Mariners Acquire Seth Smith, Obviously

Jeff Sullivan · December 30, 2014 at 7:18 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

There was a time, not long ago, the Mariners were openly content with going into next year with Brad Miller as a part-time outfielder. There was a time, not long ago, Glacier National Park projected to keep having a bunch of glaciers in it. Situations change, and as the Mariners came to terms with Miller as an outfielder, the Padres traded for all the other baseball players, which left some players on the outside looking in. The Padres made this easy. They showed the Mariners the way. The Mariners just had to go for a walk.

Having acquired Justin Ruggiano, the Mariners were poised to have a right-field platoon. All they needed was an opposite-handed willing member of a right-field platoon. Transcript of a front-office conversation:

Mariners executive: just about done
Mariners executive: all we could use now is a Seth Smith-type
Other Mariners executive: I have an idea

This became stupid obvious. Everyone knew it and there was no sense in denying it. The one hurdle is that the Padres had promised Smith they wouldn’t trade him back when they gave him a contract extension, but, those were different Padres, with different players under different management. This Padres front office didn’t make that Padres promise, so in the end, the Padres turned Seth Smith into Brandon Maurer, and the Mariners turned Brandon Maurer into one of these guys:


Maurer, of course, isn’t a nothing sacrifice. Yeah, it felt like the ship sailed in terms of his being a starter here. Yeah, the Mariners have a lot of pretty good relievers, and it’s generally not too difficult to accumulate more of them. The Mariners traded from depth. But in the bullpen, you like to have depth, especially hard-throwing young depth under team control for a while. Maurer last year, as a reliever, had 38 strikeouts and five walks, and two of those walks were intentional. Strikes and missed bats are all the ingredients you need to be good for an inning.

But if you figure the Mariners can survive losing Maurer, this is an exchange of a reliever for a semi-regular position player. As a rule of thumb, that’s the sort of deal you can support. Maurer isn’t a proven elite relief arm, and Smith can play a lot, and he’s under control for a few years. He doesn’t do much against lefties, but that’s why Justin Ruggiano exists. Seth Smith plays outfield defense like you’d expect from a guy whose name is Seth Smith, but that doesn’t mean he’s a liability. It means he’s uninteresting. Outfield defense can be a lot worse than uninteresting.

Really, you don’t need a bunch of numbers here. What does Smith do? He hits pretty well against righties. Is that a proven, sustainable skill? Well, you can never tell the future, but he’s been doing it for a while. His contract is reasonable and he’s not yet in his later 30s. He’s always hit enough, and eventually he’ll reach a point where that isn’t true anymore, but he should be fine in the short-term future in which the Mariners are a big-time contender. You don’t need to worry about his transitioning to a pitcher-friendly ballpark — Safeco isn’t Petco, specifically, but Safeco is Petco, generally. Smith’ll survive. Let me take that back. Indications are strong that Smith’ll survive. If he doesn’t, welp. Anyone can do anything, in a good way and a bad way.

As far as the roster is concerned, you figure things are just about complete. Bullpen’s stocked. Rotation’s stocked. Lineup’s stocked. Only thing missing from the bench is a right-handed corner-infield type, someone who looks a lot like a decent version of Jesus Montero. The Mariners might now believe they possess a decent version of Jesus Montero. If not, maybe they’ll get someone else, in a trade or as an NRI. I expect that Montero will be given an opportunity in March, as impossible as that would’ve been to believe last September.

Maybe the most interesting thing here is what it could mean for Brad Miller. God knows the most interesting thing isn’t Seth Smith. Miller, fortunately, is still Mariners property. They’ve gotten this far in the offseason keeping that the case. As things stand, Miller and Chris Taylor will compete for the starting shortstop job in spring training. The loser presumably heads to Triple-A. That feels like something of a concern, given that both Miller and Taylor project to do well in the season ahead, but, one thing the Mariners haven’t had a lot of is depth. Two potentially good shortstops increases the probability that you end up with one actual good shortstop, and there are also potential injuries, and cases of under-performance, and whatnot. It’s not a bad thing to have Miller or Taylor available in Tacoma. There doesn’t have to be a rush, and this way, midseason adversity would be a little less likely to be a significant problem. And this way, nothing changes about the chance of Miller becoming a long-term center fielder. The Mariners still like him as a possible outfielder. This just means he’s not an outfielder, in Seattle, at the start of next season.

Because of Seth Smith. Welcome, Seth Smith, perhaps the least surprising Mariners acquisition since Nelson Cruz, which I guess was hardly any amount of time ago. The Mariners have attempted a lot of fairly predictable things. They’ve pulled off a few of them. None of them have been dreadful, and the end(ish) result is a team that looks about as good as any other team in the league. Seth Smith does little to alter anything in a major way, but there was a piece missing from the puzzle, and the Mariners slid in the appropriate and recommended puzzle piece, from the box. That’s what you’re supposed to do, but you still feel a little buzz when you get the right pieces to fit.


16 Responses to “Mariners Acquire Seth Smith, Obviously”

  1. ivan on December 30th, 2014 8:08 pm

    Now sign Scherzer and we’re good to go.

  2. just a fan on December 30th, 2014 8:28 pm

    Seth Smith seems like a decent player. But I don’t like it when we make a trade with our cross-town rivals.

  3. Adam B. on December 31st, 2014 12:38 am

    I cannot imagine the new depths of utter disdain and pure enmity that will come to a head at what has always been a cesspit of vehement hatred–albeit shrouded in the laughable veneer of a charity game.

    Mark my words well.
    March 4th 2015 will birth a new bloody chapter in the rivalry; One which scribes in a distant time shall label “The Seth Smith Incident”.

  4. mrakbaseball on December 31st, 2014 1:07 am

    With Saunders and Maurer outta there, Zduriencik has rid the Mariners of all Bavasi era players.

  5. maqman on December 31st, 2014 1:39 am

    That’s not a bad thing.

  6. bookbook on December 31st, 2014 5:28 am

    It’s not a good thing, either. It’s just a thing.

    Not to be a stickler, but isn’t Felix a Bavasi era player?

  7. 11records on December 31st, 2014 5:39 am

    Felix is a Gillick era player! He was signed at 16 in 2002, a year prior to Bavasi’s reign of terror.

  8. MrZDevotee on December 31st, 2014 5:41 am

    Sure, we lost a roster spot by replacing him with a platoon, but replacing Saunders on the surface looks pretty good…

    If you combine our “platoon” into a single player, we just added a right fielder who hits:

    .288/.357/.525 … for an .882 OPS

    By comparison, Justin Upton last year:
    .270/.342/.491 … .833 OPS

    Not too shabby…

  9. eponymous coward on December 31st, 2014 9:18 am

    Given that nobody in the M’s OF deserves to be a 162 game player, and that Princess Willie is at best a maybe on being on the roster… why give Miller his shot at being a Zobrist type on the 25 man roster (after checking him out in spring training) instead of Tacoma?

    It’s not exactly a BAD thing to have more guys capable of holding down MLB jobs than there are MLB jobs, and Lou Piniella was pretty famous for making extra guys fit into roster spots without having people rot on the bench for weeks at a time… perhaps McLendon can learn this.

  10. ripperlv on December 31st, 2014 9:36 am

    Kudos to JZ for not trading the young guys we’ve been grooming the last couple years, filling the slots, and putting together a team that looks to be relevant. now if the Angels don’t sign Scherzer, I’ll feel even better. If we were to sign Scherzer,….. well never hurts to dream.

  11. Edward Baker on December 31st, 2014 10:44 am

    Ivan, Ripper, I was thinking both of Scherzer and of Shields, and if they throw in Koufax and Juan Marichal they´re ready to go.
    Seriously, they gave up a guy whom they could give up and they got what they needed.
    Now…will Bloomie be ready for the start of the season, and if he isn´t, who will be “Bloomie”, the guy who can capably fill in everywhere? If, indeed, there is such a guy.
    Anyway, it seems as though things are starting to round out, even without Koofoo and Marichal.

  12. Longgeorge1 on December 31st, 2014 11:34 am

    Why can’t Miller or Taylor be a right handed option at first? I would hate to see Montero on the roster at the expense of one of the two SS’s. I would rather envision them as Mark McClemore type, than AAA star.

  13. eponymous coward on December 31st, 2014 12:34 pm

    Why can’t Miller or Taylor be a right handed option at first?

    Because playing a decent-but-not-great hitter at SS at 1B means you’re playing a bad hitter (compared to other 1B) at 1B. The defensive spectrum is still a meaningful concept.

    It would make more sense to use Miller in the OF and have another option at 1B. You might note that this is basically what McLemore ended up being, an IF/OF player, not a 1B.

    That… and Miller is a LHB, which makes it difficult for him to be a RHB at 1B…

  14. eponymous coward on December 31st, 2014 12:59 pm

    Now…will Bloomie be ready for the start of the season, and if he isn´t, who will be “Bloomie”, the guy who can capably fill in everywhere? If, indeed, there is such a guy.

    If by “capably” you mean “replacement level”, any replacement level guy would do. That doesn’t mean WFB would be the worst problem on a major league roster, but really, he’s simply not that good, he’s your archetypical 25th guy/replacement level player on a roster, his sole advantage being he can be replacement level at multiple positions instead of being replacement level at just one. We’d actually be in much better shape if Miller turned into a Zobrist-style player with decent bat, ability to play the IF and OF, because WFB has never been and will never be that kind of guy.

  15. evolvingcaveman on December 31st, 2014 8:08 pm

    Miller throws RH so that’s not an issue, it’s just playing a SS bat at 1B seems a waste of a traditional power spot. I’m sure he could do it for a game or two if needed.

  16. Nate on January 3rd, 2015 3:12 pm

    There’s also this bit of awesomeness…
    Smeth Sith page

    I’m liking this acquisition.

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