The Seattle Mariners and Upgrading the Outfield

DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 6: Carlos Gonzalez
DENVER, CO - SEPTEMBER 6: Carlos Gonzalez /

The Seattle Mariners have been adamant that they like their rotation. They have shown no public interest in upgrading their 25 man roster at this point. This is, of course, a massive mistake. Seattle needs to improve, even if it’s not with pitching.

The most obvious place for the Mariners to improve their roster is in the starting rotation. Most of the “big name” starters in free agency are still available, as are a few possible trade targets. Since the Mariners appear to be content with its rotation (God knows why), they must continue to upgrade elsewhere.

The Mariners biggest weaknesses, besides in the rotation, are at first base, left field, and backup catcher. Left field is an interesting position. Seattle plans to go with a platoon of Ben Gamel and Guillermo Heredia in left field, but why should they settle for a couple of maybes? Why, with all the quality bats still available, should they roll with 2, at best, league average players?

The simple answer is, they shouldn’t. Of course, I would not come to you without a reasonable suggestion. After all, we are all about finding answers to our own questions. So today, I present to you, the case of Carlos Gonzalez, Seattle Mariners Opening Day Left Fielder.

The Player

Carlos Gonzalez is a 32-year-old outfielder, who spent the last 9 seasons of his career playing for the Colorado Rockies. Once one of the most well-rounded players in baseball, a slew of leg injuries have derailed the perennial All-Star’s career.

Once a consistent 20/20 player, Gonzalez, or “Cargo”, still has a lot to offer the Mariners. After battling nagging leg injuries in the past, Cargo has average 146 games played over the past 3 seasons.

Over that 3 season stretch, Gonzalez has slashed .278/.338/.493, averaging 26 home runs, and 34 doubles. Cargo also averaged a 1.6 bWAR in those 3 seasons. All of those point solid production, but the numbers become even more impressive when you consider the struggle of Gonzalez in 2017.

During the 2017 season, Cargo slashed .262/.339/.423 with just 14 home runs. However, a closer look at shows plenty of reasons for optimism with Gonzalez. After slashing just .224/.303/.353 in his first 68 games, Gonzalez slashed .301/.377/.498 in his final 68 games.

The Fit

What the Gonzalez argument really comes down to is Ben Gamel vs Carlos Gonzalez. Both players would seemingly fill the “strong side” of the left field platoon, giving way to Guillermo Heredia against LHP and late in games.

Offensively, Cargo’s long track record gives him the edge offensively. In addition to Cargo’s long track record of success, are the concerns of Ben Gamel’s offensive tanking in the second half of 2017. Gamel hit just .227/.262/.376 in the second half of 2017.

Defensively, the competition becomes a bit of a toss-up. In 712 innings in left field, Ben Gamel posted a -1.8 UZR/150 (0 is average). Gamel did post a better +3.5 UZR/150 in 412 innings in right field. Meanwhile, Cargo logged 1064 innings in right field, posting a -1.5 UZR/150.

Defensive metrics are still a work in progress, but if pressed, I’d give the edge to Gamel. Perhaps the question comes down to which Ben Gamel do the Mariners believe in? The first half Ben Gamel who posted a .800+ OPS? Or the second half Gamel, who was a well below average hitter?

If there are any doubts, they should move for the proven commodity.

The Cost

While we cannot predict the exact contract of Cargo, it is safe to assume the 32-year-old won’t require a multi-year deal coming off his worst season. A 1 year contract seems like a win-win for Gonzalez and the team acquiring him.

A few teams who were thought to have interest in Cargo have filled their corner outfield spot yesterday, when the Giants traded for Andrew McCutchen and the Blue Jays sign Curtis Granderson to a 1 year deal.

Gonzalez is just 2 years removed from hitting 40 home runs, and his hot second half should give him a decent market. In order for the Mariners to sway him, they may need to offer him slightly more money, somewhere in the neighborhood of a 1 year, $8 million deal.

Next: 5 Trade Packages for Mariners Ace James Paxton

Signing Gonzalez to the short-term deal would allow Gamel more time in AAA, give the middle of the lineup another potential slugger, and, if worse came to worse, a decent trade chip in July. Whether or not Cargo is the right player is up for debate. However, one thing is for certain, the Mariners must get better if they want to make the 2018 playoffs.