Could Evan Gattis be the Mariners’ missing piece?


Mariners right fielder Michael Saunders would appear to be on his way out of the Pacific Northwest.

Jack Z has made it clear that he doesn’t appreciate how often the speedy lefty gets hurt, and is shopping him around the league at the GM meetings this week, according to a Seattle PI blog.

Saunders doesn’t want to stay either, apparently, and quite frankly I don’t blame him for not wanting to work for somebody that doesn’t appreciate him.

So, who could the M’s trade him for? The Braves’ Evan Gattis certainly looks like a good bet, if you ask me. Gattis has only been in the league for two years, and is just about to enter his prime baseball years at the age of 27.

He could be the power hitter that the Mariners have been looking for. In his first two seasons in the league, he’s hit 43 home runs. His 22 last year would have been tied for second on the M’s roster with Mike Zunino (Kyle Seager led with 25 last season).

In my article about why the Mariners should keep Saunders, I introduced a statistic I called XBR, or extra-base ratio, which aims to show how often a player hits for power by dividing total extra base hits (2B, 3B, HR) by total hits. Yes, I realize that this is similar to SLG, but I don’t care.

Gattis’ XBR comes out to .412 last season, which is awfully impressive, and had a .263 batting average. Saunders’ was .389, with a .273 batting average. Making this straight trade would mean a trade-off from a more consistent hitter without home run power (Saunders hit eight last season), to a more powerful hitter that doesn’t get on base quite as much.

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There are some downsides to having Gattis on the team, however.

Gattis played catcher last season, which is currently a spot that the M’s have filled with Zunino. Trading an outfielder for a catcher, when the M’s have a need for an outfielder, doesn’t seem like a smart move to me. He has played a little left field in the past, so putting him in right isn’t completely out of the question, but it’s a position he would have to learn.

Also, Gattis strikes out a lot, 97 times in 369 at-bats last season. This may also be an attribute to the Braves in general, and have become a team known for striking out (and winning games doing it) over the past couple seasons.

In summary, if the Mariners are looking purely for a right-handed power bat, then the trade makes sense. Gattis wouldn’t cost much for the Mariners to pick up, and has a huge potential upside. With the right development, he could be a 30+ home run a season player.