Offseason Upgrades (Trades)
By JJ Keller
Welcome to Part 2 of my Mariners Offseason Upgrades: Trade Edition. If you haven’t yet, see Part 1: Free Agency, here. There will be a Part 3 coming next week that will talk about internal upgrades.
I think we can all agree that while the Ms offense has been better as of late, there are still many upgrades that can/should be made. A few spots that could stand to be improved upon are first base, and both corner outfield spots. While Thames, Robinson, and Carp, before another injury, have played well in those positions lately, they are still the weakest links on a mediocre offensive team. Jesus and Jaso could see time at 1st, but I fully expect and hope that Olivo will be gone, and that the two of them split time between catcher and DH. Now for my list of guys who I think could help improve the offense through a trade, and get us that much closer to the postseason.
Billy Butler, 26, DH/1B, Kansas City Royals, RH, contract after this year: 3/$28.5 million
Billy Butler is one of my personal favorite players. He is also one of the most underrated players in the game, due to the fact that there are so many good 1st basemen out there, and he plays for the Royals, who by the way are in 3rd in the Central, despite being pretty awful themselves (sorry to Mike Engel if you are reading this). Despite being 59-72, they having a good young offense, at least on paper. That, and the fact that their pitching is some of the worst in the league, gives me hope that they might be willing to trade Billy for some pitching help. And pitching help is exactly what we have. I would be more than willing to trade a package centered around LHP prospect James Paxton in order to bring in Butler. Butler would also be under contract for 3 years at an EXTREMELY low price.
Here is what BB (that’s my nickname for him, he and I go way back) has done this year: .307 AVG, .374 wOBA, 137 wRC, a career high 25 homers, all adding up to a surprisingly low WAR of 2.7. This can be attributed to him being a 1st basemen/DH, and doing a poor job in the field, which I will address later. This isn’t just a lucky year or anything for Butler either. He has been great over his whole time in the league, with a career line of a .299 AVG, .357 wOBA, and 119 wRC+.
As with any player, BB does have a kryponite-like weakness (yes, I am comparing Billy to Superman). Butler’s happens to be his below average defense at 1st. This could mean that, were the Ms to acquire Butler, Montero could be moved to 1st with Butler at DH, which is where I think they belong long term anyway.
Before you feel gun-shy about bringing in a right handed “power” hitter to save the offense, like a lot of us are thanks to Sexson and Beltre, take a look at his home run chart on a SafeCo Field overlay from hittrackeronline: http://hittrackeronline.com/detail2.php?id=2012_82&type=hitter, then select Safeco Field from the overlay list. As you can see, BB hits a good amount to the middle of the field and the other way. While all of them clear the fence inserted into the picture, you have to factor in the “marine air”, and he would probably lose a few, IF they were hit at Safeco. BB does not scare me nearly as much as other righties do, because he uses the whole field, and is really just a line drive, gap hitter who’s strength allows him to still hit plenty of homers. I’ve rambled on enough. I promise the rest of the players I talk about won’t drag on this long. I don’t know if I mentioned, I am a Billy Butler fan.
Trade Proposal: LHP James Paxton, OF/3B Vinnie Catricala or SS Brad Miller, and Erasmo Ramirez and/or Stephen Pryor for Butler and a reliever/AAA throw in.
Josh Willingham, 33, OF, Minnesota Twins, RH, 2 year/$14 million
Willingham is having a career year this year, coming out of nowhere to hit 33 homers, tied for 5th in the league, along with a .368 OBP (which overshadows the low .262 average), .385 wOBA, 147 wRC+ and 4.0 WAR. He was extremely underrated before this year, despite being a very good player over his career, with a .367 wOBA and 126 wRC+. The Ms have actually been rumored to be interested in him before (link), and for good reason. He is an inexpensive player, who can flat out hit bombs.
Willingham’s downside is that he is getting older, and only has 4 innings at 1st in his career, where I think he fits best on this team. He could DH while Montero mans 1st, like I proposed with Butler. Plus, his HR chart shows that he tends to pull the ball, never hits to right field, and would probably lose over 5 homers at Safeco according to his chart. That does still leave 28 on the year, which I would be more than happy to take any day of the week.
Trade Proposal: Jason Vargas or Erasmo Ramirez and Brad Miller for Josh Willingham.*
*This one is a little harder to judge because the Twins will probably want more than Jack will be willing to give up. This was just a straight up guess. Some people may think it is uneven, and it very well could be.
Justin Morneau, 31, 1B, Minnesota Twins, LH, 1 year/$14 million
Justin Morneau’s career has taken a huge turn over the last couple years. After winning the AL MVP in 2006 with a .321 average, 34 HR, .388 wOBA, 137 wRC+ and 4.0 WAR, and then putting together three more All Star-caliber seasons after that, Morneau started having trouble staying on the field. He only played 81 games in 2010, 69 in 2011, and just 107 so far this year. While injuries can and do really hurt a players value, Justin was on pace for perhaps the best season of his career in 2010 when he hit an astounding .345, with 18 homers and an impossible to sustain pair of numbers in his .437 wOBA and 184 wRC+ in exactly half a season. Had Morneau not gotten a concussion during a collision at 2nd base, I strongly believe he would have won his second MVP award in 2010.
Morneau looks as though he is beginning to revive his career, and has a chance to become an above average to All Star-caliber player again. In 107 games this year he is hitting .274, with a .337 wOBA, and 113 wRC+. Nothing too amazing, but he would be an upgrade over Smoak and Carp, and we have seen what Morneau is capable of doing when healthy.
Morneau may never be the same player he was. Injuries ate up 2 1/2 years of his prime, and he will be entering his age 32 season in 2013. He isn’t my favorite option because of that, and the fact that he is only under contract for one more year. If we can’t guarantee that he would re-sign, then it’s not worth it for me. I’m not even sure I would want to bring him back anyway if he cannot stay on the field, or does not produce at the level he should for the money he is/will make. I would want him to agree to re-sign with us IF we want him to, and that kind of stuff doesn’t happen. That being said, he was claimed on waivers, and we have yet to find out who the claiming team was (check out this article about it from SoDo’s Bryant Bartlett). If it is the Mariners, I would not be disappointed whatsoever. He would be a monumental upgrade over what we have now. I just think there are better options out there.
Trade proposal: James Paxton for Justin Morneau, a back end starter/relief arm, and/or $4-5 million in cash.
Allen Craig, 28, 1B/OF, St. Louis Cardinals, RH, Arbitration through 2016 (still on original contract)
Much like Billy Butler, Craig is one of the most underrated players in the league. Maybe underrated isn’t the right word, because people who know him know how good he is. The problem is, a considerable amount of people have no idea who Allen Craig even is. He is partially blocked in St. Louis with Berkman at 1st and Beltran in right, but he was able to get good playing time this year due to Berman’s injury. He has certainly taken full advantage of the opportunities, hitting .313 with a .395 wOBA, 153 wRC+ and 20 homers to his credit in just 91 games. Those are MVP caliber numbers, and some of you have probably only heard Craig’s name in passing, if at all. This is his 1st full year, but in 75 games last year, he was just as good, posting a .399 wOBA and 158 wRC+. Keep in mind, this guy does not get to play consistently because there are guys ahead of him. The Mariners are like the underprivileged of the MLB, while the Cardinals are the rich, one percenters. We aren’t fortunate enough to have All-Star-level players sitting on the bench half the time like some are, and it is frustrating to know that others can and do. If only the MLB would implement socialism.
The fact that the Cardinals have other options to fill 1st and right field means they COULD be willing to move such a quality player. However, Berkman will likely be gone after the season, and Matt Adams is the other 1st base alternative. He is a fairly highly rated prospect, but when Craig is so inexpensive and hits like a man, I think its unlikely that the Cardinals trade him, unless we were to overpay, or a hole showed up on their team that they wanted to address through a trade.
I would love to have Craig almost as much as Butler, but I have a feeling he may cost even more due to the fact that the Cardinals do not have the glaring needs that the Royals do, and have no real reason to trade him. We were linked to him this year at the same time as Willingham, but that wasn’t 100% official. Despite nothing ever happening from it, the talks still tell us that we could be interested in him, and that’s all that matters.
Trade proposal: SS Brad Miller, OF/3B Vinnie Catricala, Franklin Gutierrez and a reliever for Allen Craig and Matt Carpenter.
Any of these players would help us out offensively, there’s no doubt about it. The thing is, trades are always risky because you are giving up something of value to get what you want. Its hard to know what a player is worth in a trade, and it is easy to overpay. Personally, I think the Ms need to target young, but proven hitters who are under team control for at least a couple years. Otherwise, it may end up hurting the team in the long run. I’ll let Jack Zduriencik figure that part out though. I’m just the idea guy.