News broke today that the Mariners will send RHP Maikel Cleto to St. Louis, for middle infielder Brendan Ryan.
So, who are we getting? Ryan is 28 years old, and he brings with him a minuscule salary. He’s an excellent defensive player, posting an overall 19.9 UZR over the last two seasons, and that’s where most of his value is going to come from. His bat isn’t anything to get excited about, but you shouldn’t necessarily expect him to repeat the awful offensive season he had in 2010, where he posted a jaw-droppingly bad wOBA of .256. It certainly wasn’t a pretty year for him at the plate, but it wasn’t all his fault, as his BABIP was a measly .253, well below his career average of .292, and even further below the league average of .297. He also spent most of the season struggling with wrist problems, which likely contributed to his poor performance.
No one’s projecting him to be a slugger, but a little bit of a rebound is in order, and you can probably expect him to at least head back towards his norm – likely a wOBA in the .285-.300 range. Combine that with plus defense, and you’ve got a 1.5-2.5 win infielder. In a lot of ways, he’s kind of like Jack Wilson, but with fewer health problems. Not too shabby of a return for an OK pitching prospect.
As for how we’ll use him, I’d imagine he’ll break camp as the starting second baseman, then once the team feels that Dustin Ackley is ready and Jack Wilson is on the DL, he’ll probably move over to shortstop, where he’s spent most of his career. And hey, if by some miracle Jack manages to stay healthy, Ryan won’t have a starting role, but at least he’s a better backup infielder than Josh Wilson. Plus, he’s gotten kind of a late start on being a major league player, so he’s under team control through 2013.
This isn’t the type of move that turns heads or is likely to draw a ton of praise or attention, but it’s a nice little move in a more subtle way. It takes care of one of this team’s needs for 2011 without giving up too much, and it brings in a player that has a chance to help out in the future, as well. Remember, this is a guy that posted 2.7 WAR and a .740 OPS at shortstop as recently as 2009. Granted, as a player coming over from the NL, he probably wouldn’t repeat those numbers even if he was still the exact same player, but with some better luck, he might just be able to come close.
It’s a low risk, decent reward move, and even if Ryan tanks at the plate, we’ll still have gotten a backup infielder who’s excellent in the field out of it.