A name that has been mentioned briefly by the likes of Jon Heyman and others is Minnesota Twins left fielder Josh Willingham. Though he isn’t necessarily classified as a ‘right-handed power bat’, he would bring added value to the Seattle Mariners for the duration of the season.
Even with all the Mariners trade rumors, Willingham’s name seems to come up as a: “the Mariners and Twins have discussed”; or “the M’s appear to be interested in”. In short nothing very groundbreaking or substantial for fans to really believe.
I for one think Willingham would be a good fit for the Mariners. He is only on contract through the 2014 season, and at 35 years old I don’t know if the Mariners would want him as anything more than a rental.
And since the Twins are unlikely to make a run at both the Detroit Tigers and the Kansas City Royals in their division, they should be willing to part with Willingham for a modest price. Because if he doesn’t get traded the Twins will net nothing. And something is better than nothing in most cases.
Offensively, though, Willingham would provide a major boost in an often overlooked category.
His .212 batting average won’t wow or impress anyone, and people who only care about the hits will scoff at the idea of giving the Twins anything more than a dozen baseballs for Willingham’s bat.
But, it’s the next portion of his triple-slash line that makes your eyes pop. His On-Base Percentage is .362.
Think about that: a .212 average with a .362 OBP. The Mariners team-OBP is .300. He’s walked a whopping 34 times this season in just 156 at-bats.
That .362 OBP would be second on the Mariners only to Robinson Cano (at .393). But don’t forget Cano’s batting average is a healthy .334.
Drop Willingham in the 4-hole. Even if he’s not driving in runs– he does have 8 home runs and 25 RBI on the season– he would create a 3-4-5 in the lineup where everyone’s OBP is above .350.
And even just a few more runs on the season could be a 1-2 win difference. Come September, it’s those that’ll make the difference.
Think of the lineup with Willingham slotted in the 4-hole when Michael Saunders is healthy:
Michael Saunders 9
Robinson Cano 4
Josh Willingham 7
Kyle Seager 5
Corey Hart DH
Logan Morrison 3
And against a lefty the Mariners could plop Willingham into the 2-hole and wrap Saunders around into the 9-hole to get an even better spread of left-handed to right-handed bats.
The always important question when it comes to trades is what will be given up to get this added value?
I honestly think the M’s could do a Dustin Ackley-Josh Willingham swap, but even then the Mariners may be giving up too much.
An Erasmo Ramirez and a lower-level prospect could get a deal done if the Twins also threw in someone from lower in the Minor Leagues.
The price wouldn’t be too steep, especially since the Twins don’t have a very reasonable shot at making the playoffs– ESPN gives the Twins a 5.1% chance to make the playoffs.
This move alone wouldn’t put the Mariners over the top. Even so, Willingham would provide a right-handed bat and an OBP that will give this team more RBI opportunities over the course of the second half of the season.
Do you think Willingham is a good fit? What would you be willing to give up in return for his value?
Also later today we will be posting our thoughts on another AL Central outfielder, Dayan Viciedo, and what he could provide for the Seattle Mariners organization.
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