Mariners, Brewers Swap Extraneous OFs; Brewers a Good Team to Swap Extraneous OFs With

marc w · December 21, 2018 at 9:40 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Last year, Domingo Santana was coming off a 3+ win season, punctuated by 30 HRs and a slash line of .278/.371/.505. He’d recently turned 25. Did the Brewers build around this young slugger, limited though he was due to contact and defense issues? Well, no, they went out and got Christian Yelich in trade from Miami, and watched him put together an MVP-winning season. They got Lorenzo Cain in free agency, deciding that they wanted to win right now. And win they did, even if it meant relegating Santana to the bench, the minors, and now, a year later, to a minor trade with a rebuilding club.

Last year, Ben Gamel was coming off a shockingly respectable season highlighted by a slash line of .275/.322/.413. His BABIP-fueled first half didn’t carry over into the second, but he seemed to be showing the line drive, bat-to-ball skills that made him a target of the M’s back in 2016. He was fast…ish, and had solid walk rates plus a lower than average K rate. Sure, the power was low for a corner OF, or really anybody in 2018, but if you squinted, and I get the feeling the M’s FO did this a lot when they watched him, you could sort of see 1990s M’s killer Rusty Greer. Low power, low Ks, but tons of line drives all over the park. The M’s talked up Gamel’s game in the offseason, but when the season started, a comedy of errors kept him out of the line-up. In April, it was Ichiro that took his spot in LF. With Dee Gordon in CF, he was relegated to platooning with Guillermo Heredia, and neither was doing all that well. When the season fell apart, the M’s decided to move on from the guy who epitomized their desire for a “more athletic” OF – a corner guy who didn’t hit like a corner guy, but slapped the ball around and put things in motion.

The Brewers simply don’t have room for Santana. The M’s now have plenty of room for Gamel, but they’ve realized – correctly – that their new, rebuilding club has no real *need* for a player like Gamel. I’ve been the low guy on Gamel for too long, and I will be the first to admit he’s been better than I would’ve ever guessed. But he is, in the absolute best case scenario, a complementary player – a nuisance 7th/8th hitter in a really good line-up. He will get to fill that exact role in platoon situations for a good Milwaukee club next year, and that’s great. The M’s need an underpowered 7th hitting corner OF like they need payroll excuses right now.

So having given up their vaunted athleticism, what have the M’s gotten here? Why pick up a good team’s scraps? Remember the 30 HR season thing? Seriously, it was just a couple of paragraphs up. The M’s get a high-variance hitter in Santana who’s quite capable of being a 4-5 hitter on a bad M’s team, and a guy with serious projection left. Santana is actually younger than Gamel by a few months, and while he’s coming off an abysmal year, he’s put up the better big league season in recent years. Neither of them are ever going to win a gold glove, but it’s worth mentioning that Santana’s clearly a worse defender. He’s also got a lot of swing and miss in his game, and so he represents a big change in philosophy for the M’s; it’s been a while since the M’s have gone out and targeted a hitter who’s going to strike out in 30% of his PAs. But after years of getting low-ish K guys and hoping to teach them power, it’s probably worth getting some guys with power and trying to teach them to make incremental improvements in pitch recognition.

The M’s also sent P Noah Zavolas, their 18th round pick out of Harvard last year, to Milwaukee to complete the deal. Zavolas is cool and all, but this deal doesn’t hinge on him. He wasn’t a top prospect in the M’s org, and won’t be one in Milwaukee. The odds are stacked against him becoming more than an org arm, but hey, he was decent in the NWL after pitching well in the Ivy League. How many of us can say that?

Ultimately, this is a very sound move for Seattle. They increase their volatility, getting a decent shot at a middle of the order hitter, and all it cost them was an enigmatic corner OF who’s been a platoon guy on decent M’s clubs. Could Gamel add some pop and make the M’s regret this? It’s possible, sure. If that’s ever going to happen, Milwaukee may be the place to do it; Yelich was a young corner OF who hit too many grounders to have corner OF power, and whose 2013-2015 look mighty Gamelish. He’d improved by the time of the trade, but clearly, Milwaukee tapped into power no one knew he had, and suddely Yelich was a complete player. Let’s be clear: Yelich already showed more power than Gamel can ever produce, but the Brewers have been excellent in developing hitters – so much so that their surplus of them made this deal possible. I’d love to think that the M’s are a great org for a player like Santana, but I don’t, at least, not yet. This is a great project for the new M’s hitting coaches, and a great way for them to show how their new approaches/pedagogy can work with a developing young team.


7 Responses to “Mariners, Brewers Swap Extraneous OFs; Brewers a Good Team to Swap Extraneous OFs With”

  1. Westside guy on December 21st, 2018 10:48 pm

    It is certainly shaping up to be an interesting off season for the Mariners… I will be curious to see what Dipoto ends up with.

    I’ve been cutting him a fair bit of slack because, up until this off season, it was possible to argue that he wasn’t completely master of his domain (oh Lordy, now I’ve got Seinfeld stuck in my head). But this… Dipoto owns this. I am really pulling for him, mainly because I’d like to see a playoff baseball team in Seattle before I hit retirement age.

  2. Stevemotivateir on December 22nd, 2018 5:14 am

    Well said, Marc. I think you summed it up perfectly.

    I’m kind of curious what this does to Bruce or Smith, but this wasn’t likely the last move we’ll see.

  3. mksh21 on December 26th, 2018 6:53 am

    I’m fine giving Dipoto time though I don’t know if he will get it. He gave it a shot with what we had we came kinda close. Unlike Bavasi and Z who mistook fluke 80 win seasons with being good, he is doing the smart thing.

    If we could ever could nail the draft it would be even better. Im fine winning 57 games this year and won’t whine at all.

  4. sexymarinersfan on January 2nd, 2019 5:12 am

    Hooray for Yusei Kikuchi!!!!!

  5. LongDistance on January 3rd, 2019 2:33 am

    OK, that’s the Paxton Patch. Lesseee… decent stats and three years younger and fewer health issues and not easy on the checkbook and whatever the ultimate rotation will look like remains grimly vague. A very baseball piece of news.

  6. sexymarinersfan on January 3rd, 2019 5:41 am

    His comp I keep hearing about is Patrick Corbin in the states.

    However I’ve heard some who follow NPB religiously say that he’s most like Iwakuma with slightly more velo and tick down in control.

  7. MKT on January 3rd, 2019 5:12 pm

    I like the signing overall. It suggests that the Ms, while still being a bad team next season, are not totally tanking the season.

    But they didn’t have to give up any young talent, they’ve simply added talent. So they can still focus on rebuilding. While hopefully not losing 100+ games.

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