M’s get defensive, trade Smith, pick up Dyson

The Mariners traded outfielder Seth Smith to the Orioles for pitcher Yovani Gallardo.  Later in the day the M’s swapped pitcher Nathan Karns to the Royals for outfielder Jarrod Dyson

Friday, as I was eating my lunch, it came across MLBTraderumors the Mariners traded outfielder Seth Smith to Baltimore for right-handed starter Yovani Gallardo.

It wasn’t until 6:30 or so, after some afternoon libations with my work friends, I learned the M’s traded right-handed pitcher Nate Karns to the Royals for outfielder Jared Dyson.

I’ve been sitting on my take on this trade for about 36hours, and I’m glad I have because I’m sure I would have written something utterly embarrassing.

These trades are strategic in nature.  They cement a commitment to a defense-first outfield the Mariners have lacked for years, since say 2003, when the outfield was Randy Winn, Mike Cameron, and Ichiro Suzuki. For years I’ve suggested the M’s should have a team that fits the park.  With most of the M’s power on the infield anyway with Seager, Cano and Cruz at DH, Seattle can focus on assembling a group of guys who can get on base, put the game in motion and add an extra dimension to the offense.

By contrast, consider the 2013 team.  It featured a 41 year old Raul Ibanez, an oft-injured Michael Saunders, Michael Morse, Jason Bay, Endy Chavez and a sick Franklin Gutierrez. Ugh. An outfield of statues.

When he was hired in Seattle, Jerry Dipoto expressed his commitment to make the Mariners roster more athletic, particularly in the outfield.  He did that in 2016 when he brought in Leonys Martin to play center-field.  In some respects, Martin was his biggest success while betting on a series of bounce-back seasons from the players he acquired. He also traded to the Yankees for Ben Gamel and gave Guillermo Heredia a cup of coffee at the major league level.  All three are first class fly-catchers who can cover a lot of ground and help out the Mariners’ pitching corps.

In the off season Dipoto subtracted Franklin Gutierrez and now Seth Smith. These are two guys I love, and I hear the complaints of Mariners fans who lament the loss of their favorites. But their ability to share a job and cover ground was diminishing.  Guti will hook on as a useful right-handed bat somewhere, and Smith will be more comfortable as a lefty in cozier Camden Yards. But they are no longer in Seattle’s plans.

In their place, Dipoto has added Mitch Haniger and Dyson.  Martin, Dyson, Haniger, Gamel and Heredia replace Aoki, Guti, Smith, the odd migrations of Shawn O’Malley to centerfield. Each one of the five can play center-field, give Martin a day off against tough lefties.

So what does this all mean by the numbers.  It seems to me there are three areas we can take a look at–defense, speed and offense.

Defense

In 2016 the M’s started  Aoki LF,  Martin CF, and the Smith/Guti platoon RF, and I’ll throw Nelson Cruz and his 48 games in right field into the mix as well.. According to DRS and UZR 150 that looks like this

Aoki          -4 DRS         -7.2 UZR 150

Martin      -2 DRS          4.2 UZR 150

Smith (RF) 1 DRS          -6.1 UZR 150  (LF) -8 DRS          -32.8 UZR

Gutierrez   -8 DRS        -19.6 UZR 150

Cruz             -3 DRS        -7.1 UZR 150

These are not inspiring numbers.  I included Smith’s numbers in both left and right because he had significant playing time in both places.  Others also had playing time in the 2016 outfield, but by far these are the guys who played the most time.

Jarrod Dyson adds this from 2016

LF  5 DRS  29 UZR 150  CF  9 DRS  19.6 UZR 150  RF 5 DRS 35.5 UZR 150

Gamel, Heredia, and Haniger can’t be rated fairly because they simply don’t have enough time at the major league level to be scored accurately according to these rating methods.

Speed

All five outfielders had the speed the Mariners line up has been lacking.  That means more steals, more first to thirds, scoring from second on a single or an error, and more things for opposing pitchers to think about when the M’s have runners on the basepaths. Here are some important numbers to think about.

  • The 2016 Mariners had a total of 56 stolen bases.  They were caught 28 times
  • The outfield combined for 33 stolen bases
  • 24 of those stolen bases belonged to Martin.
  • Dyson had 30 stolen bases in 107 games
  • Gamel stole bases in double figures each year in professional baseball including 19 at AAA Columbus in 2016.
  • In his only year of American baseball Heredia combined for 10 stolen bases at three levels of minor league ball and 45 games with the big club.
  • Haniger stole 12 bases each in 2015 and 2016 at three different levels of ball, including the major leagues.

The Mariners have regularly struggled with adding this dimension to their offense.  With the trade for Jean Segura and they outfield shake-up,they should seem less station to station, or dependent on home runs to score.

Offense

The M’s traded away a fair amount of thunder with the departure of Smith and Gutierrez. Though their batting averages were down, they did get on base and balls did leave the ballpark.  Though he is certain to get some games in right field, it seems the role of Cruz is likely to diminish, maybe from last year’s 48 games to 30 or fewer. Here is what the Aoki, Martin, Smith/Guti and Cruz crew leave on the table:

Aoki          .283/.349/.388  4 HRs  104 OPS+  9.6% K rate

Martin      .247/.306/.378  15 HRs  88 OPS+  25.9% K rate

Smith        .249/.342/.415  16 HRs  108 OPS+ 20.3% K rate

Gutierrez  .246/.329/.452  14 HRs  112 OPS+  30% K rate

Cruz (as RF) .247/.343/.466  10 HRs 112 OPS+  26.9% K rate

That’s a load of homers, respectable offense and a loootttt of strikeouts that left the Mariners outfield

Again not sure how to project Gamel and Heredia for the season, but it’s likely there is much less than you see above.  But this is Dyson:

Dyson            .270/.340/.388  1 HR  94 OPS+  11.6% K rate

Steamer projects Haniger with a fairly complete season that looks like this.

Haniger        .249/.314/.415 15 HRs  wRC+ 99

There is little question the new Mariners outfield will add to run prevention and provide some additional team speed.  There is also little question the M’s will leave some offensive production on the table, at least the easily countable production we’ve come to expect.

Now it’s time to do something about that pitching.

 

 

 

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