One of these days the city of Seattle will wake up, go through the motions of a day, and go back to bed without once hearing of a new Jerry Dipoto trade. Yesterday wasn’t that day, and today isn’t, either. As usual, the Seattle Mariners have swung a trade. Two trades, actually. And now they’re better than they were 24 hours ago.
Let’s tackle these chronologically. Last night the Mariners agreed to a deal with the division rival Oakland Athletics to acquire right-handed relief pitcher Evan Scribner. Look, another intra-division trade in the AL West! This division can’t get enough of itself. And Jerry can’t get enough of bullpen turnover.
What’s an Evan Scribner, you ask? Scribner is a 30-year-old arm who’s been pitching at the game’s highest level since 2011. He spent that season with San Diego, and has been in Oakland ever since. He’s got a career 4.21 ERA/4.01 FIP. Sounds pretty non-descript, right? Right, until you look a little further and realize just how interesting he is.
For his career Scribner has generated 8.17 K/9 and 1.65 BB/9. That’s an utterly fantastic ratio, and it’s only gotten better in recent years. From a strikeouts and walks standpoint, 2015 was Scribner’s best season, as he struck out 9.60 per nine and allowed only 0.60 walks per nine. Those are unbelievable numbers! Yet Scribner finished 2015 with negative WAR and a 4.35 ERA/4.33 FIP. His results were middling and his peripheral-based output – which included that incredible K/BB and exactly one other thing – was equally poor. So what gives?
Home runs, of course. So, so many home runs. Scribner’s HR/FB in 2015 checked in at a cool 22.6% – more than double the league average, yet also an upgrade over the unreal 25% he allowed in 2014. You want to know how to completely nullify the advantage of an elite K/BB ratio? Allow a quarter of your fly balls against to leave the yard. A very uncommon and confusing path to replacement level, but a path to replacement level nonetheless.
The appeal here is obvious: fix the home run problem and Scribner looks like a bullpen ace. The solution to this problem, however, is far from obvious. Normally you’d be encouraged by the move to a spacious stadium like Safeco Field, yet Scribner’s coming from similarly pitcher-friendly Oakland. You could assume that the problem is just the result of random variance, and that it can be ignored until it goes away. Yet this has plagued Scribner for two years now. It’s now a recurring thing.
In exchange for Scribner’s appealing upside, the Mariners gave up Trey Cochran-Gill. Who? Gill is a reliever who’s about to turn 23. He dominated the low minors, but struggled immensely in AA last year. This is the first time you’ve heard of him. And that’s just another reason to like this deal for Seattle. The re-shaping of the bullpen continues, and this latest addition comes for what amounts to a song.
Jun 18, 2015; Oakland, CA, USA; Oakland Athletics relief pitcher Evan Scribner (58) pitches the ball against the San Diego Padres during the ninth inning at O.co Coliseum. The San Diego Padres defeated the Oakland Athletics 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports
This morning news broke that the Mariners and Brewers had completed a trade sending Adam Lind to Seattle. With this move it’s probably safe to assume that the M’s lineup is mostly set. First base wasn’t always a hole, but then Jerry dumped both his incumbent options and gave himself a problem to solve. And now he’s solved it in form of a significant upgrade.
Once a glaring problem with no imminent solution, Lind is now three years deep in what’s been quite the career resurgence. His last three seasons he’s posted wRC+ figures of 132, 142, and 119. While his offense dropped off some last year, he was still more than serviceable and made up for it in part by coming to the plate more times than he had in any single season since 2010. Lind was worth 2.2 WAR last year – more than twice as valuable as Mark Trumbo and Logan Morrison combined.
Lind is the obvious starting first baseman, but he also comes with some well-documented struggles against same-handed pitchers. He’s significantly better against righties than lefties, which has led to plenty of speculation that the Mariners might be best served trying to find him a platoon partner. They could always opt to use this as an opportunity to give Jesus Montero some big league at-bats, or they could go out and grab someone else for part-time duty. Or they could just let Lind take his hacks, as the Brewers so often opted to do a year ago.
Given that Lind is only signed through 2016, this shouldn’t be seen as anything more than a stopgap commitment. He’ll make $8 million this year, so he’s not really breaking the bank, either. And the cost of acquisition was three low-level righties: Carlos Herrera, Freddy Peralta, and Daniel Missaki. Again, not names any of us have (or ever will, given that they’re gone) grown attached to.
The price was right, the hole was glaring, and the Mariners are now a better team. Concerns about the drop off in offense after the trades of Trumbo and Brad Miller are now pleasantly alleviated. The M’s lineup is back to looking like a borderline strength, which is still just so strange and unusual. The last Mariners first baseman to be worth more than two wins in a season was Russell Branyan in 2009. Before that it’s a pair of Richie Sexson seasons. Things have been historically, horribly bleak at first for the M’s for a long time. And now they’re not.
Jerry Dipoto is keeping busy, but not just for the sake of being busy. The trades for Evan Scribner and Adam Lind are clear wins for Seattle, and should help to remind us that there’s more to the M’s GM than just a madman addicted to the thrill of trades and instilled with a deep hatred of the team’s recent relief arms. Not to say that he’s not addicted to the thrill of trades, just that they’re not always centered around bullpen exodus. Just most of the time, is all.
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