The M’s came to spring training with the fourth outfielder job up for grabs. The competitors – Mike Morse, Wladimir Balentien, Charlton Jimerson, and Jeremy Reed – have all displayed their various skills and flaws, and right now, it should be pretty apparent to the M’s that none of the four are the right fit. Morse is as much an adventure in the outfield as Ibanez, which isn’t surprising given his minimal experience. Balentien is better served playing every day in Tacoma. Jimerson just isn’t good enough to play a real role on a contender. And Jeremy Reed is left-handed, just like all three of the Mariners starting outfielders.
Really, the M’s fourth OF should be some combination of the following: right-handed (and,
thanks to Safeco, probably a gap hitter, not a power guy), ability to hit LHPs, strong defensively (ability to cover CF a huge plus), solid to plus baserunner, some modicum of plate discipline. The ideal fourth OF for the M’s would have all those skills, but a hodgepodge of most of them would do okay and be better than the internal options. Where would they find such a player at this point?
Well, Reed Johnson just got released by Toronto and is looking for work. Let’s look at the checklist:
1. Right Handed gap hitter?
2. Ability to hit LHPs?
.308/.371/.462 career mark against southpaws.
3. Strong defensively?
Pretty much every metric has him as a very good defensive corner outfielder and average-ish in center.
4. Solid to plus baserunner?
Has some speed, but isn’t a huge asset on the bases. Probably not.
5. Modicum of plate discipline?
Career walk rate of 5.4%, K rate of 18.4%, while most projections have him at 6% and 19% respectively. So no, not so much.
An average projection for Reed Johnson would probably come out to .270/.320/.380 in Safeco, or something along those lines. That’s not a great player, but combined with above average defense and a skillset that fills in the gaps left by the M’s starting outfielders, he’d be an asset.
The M’s repeatedly say they’re serious about winning this year. If that’s true, they should immediately throw Miguel Cairo overboard and replace him with Reed Johnson.