What Will the Seattle Mariners Outfield Look Like?

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Free agents:

Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Latest reports are that the Mariners have fallen out of contention for signing Shin-Soo Choo and Nelson Cruz, but there is definitely an opening for either of them in the outfield.

For the sake of argument lets presume Corey Hart will spend the majority of his fielding time in right field. The rest of the outfield would be filled with Michael Saunders in center/left and a glaring opening for a guy like Choo or Cruz.

A lot has been written about how Cruz may not be a good fit in Seattle because of his Safeco Field hitting stats and his inevitable decline due to age, but defensively, is there any benefit to bringing in one over the other?

The short answer: maybe.

Again, everything depends on just how much Hart is able to play next year. Defensively, Nelson Cruz has historically played right field, a position that the Mariners would be mildly overloaded in. With knee injuries, Hart and Morrison likely can’t play anywhere else, and Michael Saunders traditionally plays right or center. The biggest issue for the Mariners is going to be finding someone who can slide over to left.

Bringing in Cruz or Choo would be a definite asset, with different solutions for each.


Nelson Cruz:

If the Mariners sign Cruz, either he or the Hart/Morrison combo will need to move to the other field. Michael Saunders will play in center. The defensive outfield would look like this:Diamond Cruz

Again, the big question mark is how often Hart can play in left. He hasn’t played in the outfield since 2011, and hasn’t played left since 2006, where he played 26 games and notched a fielding percentage of .974 and UZR of 0.5. It’s a small sample size and it’s hard to use pre-injury stats from six years ago to predict anything.

The biggest problem with signing Cruz is that the Mariners are really left without anyone who is a natural left fielder. Moving someone over from right really the only solution. Nelson Cruz has played right field almost exclusively over the last eight years, so moving him would probably be harder than moving Hart.


Shin-Soo Choo:

On the other hand, brining in Shin-Soo Choo (or any other center fielder, for that matter), would give the Mariners’ outfield a very different look. Most notably, it allows Lloyd McClendon to leave Hart/Morrison in right field, where it is easiest to slide the two new guys.

Odds are that  Choo would be the go-to guy in center field if he is signed. While the Mariners have been reported as out of the running for Choo, this general configuration would work for any center fielder that is imported.

Diamond Choo

The best part about this configuration is that Saunders is actually able to play left field, and has done so on a number of occasions. In 2013 Saunders put in 24 games in left, and another 22 in 2012. Each time he posted a fielding percentage of 1.000 and a UZR of 0.0 and -4.6 respectively.

The obvious downside to this is that Choo had a center field UZR of -16.9 with the Reds in 2013. However, moving him to either corner wouldn’t help that anyways. In 2013 his overall UZR (CF and a few games at LF) was -15.5, only slightly better than 2012 where it was -16.7 (all RF with the Indians). The last two years have been atrocious for Choo defensively, who prior to that had never posted a UZR below -1.9 (2008). So there’s still the possibility he could turn things around in the roomy Safeco outfield.

Strictly between signing a right or center fielder, the Mariners might be better off to find someone who plays center or even left field. That would give them the flexibility to move Michael Saunders to any open position and leave the Corey Hart/Logan Morrison duo alone in right field.

Opening up the possibility of a trade offers even more options. Justin Smoak, Nick Franklin, Dustin Ackley, Jesus Montero,  may all be gone in the next weeks. Jack has said that there are more deals in the works, so there’s no reason to think that Choo and Cruz are the extent of available outfielders.



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  • drwheelock

    Forget Choo or Cruz. At this point with Tanaka posting, Seattle I see is the most aggressive for his services. After Cano, I just don’t see Seattle letting Tanaka slip thru their fingers…not with a current $66M 2014 payroll. Don’t see it!

    A couple “quick” moves I’d do in Seattle to fillout and solidify the roster:

    1. Sign Kurt Sukuki right away in the $3M range. Don’t want any of the other Catchers out there.
    2. Sign Balfour and give him that 3rd year he wants at $7M/yr to solidify our Closer role.
    3. Resign Oliver Perez RP in the $3-4M range.
    4. Resign Gutz at $2M/base with incentives (in 151 PA’s in 2013 he hit 10 HRs, which avgs out to about 40 HRs on 600+ PAs. Platoon him in the OF & “DH” to conserve his health.

    Those “quick” moves only take Seattle to approx $81-82M (Not counting potential incentives for Hart)

    I want to see Seattle take payroll to the $120-$130M range. After the moves above THEN:

    1. Sign Tanaka
    2. Trade for one of Price/Lee/Hamels/Scherzer (all available, but Seattle moves on from any one of these “if” Walker/Paxton OR Zunino is mentioned.

    The ONLY way I “justify” moving Walker/Paxton is in a killer package for Stanton NO ONE ELSE!

    One last move I’d do is “wait” until February to see if Morales is still avail. I still would love to get his Switch Hitting LHB/RHB in our lineup at DH and bench Smoak against LHPs. If he doesn’t sign by March, and there’s a forceable chance he doesn’t sign until after draft, and Seattle risks losing our draft pick…then get him back in the lineup. This opens up a STRONG chance for a mid-season trade. We have numerous MLB talent AND top Farm prospects to package in a serious move for Stanton. I would NEVER give up throwing trade scenarios with Miami on Stanton…a future franchise player that will not resign with Miami.

    • tedsfrozenhead

      WoW! I agree with most of what you say except Tanaka. I would love to see him here but I know that The Yankees are hot for Tanaka, are on record with their interest and desire to sign him and they are not alone. I can easily seeing Tanaka going to another team, there are many teams that want him.
      I agree with you on Balfour but 3 years might be a bit much. I would do it though, especially at the 7m you propose,
      Although Suzuki can’t hit a lick he is a good defensive catcher and would be a decent 2nd catcher behind Zunino, If Mike isn’t ready we could start Suzuki for the time being.
      Perez was decent and I think perhaps he stands out because the rest of the pen was just not that good. But his numbers were OK and he is worth 3 or 4m a year.
      And AGREED that a Stantonesque type of trade is the only one we should consider including Walker in. This guy has so much upside it would be a shame to watch him become an all-star for and Upton type player. And we have him locked up for 6 years!

      Disagree with you on Guti, his time has come and gone and as good as he might be when healthy the fact is that he can not stay healthy. The time for players like this who have not fulfilled the promise of their talents is gone. I also feel Smoak falls into this category. Playing great in Sept the last couple years only wets our appetites, he has not lived up to his potential and I would much rather see Morales at first base. After all, he did lead the team in most offensive categories.

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