M’s Adding Seth Smith?
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.