A Look At Colby Rasmus, The Free Agent Outfielder Nobody’s Talking About


The Seattle Mariners, we’re told, are looking not-literally-but-almost everywhere in their search for an outfielder not named Michael Saunders. They’ve scoured the free agent market. They’ve considered their internal options. They’re looking at potential trades for long-term pieces and rentals alike. They’ve been tied to most every name on the market.

Except for one, perhaps. Colby Rasmus is 28 years old. He has a pair of four-plus win seasons under his belt, one with the Cardinals and one with the Blue Jays. A year ago it looked like he was going to be the class of this market, but a down year has turned him into a potential bargain. Oh, and he plays center field.

Despite all this, have you heard him mentioned in connection to the Mariners even once this offseason? He’s effectively been some kind of invisible man, despite being the best available outfielder on the free market. Maybe he seems an unlikely fit, based on the lack of conversation alone. But let’s look a little deeper.

Any discussion of Colby Rasmus, Free Agent centers around his two most recent big league campaigns. In 2014 he was hardly above replacement level, slashing .225/.287/.448 for a 103 wRC+ paired with defense that the metrics found to be below-average. He missed time, and only made it into 104 games. The total package was worth 0.6 WAR.

But then there’s his 2013. Rasmus hit .276/.338/.501, good for a 129 wRC+ to pair with fantastic defense. That Rasmus was a 4.8 win player and the true highlight of a disappointing Blue Jays team. But now that he’s put a stinker of a season in between his breakout and the present day, it’s hard to know what to make of 2013.

So let’s go deeper yet. Rasmus’s story really starts with a 4 WAR 2010 in St. Louis. He split the next two seasons between the AL and NL, sucking in both and totalling 0.5 WAR. The next year his power prowess maintained while his on-base ability kept slipping, and he ended up with a career high in homers and a career low in total offensive output. A decent year with the glove netted him 1 WAR.

That’s star-level upside, soured by serious inconsistency. He’s had two complete seasons in which he was a young star at a premium position, but he’s also had three downright lousy seasons, including his most recent. Not exactly a low-risk free agent.

But aren’t all free agents risky? Isn’t Rasmus’s young age a big point in his favor? He could well be entering his best years, and yet the Mariners don’t appear to be so much as sniffing around. Of course, what’s reported isn’t 100% of what happens, and for all I know the team could be hours away from announcing a deal with Rasmus. After all, they do seem to love this type of guy.

Rasmus, you see, hits for power. The Mariners love it when guys hit for power. They love it so, so much. Even during his bad seasons, Rasmus has had a thing for the long ball. He’s strong, and it’s translated into in-game power. His last two ISO numbers were .225 an .223. Even with all his struggles last year, his power didn’t take a hit at all.

On the flip side, he’s left handed. The Mariners may love power, but they’re also desperately and transparently trying to balance their lineup. Another lefty would be the opposite of balance. But isn’t the whole deal with lefty-heavy Mariners teams based around the idea that lefties have an easier time with Safeco Field? Shouldn’t his handedness be a point in his favor, or at least a non-factor?

Plus, the injuries. Michael Saunders was shipped out because of exaggerated concerns about his durability. Odds are high that the Mariners are aware of his hamstring issues and the fact that he’s played in under than 130 games in three of the last four seasons. If the M’s place a premium on a clean bill of health, then Rasmus takes another hit in their eyes.

His age and upside are sure to drive up the cost of a potential contract. But MLBTR’s Jeff Todd only forsees a one-year pact, with the admission that three years wouldn’t be surprising, either. For low eight figures on a one-year deal, Rasmus is almost a no-brainer. He’s not ideal, but nobody is, and he’d be a good fit for the team and the park. Taking him out of center field is likely to boost his defensive numbers, too. He’s got a great chance of being serviceable, and a fine chance of being a total stud.

Colby Rasmus doesn’t come up in conversations about the next Mariners right fielder, which doesn’t make much sense. Despite his warts, he’d be a good fit for a young team that wants to win the World Series this season. He’s a gamble with huge upside and only moderate downside. Forget the handedness and the injuries and focus on the power, Jack. Isn’t that what you like to do? Focus on the power? Focus on the power.