Things got this bad for the Mariners by midweek: They were hitting .239 and slugging .393 as a team. Nelson Cruz may be having a stellar season thus far but he’s the only Mariner regular with an on base percentage reaching toward .400. In fact, he looks more like Robinson Cano, their big free agency signing of over a year ago, than Robinson Cano does these days.
Seven of their top twelve WAR men were at 1.0 or lower. None of the starting rotation not named Felix Hernandez had ERAs under 3.70. Alleged closer Fernando Rodney may have fourteen saves but he also had a hideous 6.85 ERA with a 4.95 FIP, meaning the back of the pen is wasting a stellar effort. (Carson Smith, Charlie Furbursh, and Mark Lowe: ERA under 1.30; FIP under 3.00.)
Presumably in first things first mode, the Mariners swung a deal to bring Mark Trumbo over from Arizona, where the Diamondbacks needed to clear up a bit of a logjam and solve an acute catching problem reasonably enough.
So Trumbo, the former Angel, heads to Seattle, where the Mariners hope his righthanded power serves them well enough while, among other things, they sent catcher Welington Castillo (whom they landed from the Cubs a fortnight earlier but found stuck behind Mike Zunino) and minor league outfielder Gabby Guerrero (nephew of future Hall of Famer Vladimir) to the Diamondbacks.
The questions around the deal only begin with whether general manager Jack Zduriencik is on the hot seat and, possibly facing the end of his job at season’s end, making a bid to go down swinging. They continue with whether the Mariners are really getting value in a power bat that also carries a lifetime on base percentage equal to the Mariners’ team OBP this season: .298.
Trumbo can thump but the question is whether the Mariners can afford the imbalance between his home runs and his prodigious outs. Some say the Diamondbacks gave up too much to get the prospects they’re getting in the deal; others say they’ve fleeced the Mariners in broad daylight.
CBS Sports’s Dayn Perry isolates the key issue: Chase Field in Arizona tends to inflate home run numbers by 5 percent, but Safeco Field in Seattle tends to deflate them by 3 percent, Cruz notwithstanding. Trumbo may average 32 home runs per 162 games played through this point in his career, but if it’s the lone skill that makes him able to play major league baseball Seattle is going to put him in a partial straitjacket that hurts more than helps the Mariners.
More to the point, pity center fielder Austin Jackson, who’s going to be regularly flanked by any two of Trumbo, Seth Smith, and Nelson Cruz—pronounced defensive liabilities, all. That would be a poor alignment in any venue, let alone Safeco and its spacious gaps.
In terms of WAR, which does a solid job of capturing total value, Trumbo figures to add less than a win above replacement over the rest of 2015. Once the full complement of baseball skills are accounted for, Trumbo profiles as a below-average performer in Seattle.
Those, of course, were among the reasons the Angels considered a 34 bomb, 100 steak hitter—which is exactly what Trumbo was for them in 2013, his final of three full seasons in Anaheim—expendable. The Angels unloaded Trumbo in December 2013 in a three-team swap that brought the Angels better than useful bullpen help in Hector Santiago (from the White Sox) and Tyler Skaggs (from the Diamondbacks).
Trumbo was a trade rumour subject for two weeks before the Mariners pulled the proverbial trigger on him. If Guerrero develops and the other pieces of the deal (including relief pitcher Dom Leone, who isn’t looking good these days, and minor leaguer Jack Reinheimer) prove to be better than useful Diamondbacks, the Mariners’ power-hitting-happy GM may have to answer questions as to how and why he let the Diamondbacks get away with murder.
“It’s an amazing run of ineptitude, this desire to acquire home runs instead of baseball players,” says ESPN’s David Schoenfeld, analyzing Zduriencik’s Seattle tenure. “Amazing” may be nothing but a polite way to phrase it. Makes you wonder how King Felix managed to sneak into the Mariners’ creaky ship.
But will Guerrero develop to the Diamondbacks’ liking, too? Schoenfeld has his doubts:
Gabriel Guerrero is the interesting name here. He’s a 21-year-old outfielder in Double-A, Vlad’s nephew, and he looks like Vlad. Unfortunately, he also swings at everything like Vlad, but lacks the same freakish bat-to-ball ability. Like all Mariners prospects he has a terrible strikeout-to-walk ratio (48-12) and he’s hitting .215/.262/.305 with two home runs. He did hit .307 with 18 home runs last year in the California League. That’s nothing all that special in that league but he is young and has tools scouts like. I have my doubts he’ll ever make it but sometimes you win a lottery ticket and its a worthwhile gamble for Stewart. Reinheimer is a Double-A infielder with some potential, no power, maybe a utility infielder type.
Snakes GM Dave Stewart didn’t really want to deal Trumbo, but he did need catching help and, like the aforementioned scouts, he probably likes Guerrero’s tools. The question becomes whether the tools prove to be useful or harmful in the long run, too. Maybe it’s going to shake out that the Mariners and the Diamondbacks outsmarted each other and themselves while they were at it.