I should come out and say first that I like these moves, though some of my optimism is contingent on Corey Hart‘s ability to play the outfield. The initial reactions around the interwebs suggest that Hart, Logan Morrison, and Justin Smoak will now share LF/1B/DH responsibilities. There’s perhaps a small problem in that neither Hart nor Morrison is a good outfield defender by UZR standards, and neither has played an outfield position since 2012 before sustaining injuries that put each on the DL for extended periods of time.
Since Morrison has been atrocious in left field to the tune of -27 runs in 2,000 innings, it will likely be Hart and his questionable knee in left field to start the season. That said, if Hart can man the outfield for even 130 games, this could be a tactical combination of moves that allows the Mariners to improve in other areas. I feel like these moves foreshadow three potentially important things going forward.
First, that the Mariners may no longer be in on Nelson Cruz, and that is a good thing. Oliver and Steamer agree that Hart should be worth about 2.1 WAR per 145 games. Cruz? Between 1.7 and 2.7 WAR per 145 games, or about 2.2 WAR splitting the difference. Hart and Cruz are likely to play about as many games as each other and be worth about the same on the field. However, Hart requires only a one-year contract at many, many less scrillas than what Cruz is asking for. This is a smart signing if it is indeed in lieu of the sabermetric nightmare known as Nelson Cruz.
The second thing potentially foreshadowed by these moves is the imminent signing of a closer. Trading Carter Capps away opened a spot in the bullpen, and not just any spot. Capps pitched 59 innings last season, and entered games with an average leverage of 1.12, as compared to the league average of 1.00. Capps was less likely than others to step in at closer next year, but roles in the pen may now shift around for a shiny new closer. Depending on the price of the new closer, this could be a bad thing. Don’t get me wrong, getting a young Morrison with three years of control, some patience, and potential at the dish is better than most middle relievers. I just hope the Mariners restock the pen with other cheap arms.
Finally, there isn’t much room for Kendrys Morales anymore, and nobody’s crying about it. That qualifying offer now looks genius, as the Mariners will get to loot the team that does sign Morales, acquiring a compensation pick in 2014.
Cruz and Morales are not bad players, they’re just bad values at the contracts they are asking for. The Mariner filled positions that could have been filled by those two guys with two different guys that cost a lot less. The Mariners got perhaps a little better today, but more importantly, they set themselves up to get a lot better tomorrow (the proverbial tomorrow, like maybe next week).
Update: It sounds like Hart may or may not play in the outfield, and the Mariners are now shopping Justin Smoak. Another reports suggests they have given up on Shin Soo Choo. This all means they could still be in on Cruz. That would make me decidedly less happy, as though I should expect the Mariners to care about my happiness.
I leave you with a look at today’s likely starting position players:
C – Mike Zunino, R
1B – Logan Morrison, L
2B – Robinson Cano, L
3B – Kyle Seager, L
SS – Brad Miller, L
LF – Corey Hart, R
CF – Michael Saunders, L
RF – Dustin Ackley, L
DH – Justin Smoak, S