Seattle Mariners Acquire Seth Smith, Are Complete


Seth Smith has long been an underrated outfielder. He made his major league debut with Colorado in 2007 and has been a big leaguer ever since, offering above-average offense every year except 2010, when he still came close. He was good with Oakland in 2012 and 2013, and had a big year for the Padres in 2014. Here’s to hoping he keeps it up in 2015, since the Seattle Mariners just acquired him.

More from Seattle Mariners

Michael Saunders, it seems, has now been replaced in full. Smith and Justin Ruggiano are the new right fielders, and as a platoon they’ve got a chance to be really successful. Having two good hitters in a platoon takes a lot of the pressure off the team if Dustin Ackley or Austin Jackson can’t get it going. Which was the Mariners’ biggest need.

So who is Seth Smith, and why have you never heard of him? It’s because of his generic, forgettable name, and the fact that he’s played in small/easily ignored markets for his entire career. It’s also because he’s not a star, despite his offensive abilities. He’s at 10.3 WAR over his 2800-PA career, and last year’s 2.6 was only his second season worth two or more wins. But make no mistake, he’s got a lot to offer.

Damage against righty pitchers, mostly. Smith is a monster against righty pitchers, with a career slash of .277/.358/.481 and a 123 wRC+. He was a tick better than that last year, and was even able to post similar numbers in his 66 plate appearances against lefties. Which is a big deal, because over his career Smith’s hit lefties about as well as Matt Dominguez has hit everyone. Which is to say, he hasn’t hit them. At all.

Sep 21, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres left fielder Seth Smith (12) catches a fly ball during the fourth inning against the San Francisco Giants at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Smith’s offense is defined by power and patience, both areas at which he is above average. He’s got a nice career walk rate, one which he bested with 2014’s 13.2%. His ISO of .174 in 2014 was quite good, but lags behind his .188 career mark. Of course, that number is likely a result of some wild years at Coors Field, where power numbers go to lose sight of the ground. Regardless, he’s always been a power hitter who will take a walk. He even keeps the strikeouts under control to boot.

In exchange for an outfielder who could give the team 140 starts next year, the Mariners are sending Brandon Maurer to San Diego. Maurer, who briefly was mentioned as the should-be fourth head of the three-headed Danny HultzenTaijuan WalkerJames Paxton monster, was on pace to be best remembered as a terribly dissappointing starting pitcher. Until he became a dominant reliever, that is.

Maurer’s seond half emergence was fun as hell to watch, as he returned to the bigs throwing harder and striking out the world. His homer problems went away and he stopped walking anyone. He went from a six-something ERA starter to one of the best, most powerful arms in a bullpen full of best, most powerful arms.

But that’s the thing – the Mariners had Maurer, and then they had six or seven other Maurers. This Maurer was the one San Diego wanted, and it’s also the same one who’s had a wildly up and down career to date. There’s no telling if Maurer will be able to sustain his apparent gains from last summer. He could, but if he does, it’s not the end of the world. Like I said, the Mariners have a lot of this type of reliever right now. Gotta cash one of them in.

Seattle dealt from an area of depth and strength to add a piece they really, really needed. San Diego dealt from an area of depth, too, and got a nifty reliever who many think should be given another rotation chance. There’s probably not room for him in SD’s starting group, but maybe there is. What’s important is that the Mariners have a new starting outfielder with pop who isn’t afraid to draw a walk. What’s important is that the Mariners, if they want to be, are done.

Sure, the M’s could add a backup first baseman if they wanted to, but that’s why Jesus Montero is still hanging around. Or Nelson Cruz, for all I care. Why not? Or why not Smith, while we’re at it? They could add a reliever, but so could any team, at any time. They could sign Max Scherzer, but they won’t. Jesus Sucre isn’t the world’s best backup, but he’s certainly a fine backup. There’s no more obvious adding for the Mariners to do.

Armed with four outfielders, the Mariners may yet be interested in finding a fifth. James Jones shouldn’t be as high as he is on the depth chart, yet look at the way things stand. It’s grim. Outfield depth is still important for the M’s, but if they’re okay with what they have then I’m pretty sure I am too. This team looks complete. This team looks good.

The Mariners can keep getting better if they’re up for it, but they don’t have to keep getting better, because they’re already good. They have no holes and an ever-improving offense. They’ve filled out their roster and still have Paxton, Walker, Chris Taylor, and Brad Miller. Jack Zduriencik may have given Michael Saunders away during a hissy-fit, but otherwise his offseason has been quite impressive.

Welcome to Seattle, Seth Smith. Thanks for the awesome second half, Brandon Maurer. The Mariners were good when you woke up this morning. They’re even better now. 2015 can’t come soon enough.