Drew Stubbs is kind of perfect for the Mariners, albeit not unique

The Mariners have recently been tied to Drew Stubbs as a trade target.

Drew Stubbs isn’t Giancarlo Stanton. He’s not Troy Tulowitzki. He’s probably not even Marlon Byrd. Drew Stubbs isn’t a star, but he’s exactly the kind of acquisition the Mariners need to make.

One of the fallacies of this season, and even past seasons, is that the Mariners need to add a bat from a specific side of the plate. In a perfect world the Mariners would have some balance in both batters boxes.

The Mariners need good hitters, not good right-handed hitters, left-handed hitters, switch-hitters, or whatever. Just good hitters. To this point in the season the Mariners have an 82 wRC+ against lefties as a team, but only a 91 wRC+ against righties. They need those guys to be able to play defense with some level of competence. They need to be cost controlled, either in terms of years of control, or in the price it will cost to pay them, or to acquire them from the team that presently owns their rights.

If the Mariners can pay an affordable price to acquire a younger player who is better than Stubbs, trading for that player makes sense. Only an idiot would tell you that Stubbs is somehow better than Stanton. Rather, the combination of compensation financially and in terms of prospects needed to acquire Stubbs may make him better for the Mariners overall.

The kind of deal it would take to get Stanton or Tulowitzki is the kind of deal that smart teams won’t even consider. The Mariners would likely have to unload so much of their farm system that it compromises the future they’ve been building towards.

Marlon Byrd apparently would require the Mariners to commit to two more years and $16 million more in order to waive his no trade clause. This is hardly a wise move considering the last year of that commitment would be during Byrd’s Age 38 season.

Stubbs on the other hand makes only $4.1 million. He’s been a quality center fielder in his career, and is a quality hitter against lefties, owning a 123 wRC+ against southpaws. He’s arbitration eligible after this season for the last time, and while he’ll be looking at a large raise, the Mariners could also simply non-tender him and owe him nothing more. Stubbs 123 wRC+ bests Byrd’s 113 wRC+ against lefties. Byrd is a better hitter against righties than Stubbs, but the Mariners roster is saturated with outfielders who are roughly average hitters against righties. They’d make a larger marginal gain adding Stubbs and platooning him than starting Byrd every day.

The last time Stubbs was traded, prior to the 2014 season, he cost the Rockies Josh Outman. Outman is fine, but he’s really just a situation lefty with average or worse fastball velocity, and who hasn’t been asked to be a regular pitcher in high-leverage circumstances.

The Mariners have a ton of guys who fit that bill if that’s what the Rockies want to relinquish Stubbs’ rights. However, despite their glut of quality outfielders, the Rockies probably want more for Stubbs than it took to get him there. Stubbs has had good results this year. That doesn’t mean he’s somehow better, and has probably relied on some combination of luck and a favorable home ballpark to yield improved results.

The Rockies are in a position to carry some extra leverage with regards to Stubbs value. The Rockies acquired Stubbs from the Cleveland Indians in the offseason, when teams are frequently facing 40 man roster crunches and looking to salvage any value at all for a player they would probably cut eventually. Stubbs hadn’t performed well in Cleveland, and was – and still is – too old to expect much more talent development from him.

At the 2013 trade deadline the Kansas City Royals traded for Justin Maxwell, a player of similar talent to Stubbs, and gave up Kyle Smith. Smith is a guy with high quality peripherals in what has been a pretty impressive run in the minors so far, but who hasn’t received much ink with regards to top prospect lists, and who doesn’t project to be a guy who can live on stuff alone. The Mariners have pitchers of Smith’s quality in their system. They have a lot of them.

This doesn’t mean that the Mariners and Rockies will agree on a pitcher who meets both of their criteria for a trade candidate. It doesn’t even mean that the Rockies would be looking to trade for a pitcher, obviously. Rather, this means that the cost to acquire a player like Stubbs is a player of value, but not someone who is incredibly uniquely talented. The Mariners could trade from the lower half of their top prospects, potentially at least, to make marginal gains on par with some more high-profile trades.

Stubbs isn’t exactly unique himself, so if the Rockies think he’s worth substantially more than objective metrics indicate, the Mariners should have a lot of other options:

Outfielders who hit lefties

  • Dexter Fowler is 28 years old, making $7.35 million in 2014, and is arbitration eligible following the 2014 season. He’s a switch hitter, but owns a 117 wRC+ against lefties. He’s a pretty crappy defensive center fielder, but seems likely to be able to be at least average in a corner. Fowler, unfortunately, is presently on the disabled list.
  • Rusney Castillo is a Cuban defector who is 27 years old, and who seems to have the ability to hit with some degree of quality, and who should be a quality defender in the outfield and a good baserunner. He’ll cost a lot in terms of long-term dollars, and won’t be the same caliber power hitter that has recently come from Cuba, but could contribute this year.
  • Junior Lake is a 24-year-old nominal center fielder, though he’s pretty awful there statistically, and who has handled left field pretty well. He’s got a 121 wRC+ against lefties, albeit in a brief tenure. He plays for the Cubs, and Theo Epstein is the GM of the Cubs. He’s likely to coax surplus value from any team he trades anyone to.
  • Aaron Hicks is 24 years old, and was once rumored as the central piece of a trade that would have sent Cliff Lee to the Twins from the Mariners. Hicks has largely busted out as a prospect, though he’s recently stopped switch-hitting, and has solid plate discipline numbers and power. He’s got a .178 isolated power against lefties, a 15 percent walk rate, and a 116 wRC+. Advanced fielding metrics don’t love Hicks’ defense in center field, though Inside Edge shows him making a lot of plays in areas that require above average range, meaning Hicks may be unlucky to this point.

Lefties who mash righties:

  • Adam Dunn is old. He’s old and he’s huge. He’s probably not incredible well equipped to play first base often, but he’s really good against right-handed pitching, owning a 135 wRC+ against them this season. He’s making $15 million this year, and the year is almost half over. The value gained from Dunn won’t last past this year, and the White Sox may not be looking to trade him as they’re only five games out of the second wild card spot.
  • The Rays have two guys who fit this bill to some degree: David DeJesus and Matt Joyce. DeJesus is currently on the disabled list, and seems like he’s perennially a candidate to be traded to the Mariners. He owns a career 118 wRC+ against righties. He’s got $6 million in guarantees remaining after 2014 including a buyout on a 2016 option, and is an average defender in the outfield at 34 years old. Joyce is 29 years old, and isn’t a good defender in the outfield, though not as awful as some of the zombies the Mariners have thrown into corner outfield positions in recent years. Joyce is pretty awful against lefties, but owns a career 130 wRC+ against righties. This would make him the third best hitter on the roster against righties behind Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager. Joyce is under team control through 2015, but makes $4.1 million this year and could be due for a raise.