M’s Acquire Aaron Laffey

Dave · March 2, 2011 at 4:51 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Not satisfied with their current crop of left-handed pitchers whose fastballs average 87 MPH, the Mariners added another one to what the guys at LL call “The Pile” by acquiring Aaron Laffey. The team is certainly taking a quantity approach to stockpiling southpaws, as Laffey joins the likes of Nate Robertson, Garrett Olson, Cesar Jimenez, Luke French, Royce Ring, and Chris Seddon as options for either the fifth spot in the rotation or a job as a left-handed arm out of the bullpen. While his velocity isn’t going to impress, Laffey does offer a couple of skills that set him apart from most of this crew:

1. He’s a sinkerball guy who gets grounders in decent quantites. While the M’s have had no shortage of fly ball lefties over the last few years, Laffey offers something a bit different, in that 51.6% of his careers balls in play have been hit on the ground. While this means that he won’t get as big of a boost from Safeco as someone like Jason Vargas, it does mean that he’s more likely to be able to induce a double play when its called for, and that does have its advantages. Especially if he ends up as a reliever, where he would be called upon to enter situations with men on base.

2. Speaking of being a reliever, Laffey has some pretty significant platoon splits. Here are his career marks against hitters from each side:

Vs LHB: 2.86 BB/9, 6.39 K/9, 0.57 HR/9, 46.9% GB%, 3.77 FIP, 4.38 xFIP
Vs RHB: 3.90 BB/9, 3.50 K/9, 0.64 HR/9, 53.4% GB%, 4.68 FIP, 5.04 xFIP

While he gets ground balls against hitters from either side, the big difference is the strikeout rate. Laffey’s slider gives him a pitch he can use to get whiffs against left-handed bats, but his change-up isn’t very good and the slider doesn’t work against right-handed hitters. The lack of any kind of out pitch means that he has to nibble on the corners, and that drives up the walk rate. Laffey is not much use against RHBs, but because the Indians have used him primarily as a starter, he’s faced 1,000 of those in his career compared to just 408 left-handed batters.

If used as a reliever, the team could get a far more favorable distribution of batters faced, and Laffey’s numbers would look quite a bit better simply from not facing the same proportion of right-handed bats. Without significant improvement from his change-up, he’s probably not cut out to be a starting pitcher in the big leagues, but his repertoire has shown that it’s at least somewhat effective against lefties. Given that the M’s have a bunch of southpaws who aren’t that great against lefties, Laffey actually gives the team another option as a lefty specialist. It’s not the sexiest role on a roster, but as we saw quite a bit the last few years, it can be important to have that kind of guy on the roster who can go after a tough lefty or get a ground ball when you need it.

He’s not a great pitcher by any stretch of the imagination, but Laffey is useful in the right role. If the team doesn’t like what they see from Robertson or Ring, Laffey could be a better option as a left-on-left reliever than many of the other incumbents. On the surface, he might look like a nothing acquisition, but he’s got a chance to actually help the team.

To acquire Laffey, the M’s surrendered Matt Lawson, the infielder they received from Texas in the Cliff Lee deal. Lawson was a utility infielder in the making, so this isn’t much of a loss. In order to make room for Laffey on the 40 man roster, the team has placed Shawn Kelley on the 60 day DL.

Comments

16 Responses to “M’s Acquire Aaron Laffey”

  1. Jordan on March 2nd, 2011 5:32 pm

    and the ‘pile’ continues to grow…With so many lefty arms, do we assume they’ll nab a situational lefty for the pen from the beginning? How much of the NRI ‘pile’ sticks around to become AAAA fodder?

  2. groundzero55 on March 2nd, 2011 8:40 pm

    More likely that a few of these guys are swung to contenders who are looking for pitching depth before the home stretch of the season. Just another way to snag prospects.

  3. Carson on March 2nd, 2011 9:07 pm

    At the end of the first paragraph, you say Seddon. I presume you mean Laffey?

  4. marc w on March 2nd, 2011 10:41 pm

    I miss the old days where I disagreed with Dave a lot. But I don’t mind this at all.
    The M’s traded a marginal MLB player for a guy who may one day become a marginal MLB player. While Lawson is technically a middle infielder, he’s not a SS, and the M’s have plenty of guys who can play 2B (and hit better than Lawson).

  5. jordan on March 3rd, 2011 2:18 am

    Huh, I thought Matt Lawson was regarded as a pretty decent prospect. Guess not…

  6. maqman on March 3rd, 2011 2:54 am

    LOOGYs have value, hence their own descriptive acronym. Laffey seems to fit the job description.

  7. The Ancient Mariner on March 3rd, 2011 5:11 am

    Actually, Lawson was regarded as a fairly minimal prospect. I think Marc W is overstating the M’s depth at the position, but we aren’t likely to miss Lawson for all that.

  8. The Ancient Mariner on March 3rd, 2011 6:56 am

    Random thought: maybe we could teach him a cutter?

  9. msfanmike on March 3rd, 2011 8:50 am

    If the team doesn’t like what they see from Robertson or Ring …

    We already know the answer to this question. We knew it when they were signed. Laffey should be at least a slight improvement and he has age on his side. He is still at a developmental age for a pitcher. Roberstson was what he was and is no longer what he was … which was never all that much to begin with, nor did it last very long.

  10. Mike Snow on March 3rd, 2011 9:11 am

    At the end of the first paragraph, you say Seddon. I presume you mean Laffey?

    I’m pretty sure that’s what Dave meant, so I’ve fixed it accordingly.

  11. Ike Clanton on March 3rd, 2011 10:56 am

    Matt Lawson, the infielder they received from Texas in the Cliff Lee deal.

    Was Smoak originally an outfielder when we traded for him?

  12. The Ancient Mariner on March 3rd, 2011 11:00 am

    Was Smoak originally an outfielder when we traded for him?

    You misunderstand — that was to distinguish Matt Lawson the infielder we received from Texas in the Lee deal from Matt Lawson the VP of Marketing for Marin Software, who was not included in this trade.

  13. Mike Snow on March 3rd, 2011 12:13 pm

    Right, because with the kind of team the Mariners currently have, they can’t possibly afford to trade away a VP of Marketing.

  14. marc w on March 3rd, 2011 11:02 pm

    “I think Marc W is overstating the M’s depth at the position”

    I don’t think it’s so much overstating the depth as it as an assessment of what it would take to get another Lawson. We’ve got a bunch of guys in house to play 2B and hit fairly well – starting with Ackley/Seager and going down to everyone who is now a SS but may not stick, so Franklin, Triunfel, etc.

    Can the M’s get someone LIKE Lawson through MiLB free agency? Absolutely. They did it last year when they grabbed Travis Denker (who’s basically the same age). It’s not so much that the M’s have a million Lawsons – it’s that they can get another one for essentially nothing, and they typically go through 2-3 per year (anyone remember Chris Burke playing for the Rainiers for a month or so? If everything breaks right, Lawson could be a poor man’s Chris Burke!).

  15. bongo on March 5th, 2011 9:43 am

    It should also be noted that Matt Lawson of the local one-man experimental project Secret Colors was also not included in the trade:
    http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/reverb/2011/02/matt_lawson_on_secret_colors_i.php

    As for the infielder Matt Lawson, I believe that the Mariners have made a mistake in trading him. Just as the Mariners mistakenly believed that Asdrubal Cabrera was “blocked” by Betancourt and Lopez, they now believe that there is no place for Lawson because of Ackley, Ryan and the Wilsons. The problem is that the Wilsons are unlikely to be on the team in two years, and we don’t know if Ryan’s hitting will rebound. So there’s a good chance that we’ll have an infield hole to fill in two years. By then Lawson will have had some experience with the Indians and could blossom as Cabrera did, particularly since he has a very good work ethic.

  16. eponymous coward on March 5th, 2011 11:19 am

    Just as the Mariners mistakenly believed that Asdrubal Cabrera was “blocked” by Betancourt and Lopez, they now believe that there is no place for Lawson because of Ackley, Ryan and the Wilsons.

    Really? Jack Wilson is 33. Josh Wilson is also pushing 30. Betancourt and Lopez were in their early 20′s, like Ackley is. Don’t you think that makes a tiny bit of a difference in the evaluation?

    AAA infielders are relatively fungible (see: Cliff Lee trade), unless you’re Bill Bavasi and you run a trainwreck of a franchise. This just isn’t a big deal.

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