of all Dipoto’s off season moves, Lind’s performance has provided the least satisfying results to date. At the plate, the big Hoosier has slashed a meager .221/.252/.327. That’s good for an OPS+ of 64, wRC+ of 57. 100 is average for both. He has only thee home runs and 12 RBI’s in 113 plate appearances. Lee has six home runs and 12 RBI’s in only 69 plate appearances. Lind’s K rate is a career high 24.4%, and his walk rate is about half his career average. In the last week, he’s slashed a slight .176/.263/.353. Combined with being a below average defensive first baseman, Adam Lind grades out at -.8 WAR according to FanGraphs. Because first base is considered a premium offensive position, Lind suffers penalties in these evaluations.
So what’s the deal? Lind isn’t traditionally a slow starter. He doesn’t have a history of terrible Aprils and Mays. It also isn’t like he hasn’t contributed to the Mariners success. He had four RBI’s in a 9-7 loss to the Angels on May 14th, a game the M’s should have won, except for a rare bullpen meltdown. His home run in Baltimore won the final game in that series on May 19th. However, there is no arguing the fact that Lind is not producing consistently, or at a rate Dipoto envisioned when he acquired him.
It’s still early, and I certainly hope Adam Lind is able to turn things around more in line with his career averages. Because Mariners offensive production is so well distributed, not having Lind’s full contribution isn’t killing the team. But if this performance continues, pressure will mount to give Lee more playing time against right-handed pitching too. Could it be worse?