The Mariners offense has been a disappointing one for what often seems like forever. At times, it feels as though no matter what the M’s do, the problem remains unsolved. The kids struggle. Free agents fall apart. Future contributors are traded away.
But this year, we experienced some long awaited improvement. Seattle ranks 24th in the league in runs scored, rather than that dreaded 30 hole that we have grown so accustomed to. Continued production from Kyle Seager as well as the addition of Kendrys Morales and the resurgence of Justin Smoak, has helped get this offense out of the gutter, and moving in the right direction.
Nick Franklin started out on top, and in the rookie of the year discussion. He has since fallen off the map and into the potential bust category that we can’t help but create, even after such a short time.
Brad Miller has shown some promise, and has been pretty consistently a league average hitter, which is above average for a shortstop.
But even then, there is still much to be done. 24th is still nothing to brag about, and the three names mentioned earlier have all struggled at times this year, particularly in the 2nd half. And then there is the massive hole that is the outfield, which we hope can be aided by at least one of Dustin Ackley or Abraham Almonte, the first of whom has a 129 wRC+ in the 2nd half of the season.
There is still a clear need for offense, and there are a few different ideas on where to find it. One involves bringing back Kendrys Morales, and then pursing an outfielder such as Shin-Soo Choo or Jacoby Ellsbury.
The other, less discussed idea is to go hard after Cuban defector Jose Abreu, either instead of, or in tandem with, Morales. Abreu has been one of the best hitters in Cuba, with a .453/.597/.986 line with 33 home runs in 66 games during the 2011 season. As can be seen, the man has massive power, and even broke the single season home run record that season, before losing it again later.
Despite those numbers, many scouts are unsure of how well Abreu’s skills will translate to the MLB. Some question his bat speed, and suggest he will struggle with the inside fastball. Others say he looks confused on breaking balls. And finally, a few say he may struggle against 1′s and 2′s altogether, and will have to do his damage against back end guys.
With Abreu, it all comes down to which you value more: stats or scouting. Normally you want to use some of both, but when they are so far apart, it is hard to do that.
The money will also be a big factor, with Abreu in line to make more than fellow Cubans Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig did, likely using their success as a gauge of how good international players can be.
Any move the Mariners make has some risk involved. If they pursue Abreu, they risk missing out on both he and Morales, and in turn be absent a power hitting DH. If they do get Abreu, they run the risk of him falling closer to the scouts worries than the statistical upside. And if they decide to go with Morales instead of Abreu, they risk overpaying for a league average DH and missing out on a guy whose power could be comparable to Giancarlo Stanton.
All that said, I think the Mariners need to be willing to take a risk, but also play it safe in that you want to at least come away with one of the two Cuban sluggers. Abreu sounds amazing on paper, but can a team on the cusp of success afford to take that kind of risk, especially with how often we see power hitters fail in Seattle?