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The race to fill the Seattle Mariners’ outfield was always a toss-up. There have been questions and rumors flying around for weeks about who we would see and where we would see them. I’ve mentioned before that there’s going to be a tight race between Dustin Ackley, Corey Hart, Michael Saunders, and Abraham Almonte. But we obviously can’t forget about 2013 trade acquisition Xavier Avery.
When the Mariners finally parted ways with the oft-disappointing Michael Morse, they took in Xavier Avery from the Orioles. Avery had been one of the better prospects in the Orioles system and had gotten a taste of the Majors in 2012 when the Orioles gave him a call up for 30 games. He made was decent with a .223/.305/.340, but he also went 6 for 9 in stolen base attempts over that same time period.
The 2013 season was a forgettable one for Avery, who is looking to make a fresh start and get his stride back after dropping back to double A last season. Avery’s rap sheet has him pinned as a leadoff guy who’s going to get you a lot of stolen bases, which would add a little bit of excitement to a Mariners offense that was second to last in the AL with only 49 stolen bases in 2013.
Avery showed us a glimpse of what he could do for the Mariners against the Angels, when he stole second and advanced to third on a throwing error. Robinson Cano needed only to thread a shot through the infield for an easy RBI. It’s exactly what we want to see from the newly acquired Cano, and a new Mariners team that is (hopefully) going to stay aggressive into the new season.
Is there really room to hold onto him though? With a log-jam like Ackley, Saunders, Hart, Morrison in the outfield, there’s pretty much no room for Xavier Avery to play if he’s kept in Seattle. Sure, we’ll see him come in and pinch-run every now and then, but he’s going to be very limited in playing time, and there’s virtually a zero percent chance of him DH’ing with that lot also on the bench ahead of him. In that case, is it better to keep him in Tacoma?
Lets not forget about how good the bearded-wonder has looked recently. Dustin Ackley has also come out and said he wants to bat leadoff again. Getting to the front of the lineup and stealing some bases would certainly be a good place for Ackley, if he’s able to keep it together. If Ackley is the man this year, I find it unlikely that we’ll be seeing much of Avery in Seattle. Regardless of who it is, I’d love to see the Mariners put a guy in front of Cano who’s able to get himself into scoring position.
One other interesting proposition is pairing Avery up with Nick Franklin as potential trade bait. Starting pitching injuries are already part of the Mariners’ story, and given that Franklin is being shopped around right now, there’s certainly a case to be made for the Mariners adding one of their bountiful outfielders to the mix.
In reality, if Avery can continue to show off during the next few weeks in Peoria, his value is certainly going to go up, it would show that he’s been able to overcome a weak 2013 season and is ready to be an impact player. If he can do it, the Franklin/Avery combo would be enticing to the Mets, who are currently shopping for a shortstop and someone to work around their new superstar Curtis Granderson.
However this works out for Avery, it’s absolutely imperative that he continue to roll through spring training. Dustin Ackley has been on fire over the first four games of Cactus league play, so anyone who wants a shot at a corner outfield spot is going to have to turn on the afterburners and really do something special.