The season of trade rumors is just about upon us, and the Mariners somehow find themselves well within the playoff hunt for the first time in what seems like an eternity. In fact, at 47-38, if the season ended today, they would own the second wild card spot in the American League, and their .553 winning percentage equates to 89-90 wins for the year.
They have managed all this in spite of their offense (team wRC+ of 90), rather than because of it, as is the norm. Their rotation and bullpen have both been great, and are the main reasons why they are where they are.
In order to maintain this success though, they have to try to add to the team in some way. Because of the offensive struggles, it would follow that their targets should and will be bats, particularly from the right side. And I agree that a right handed bat would be idea.
But they cannot and should not limit themselves in that way. Upgrades are upgrades, and if the rumors of Jeff Samardzija and Jason Hammel are true, and they could be had in the right deal, you have to pull the trigger.
But that debate is for another post. For now, I am in fact going to focus on a right handed bat, by the name of Scott Van Slyke. Van Slyke is definitely not a household name, and on the surface you may not see him as the kind of guy who will aid a team in a playoff race.
But Van Slyke may be one of the most underrated players in the game, and is currently forced to be a part-timer for the Dodgers.
He only has 339 career plate appearances, but in that short time he has posted an impressive .234/.346/.465 line with a 13.6% walk rate and .231 ISO, cumulating for a 132 wRC+, which would be 2nd on the Mariners between Kyle Seager and Robinson Cano.
He is currently in the middle of his best season, with a .262/.415/.544 line (176 wRC+). That is without a doubt unsustainable, and his career sample size is about half of a full season, but his high walk rate and power suggest he has the ability to be a very productive player going forward. Zips pegs him at a .251/.341/.438 line for the rest of the year, totaling .255/.371/.478 with 2.6 WAR for the season.
He also has the flexibility to play both corner outfield spots and 1st base, where the team could desperately use some help. And again, the sample is small, but to this point the metrics suggest he is average or better at both first base and the outfield.
So while he isn’t the biggest name out there, nor is he the best player, he is the kind of guy the Mariners should target. Not to mention, Scott’s father Andy is the team’s first base coach. He could pull some strings to make a deal happen.
The M’s lack the firepower to go out and get a star without mortgaging the future, so underrated, ready-to-break-out players make the most sense. I don’t think a .240/.340/.440 or so is out of the question at all, and combined with roughly average defense in left field comes to about 2-2.5 WAR over a full season.
I cannot say what it would cost, nor if the Dodgers are looking to move him. We don’t know whether other teams or the Dodgers themselves see the breakout potential that Van Slyke has, so it’s hard to gauge the asking price.
On top of that, he has been useful filling in when Adrian Gonzalez or one of their many outfielders miss time, and they have no reason to trade him unless they get an offer they really like.
Nick Franklin and Yoervis Medina for Van Slyke comes to mind, but again, I have no real gauge of the actual price tag attached to Van Slyke. What I do know is Van Slyke would be a versatile and relatively cheap upgrade for the Mariners as they enter their first playoff race in a long time.