Seattle Mariners Acquire Justin Ruggiano


The Seattle Mariners need an outfielder, unless they need two outfielders. You know what, they could stand to acquire three outfielders, really. The M’s had a big, obvious need, and everyone knew it. Recently there’ve been rumblings that a “hitter” was on the way to Seattle. Turns out there was something to that, and now the Mariners have themselves another outfielder.

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Welcome to Seattle, Justin Ruggiano! The Seattle Mariners completed a trade with the Chicago Cubs this morning, sending AA relief prospect Matt Brazis to the north side. On the one hand, Brazis does everything you’d like a young reliever to do, but on the other hand, he’s a reliever and you just heard his name for the first time. Ruggiano wasn’t free, but it kind of feels like he was.

So who is Justin Ruggiano? Why is he here? He’s a 32-year-old right-handed outfielder, and there, that’s why. The M’s didn’t have enough outfielders and they didn’t have enough righties, and Ruggiano helps with these areas of need. His age made him cheap, as did the fact that he’s a platoon guy. Oh yeah, and he’ll be paid around $2.5 million in 2015 via arbitration, making him a potential steal.

Ruggiano is a career .257/.319/.431 hitter, which translates to a 106 wRC+ over 1,249 plate appearances dating back to 2007. He sucks against righties, but mashes lefties as hard as anyone. In 2012 with Miami he was heavily platooned and put up a 146 wRC+. The next year they tried him as more of an everyday guy and he slumped to a 92 wRC+. That’s how he functions, essentially.

If used correctly, he’s an awesome guy to have in your lineup three or four times a week. If used incorrectly, he’s league average or a little worse. He’s past the point of adding much with the glove, so yes, he’s a bat-first platoon player. But he’s not Willie Bloomquist, and actually can be counted on to do some hitting. Both points in his favor, of course.

Ruggiano lives and dies by his BABIP, which is at .323 for his career. But he’s never posted a single-season mark in that neighborhood, aside from a .333 over 15 plate appearances with the Devil Rays. His last four years should paint the picture of a player who’s value is determined by the way his balls in play bounce:

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2012, rather obviously, was Ruggiano’s most productive season, as he racked up 2.6 of his 4.4 career wins above replacement over those 320 plate appearances. But when the BABIP went away, he still came close to being a league-average hitter. Ruggiano’s a good high-floor bench piece to have around, with the potential to be more than that with just a little luck.

Justin Ruggiano isn’t a flashy pickup, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t a good pickup. He gives the Mariners high-quality depth in the areas where they most desperately need it, and his cost was extremely low in both dollars and talent. He’s taking playing time away from the Endy Chavezs of the world, most importantly, and goes a long way towards making the 2015 Mariners better than the 2014 Mariners. Which is kind of the whole goal.