Once again the real life general managers are making a trade that makes sense for both teams involved. It is not always about winning or losing a trade, but dealing from strength to fix a weakness. After trading away Michael Saunders to Toronto, the Mariners have been looking for another outfielder, preferably one with some pop. Though the Padres have been very busy they have been in pursuit of Brandon Maurer for about a year now:
With the trade of Seth Smith to Seattle, both teams fill a need. The M’s get to platoon Smith in right field with Justin Ruggiano, which will improve an offense that has already added Nelson Cruz this winter. The Padres get some Josh Johnson and Brandon Morrow insurance since Maurer can work as a starter or reliever. Maurer thrived in a relief role in 2014:
The platoon in Seattle will now feature Justin Ruggiano batting against left-handed pitching and Seth Smith versus righties. While this feels like a bit of a fantasy letdown for everyone involved, it may enhance each player’s value. Mariner fans are a bit disappointed giving up on Michael Saunders but he has averaged just 116 games per season over the last three years and played only 78 in 2014. Fantasy owners are teased by his fantastic 2012 season but that may never happen again. I took the luxury of looking at Smith and Ruggiano’s splits in their roles as a possible platoon and compared what their projections look like against last year’s right field production for the Mariners:
While it is an imperfect world, I did take each player’s career numbers to formulate their combined on base percentages and slugging in that chart. It seems hard to believe that two players can fill that gap alone, but after the inconsistency in right field last year, the stability may be welcomed:
Not being satisfied I also took the time to make an overlay with Safeco for each player but I used Smith’s 2014 and Ruggiano’s 2013 season since he missed much of 2014 with leg injuries. It is worth noting that neither lost any home runs due to the overlay but that does not account for the difference in atmoshphere:
Seth Smith 2014 Overlay in Safeco
Justin Ruggiano 2013 Overlay in Safeco
Sometimes you have to be a bit unpopular to make a good baseball decision and while some of Seattle’s decisions of the past can be questioned, I think this one makes sense. Smith and Ruggiano could be a very good platoon in right field. Now the Mariners must address a backup first baseman unless one of the above is going to learn the position. Also, the Mariners still have the opportunity to deal one of their young shortstops (Brad Miller or Chris Taylor) as the signing of Asdrubel Cabrera to Tampa Bay signals they are going to move either Ben Zobrist or Yunel Escobar. Timing is everything.
On the San Diego side, acquiring Maurer is an insurance policy with rotational upside. If you believe in Brandon Morrow or Josh Johnson making it through the season healthy, then Maurer will be another live arm in the bullpen along with newly acquired Shawn Kelley. But based on the tweets above, the Padres may see Maurer as more than a relief pitcher. While his career numbers have been a bit erratic, he really made a jump as a reliever. Using Baseball-Reference.com’s splits, I copied his numbers as a starter against those he recorded while pitching in relief:
If Maurer can continue to throw strikes as a starting pitcher after experiencing a big jump in his K/9 and K/BB as a reliever, then the Padres have something. Here are Maurer’s velocities last year with seven games as a starter and 31 in relief:
As Eno Sarris points out in this tweet, one of the reason that the Padres were drawn to Maurer is his curveball:
If Maurer’s curveball effectiveness can catch up to his changeup, then he can certainly make the jump to the Padres rotation with success. Much will depend upon his spring and what happens with the Padres as they continue to evolve under the leadership of their new GM.
Statistical credits: Baseball-Reference.com, Fangraphs.com, BrooksBaseball.net
Photo cred: http://goo.gl/zZG7js (Smith), http://goo.gl/b6NKk7 (Maurer)
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Greg Jewett is The Sports Script’s senior fantasy baseball writer. Follow him on Twitter @gjewett9!