M’s Adding Seth Smith?

marc w · December 30, 2014 at 12:00 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Shannon Drayer tweeted that a deal sending LH OF Seth Smith from San Diego to Seattle was imminent. At this point, the only name associated with San Diego’s return has been Brandon Maurer, but the final deal hasn’t taken shape yet. Bob Dutton mentions that the player heading south is a reliever, so while it might not be Maurer, it’s probably not Taijuan Walker or one of the shortstops.

Smith is a classic platoon OF, a lefty with patience (a major league walk rate above 10% for his career) and a bit of power, he’s a career 123 wRC+ hitter against righties, but he’s completely lost against southpaws (wRC+ of 63, career SLG% of .314). He’s coming off his best season as a big leaguer, with a slash line of .266/.367/.440, good for a wRC+ of 133. In July, with his wRC+ hovering in the 150s, the Padres extended Smith a new two-year, $13 million deal. Unfortunately, Smith immediately dropped off – his power vanished and he dealt with minor injuries – and while his contract is still quite reasonable, he was no longer a starter in San Diego, who just acquired three full-time OFs in Wil Myers, Matt Kemp and Justin Upton (they’ve still got Will Venable, too, at least for now).

His Steamer projection has him giving up quite a bit of the offensive gains he made last year, but still settling in as a reasonable bench bat, adding a few runs above average as a platoon player. Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projection is similar – a slash line of .245/.328/.396 in Safeco. The line’s a bit lower than the Steamer projection, but then Steamer didn’t know he’d be playing in Safeco. Smith isn’t an asset on defense, but he combines with Justin Ruggiano to form a pretty good RF tandem.

Maurer clearly has the talent to pitch in the bigs, but his M’s tenure was frustratingly inconsistent. After opening eyes and winning a rotation spot in 2013, he fell apart – an ERA well over 6, a trip to the minors, rumblings that he was done as a starter. He seemed like a great bounce-back candidate in 2014, but his starts weren’t any better. While he showed decent stuff, he struggled with men on base, and gave up too many home runs. However, a move to the bullpen and one-inning starts produced excellent results, as his velocity played up (he averaged 97 down the stretch) and his change-up allowed him to be effective against lefties.

There’s still a lot to like in Maurer. As a set-up man, he’s got plus velocity, a decent slider, and at least the makings of a good change-up. He hasn’t commanded it thus far, but he’s also not completely lost against lefties the way he was in 2013. His FIP has been better than his ERA both seasons, and he’s young enough that a move back to the rotation could still work. As a fly-baller, he’d be in a good environment in Petco and the NL West, too. For the M’s, though, this is another trade from depth. Maurer’s FIP was lower than his ERA because his ERA was absurdly high. He was effective out of the pen, but the M’s have so many solid righty bullpen arms that he had more value to them in trade. Turning a 23rd round bullpen arm who’d been demoted in both 2013 and 2014 (and looked mentally lost at times) into a league-average OF bat is pretty amazing. Maurer has potential, and he looked electric in short stints last year. But it’s only that potential – potential he struggled to deliver on – that makes this swap a possibility.


14 Responses to “M’s Adding Seth Smith?”

  1. Longgeorge1 on December 30th, 2014 12:19 pm

    Carson Smith can replace Mauer, we gave up nothing

  2. eponymous coward on December 30th, 2014 12:46 pm

    So an OF/DH pool of Ruggiano, Smith, Ackley, AJax and Cruz, huh? With maybe Brad Miller doing the Ben Zobrist conversion?

    That could work. I think I’d want some depth at 1B, though. LoMo and Montero doesn’t seem to be much in the way of depth.

  3. groundzero55 on December 30th, 2014 1:18 pm

    I thought Cruz was mainly going to be a DH, only thrown in the outfield in an emergency situation, or during interleague to keep his bat in the lineup.

  4. Shoeless Jose on December 30th, 2014 2:08 pm

    I’m not going to have a strong opinion until the deal gets done and I know the terms, but a couple of thoughts:

    Nelson Cruz probably should have been more of a DH last year also, but he started almost as many games in the outfield for the O’s (70) as he did at DH (89). He may be one of those guys who resists being a fulltime DH (and strictly offensively, he may be right: .352 wOBA as a DH last year, vs .375 as RF, caveat SSS).

    Still, when I see the M’s acquiring a LH outfielder there’s an inevitable comparison that comes to mind:

    Seth Smith, 2012: .240 / .333 / .420 (.325 wOBA, 107 wRC+)
    M. Saunders, 2012: .247 / .306 / .432 (.320 wOBA, 108 wRC+)

    Seth Smith, 2013: .253 / .329 / .391 (.318 wOBA, 102 wRC+)
    M. Saunders, 2013: .236 / .323 / .397 (.315 wOBA, 100 wRC+)

    Seth Smith, 2014: .266 / .367 / .440 (.357 wOBA, 133 wRC+)
    M. Saunders, 2014: .273 / .341 / .450 (.346 wOBA, 126 wRC+)

    One big difference: Smith is 32 and already past his peak, whereas Saunders is 28 and just about entering his (to the extent you believe in aging curves, anyway). And Saunders isn’t as helpless against LHP (though to be fair, if used strictly as a platoon bat Smith would seem to be the better hitter against RHP, and that’s the more common case).

    I know I’m beating a dead horse; Saunders is gone and (so far) it doesn’t look like the team is giving up very much to replace him (or even improve over him, if you don’t mind the extra roster spot used by a platoon). I just still don’t understand this particular part of this offseason.

  5. Typical Idiot Fan on December 30th, 2014 2:53 pm

    Crasnick reporting the deal is done. Smith for Maurer.

  6. greentunic on December 30th, 2014 3:50 pm


    If you are going to compare Saunders to Smith, you have to also compare J.A. Happ to Brandon Mayer. We didn’t trade Saunders for Smith after all. I like Happ way more than Mayer as a valuable player. Do the trades balance out fully? I don’t know but it’s dishonest to compare one side from two fifferent equations.

  7. BoomBoom on December 30th, 2014 4:26 pm

    I’ve gotten somewhat used to seeing Maurer spelled Mauer, but I have to admit Mayer is one spelling I hadn’t seen up to now.

    At any rate, I’m sure this Sith Smyth guy will be easier to manage.


  8. greentunic on December 30th, 2014 5:52 pm

    Typed from my phone

  9. greentunic on December 30th, 2014 5:52 pm


  10. Longgeorge1 on December 30th, 2014 6:24 pm

    Listened to Z on the radio today. Said Montero has lost over 30lbs. Has be involved in supervised workouts on a daily basis. Seems to have gotten the message. Still has an option – maybe????????????

  11. eponymous coward on December 30th, 2014 7:55 pm

    It’s possible, Montero’s still only 25. That being said, this is still relevant

    I think additional depth at 1B is still warranted. You don’t want to bet the house on a guy who’s only had one 120 game season in his career, and a guy who’s almost 5 years removed from a .500 SLG in his league (which is sort of the touchstone for value if you’re a young player at an offense-first position).

  12. eponymous coward on December 30th, 2014 8:01 pm

    Also, if Cruz is in the OF 30-40 games and some other guys are rotated through the DH spot, I wouldn’t freak out.

  13. Eastside Crank on December 30th, 2014 8:11 pm

    LG – you are making a funny, right? We already know from last year that -30 lbs = no power. Add to that a bizarre running style that is best timed with a sun dial and shaky defense and I do not even see a potential backup.

    Uncle Fester is trying to make chicken salad out of the mess he made trading Saunders for a back of the rotation starter. The one strength the Mariners seem to have is their pitching and they should be able to find back of the rotation guys from their bullpen and minor league players. They have given up all pretense of solid outfield defense for marginal hitters. We will see how that plays out.

  14. MrZDevotee on December 31st, 2014 5:26 am

    I have an open mind about Montero… He’s still very young in baseball terms, and could be a classic “too much responsibility too soon” sort of guy.

    I read the same offseason reports, where he moved to Phoenix this off-season to be near the practice facility, has a personal workout assistant, has been in daily conditioning drills, working on strength and agility drills, and also on a strict diet.

    I also remember the Tacoma staff saying he was easily their best hitter for weeks at a time last season.

    It’s his last chance, granted, but these are the right moves for someone to be making who wants to be relevant again, after perhaps suffering a severe lapse because emotionally he wasn’t able to handle his first real struggles as a pro athlete. I’m sure plenty of “can’t miss” prospects who become misses don’t handle that change of labels well.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.