2014 Mariners Offseason Plan Part One: The Outfield


Oct 30, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Boston Red Sox center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury (2) reacts after hitting a double against the St. Louis Cardinals during the fourth inning of game six of the MLB baseball World Series at Fenway Park. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

Offseason plans and the like are very popular during this time of year. Everyone has ideas of what their team should do to rectify whatever problems ailed them in the previous season.

And on top of that, everyone is jonesing to know what will happen over the winter. And while we obviously can’t see the future, rumors, ideas and speculation are a close second at least in my opinion.

Often times, these plans are extremely specific and well thought out. They will give a list of signings and trades, with the cost right down to the dollar, or random minor league throw in that most people would call “random minor league throw in” rather than finding an actual name.

An example of this is Lookout Landing‘s 2014 plan that was posted last week. I linked to it in my last post, but it is worthy of another mention because it is very well thought out, both in terms of detail, accuracy, and potential effectiveness were it to actually come true.

I tried my hand at a plan last year, but it ended up being far too similar to that of other bloggers, because their ideas influenced me. I discovered that I had similar ideas of the type of players to pursue, but having read their ideas I had trouble coming up with my own players.

Because of that, I am going to try something a little different. It may resemble Dan Hughes’ GM for a Day series in some ways. But rather than list specific contracts or trades, I will list moves that I feel need to be made or positions that need to be filled, then suggest a couple options that fit the bill.

And with the following report, it seems my ideas for what the M’s should pursue matches what they actually will pursue to some degree:

In part one, I will focus on options to fill two spots in the outfield. One through free agency, and another through a trade.

This one is a no-brainer, and has been discussed ad nauseam the entire offseason. The Mariners have been heavily connected to every available outfielder, as well as some unavailable outfielders. And it certainly makes sense, and the Mariners ran out some combination of Raul Ibanez, Michael Morse, Michael Saunders, Dustin Ackley, Franklin Gutierrez, and Endy Chavez throughout all of last year.

The first free agent option should come as no surprise. Jacoby Ellsbury and the Mariners have been linked by almost every writer, local and national. And it seems as though that connection may be more than just rumors, as Rosenthal has hinted a couple different times that Seattle covets Ellsbury.

Ellsbury to Seattle has already been discussed here, so I won’t go too deep here. But Ellsbury would certainly be an upgrade for this team and by a large margin.

Last year, he slashed .298/.355/.426 with a 5.8 WAR over 134 games. He comes with some injury concerns, and is a speed guy getting into his thirties, but that may not be as scary as it sounds.

Could Choo be gold for the Mariners the 2nd time around? Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

It is generally accepted that you can take away .5 WAR per year to get an estimate of what a player will be worth over a contract. Lets just assume that Ellsbury gets a 5 year, $100 million contract. And over that contract, he is worth a reasonable 18 wins (about 3.5 per year).

He comes out to a value of $5.6 million per win, which is right where you want to be in this market. In my opinion, Ellsbury should be the main target, injury risks be damned.

Shin-Soo Choo is the other big name outfielder on the free agent market, who was finally officially connected to Seattle in the above tweet. Choo had a great year last year, and I discussed his merits before here. He posted an insane .423 OBP last year, and a 5.2 fWAR, the second highest total of his career.

He doesn’t come without concerns though, as he struggles mightily against lefties, and has some injury concerns of his own. Some regression could be in order as well, which is why I prefer Ellsbury over Choo.

But either would be fine with me for the right price, which for Choo, may be a little less than what Ellsbury snags. My personal limit would probably be around 5 years/$85 million.

The trade market offers much more in the way of pure quantity, but possibly less in the way in quality. None of the names being thrown around are quite as valuable as Choo and Ellsbury, but there are a lot more players to choose from.

One name that has popped up and stirred discussion is that of Andre Ethier. Actually, all three of the Dodgers non-Puig outfielders are said to be on the block, Ethier just seems the most likely candidate. While I am not a huge fan of Ethier, some more research has brightened up my opinion on him some.

He cannot hit lefties for his life and his outfield defense is a little suspect, on top of having a bad contract. Last year, Ethier posted a .272/.360/.423 line with 12 homers in 149 games. As you can see, he lost some power, but got on base at a higher clip than normal, which counteracted the lack of pop a little.

That production, combined with near average defense, led to a 2.9 fWAR and 2.7 bWAR on the season. And that is likely the kind of value we can expect to see from Ethier going forward, which would be an upgrade, but maybe not quite as much as we would like to see.

The biggest problem to me though, is that the Mariners are already left heavy, and if the plan to is snag Ellsbury or Choo first and foremost, adding Ethier to that essentially creates a lineup that cannot hit 30% of the pitchers they face. I think the outfielder acquired through trade has to be right handed to balance this team out.

I personally would be intrigued by what his teammate Matt Kemp would cost. I think despite the injury concerns, he is the better player, and if their costs end up being similar, Kemp may be worth the risk. It’s probably safe to assume the Dodgers won’t sell too low on Kemp though, so the cost may be too high.

Another option that was offered up by Lookout Landing and then discussed further here at SM was Peter Bourjos of the Angels. LA is said to be seeking pitching help in exchange for Bourjos, which is something the M’s could offer.

The left-handed swing looks familiar…..No. 24. Where have Mariners fans seen this before? Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Bourjos is a defense first guy, but he should be able to post at least average offense along with that. Throw in his likely low cost, and Bourjos makes a lot of sense as a secondary piece.

Last, but not least, there is Colorado center fielder Dexter Fowler, who Dave Cameron suggested the M’s trade for. Fowler had somewhat of a down year last year offensively, posting a .263/.369/.403 line with a 2.2 WAR in 492 plate appearances. Injuries may have played a part in that, as he slashed .300/.389/.474 in 2012.

Fowler does play in Coors, and his road numbers aren’t quite as good as his home numbers, but that doesn’t mean he can’t hit if he comes to Safeco. Will his production at home go down? Yes, most likely. But he also may be more productive on the road because he will not be used to the crazy elevation at Coors, throwing off his ability elsewhere.

The other problem is that Fowler is only under team control through 2015, so an extension guarantee may have to be included.

Fowler is at the top of my list in terms of trade candidates, and I would be willing to build a package around either James Paxton or Nick Franklin. Dave suggested:

"James Paxton, Nick Franklin, and Yoervis Medina to Colorado for OF Dexter Fowler, MI Josh Rutledge, and RP Matt Belisle"

But I think that is a little much. If I am going to trade Paxton and Franklin, I need more than a 2.5 win player, backup infielder and decent reliever back.

By adding Jacoby Ellsbury and Dexter Fowler — my top choices — to the top of the order, you automatically improve both the offense and defense. And if you project their WAR, you likely add somewhere around 7-8 wins to the team, in exchange for $27 million a year, and a few prospects.

That sounds pretty positive and efficient to me, and would be a great start to righting this ship.