With today’s Mariners trade for Robert Andino there has come a lot of cynicism about this being a lackluster move, or a trade of a guy with potential for a guy that has a little to no more present day value.
Those are valid criticisms. It wasn’t a dynamic move. The Mariners traded a backup for a backup. Andino is a glove-only infielder that is insurance for Brendan Ryan, and can give Dustin Ackley or Kyle Seager a day off, but isn’t a great option in platoon either.
It wasn’t a Josh Hamilton signing. It wasn’t a Justin Upton trade. It wasn’t a Mike Zunino promotion. This move isn’t the difference between the Mariners winning 75 and 95 games. It’s not the difference between them signing or not signing Josh Hamilton. It’s not the difference between them “getting some fucking RBIs,” either. It doesn’t fall under the umbrella of any traditional mantra. Rather, the Mariners augmented their depth. They’ve got backup outfielders crawling out of their figurative asses. They’ve got significantly fewer solid defensive middle infielders crawling out of their asses.
Right now we can assume that Franklin Gutierrez and Michael Saunders have starting outfield spots sewn up. It’s also likely that Casper Wells—who can play all outfield positions, better than Robinson I might add, and DH against lefties—will have either a starting spot, or a fourth spot if the team adds a starter through free agency or trade.
Wells by the way, is a very good defender, and about a league average hitter. In his 656 career plate appearances he’s been worth 4.1 WAR. For some contrast, in Kyle Seager’s 651 plate appearances last year (he was the best position player overall on the team) he accrued only 3.6 WAR.
In Wells time in Seattle this is how he’s fared compared to Robinson:
What the team is left with is Mike Carp, Eric Thames, and Carlos Peguero. None of those options are particularly pallatable, but Robinson isn’t distinctly better, or significantly younger than any of those guys.
So that’s the truth. Robinson has major contact issues, contact issues that are likely to limit his career’s potential, and a lot of guys that are functionally equal to him, though they produce in different ways.
And while a lot has been made about the implications of the fences moving in, one of the less spoken elements is the reduced pressure it puts on the outfield defense. That’s not to say that Eric Thames suddenly becomes an ideal right fielder. He’s a shitty fielder. He’s not a less shitty fielder than he was before they move in the fences, but the uniqueness of the defensive ability needed to play the outfield at Safeco has reduced. That doesn’t hurt Robinson, who is an averagish fielder. But it doesn’t help him.
The Mariners traded depth for a thin position. Not only did they trade depth, but they traded depth that they probably would have cut for nothing. They didn’t trade Trayvon Robinson for Robert Andino. They traded the opportunity to DFA Robinson with the hope he wouldn’t get claimed, and then accept a minor league assignment with the team instead of electing free agency for Robert Andino.