While the M’s basically don’t leak anything and we usually don’t know what we’re up to, it seems likely that the Mariners and Rockies have had a few discussions about matching up in a potential deal the last few days. The Mariners have been tied to outfielder Seth Smith since last week, and in more recent days, rumors have also attached them to third baseman Ian Stewart, with the Rockies apparently showing some interest in taking Chone Figgins as long as the Mariners pay the bulk of his remaining contract.
So, just briefly, I thought I’d give an overview on my view of Smith and Stewart. The short version – yay on the former at the right price, meh on the latter.
Smith is a pretty solid left-handed bat who would upgrade the line-up and could form a nifty platoon with Casper Wells, but he lacks a lot of high end potential. He does everything decently – draws some walks, makes some contact, hits for some power – but doesn’t excel in any particular area, and has historically had significant problems against left-handed pitching. He’s also not a fantastic defender, so his value has to come primarily from his bat, and the bat is more good than great.
For bat-only players, they need to hit a lot to be stars, and even playing in Colorado, he’s yet to show that he can be a big time impact hitter. If the Rockies aren’t asking too much for his services, he’d be a solid low-salary left field option, but it sounds like they might want a pretty significant return for his services, and I wouldn’t see Smith as such a valuable piece that I’d want to give up a real part of the future to pry him away. If the cost is a few guys that the organization can spare, okay, but let’s not go too far overboard for an average left fielder who needs a platoon partner.
As for Stewart, I’d essentially just no thanks. There’s this idea that somehow Stewart has “upside” or “potential”, but I just don’t see that as a position supported by much in the way of evidence. Stewart isn’t exactly a kid anymore, as he turns 27 in April, and he’s been a pretty lousy Major League player during his first 1,500 trips to the plate. He essentially has a fatal flaw – contact rate – that serves to significantly limit his ability to produce at the plate, even though he draws some walks and hits some homers.
When you strike out in 28% of your plate appearances, you have to be ridiculously great on contact to be a good hitter, and Stewart just isn’t – his career ISO of .192 is fine for someone who hasn’t played half their games in Colorado, but given the context, it’s pretty mediocre. Lots of strikeouts and just okay power is a pretty terrible combination, and we shouldn’t be overly surprised that Stewart hasn’t been able to make the skillset work in the big leagues. I know it’s tempting to look at Stewart’s minor league numbers and believe that he just needs to make some adjustments, but remember that the Rockies Triple-A team is in Colorado Springs, and there’s a lot of air in those numbers as well.
Essentially, Stewart is a mediocre defensive third baseman who is among the most whiff-prone hitters in the sport and doesn’t do enough to make up for it. He’s worse and older than Kyle Seager, and since he’s left-handed, he offers no real potential for a job share situation. If he was free, I might consider giving him a bench job, but I wouldn’t have any interest in giving up anything of any value to get him.