Seattle Mariners Off-Season Preview: Left Field
The Mariners continue their season with just 5 games remaining, and we will continue to get your prepared for the off-season with another preview.
Today, the focus will shift to the outfield, primarily the black hole of Mariners history that has been left field. This year, the job was ably handled by Denard Span and Ben Gamel for most of the season. However, things are likely to change in 2019.
Span, acquired by the Mariners in May, has a 1-year, team option in his contract, worth $12 million. If the Mariners choose not to activate the option, they will pay Span $4 million to play ball elsewhere in 2019.
Span has apparently asked that the option not be picked up, stating his desire to go back to the east coast to be closer to his home in Florida. So whether the Mariners do just activate the buyout or activate the option and trade Span, it is unlikely he will factor into the Mariners 25 man roster come March.
This leaves Ben Gamel and Guillermo Heredia as the in-house candidates. Of course, one of them won’t make the opening day roster, because Ichiro HAS to be on the roster when the teams open the season in Japan (excuse me while I cry), but that load of BS will be discussed at a later time.
Both options have their positives. Gamel has proven to be a useful bat over nearly 2 full seasons of MLB time. He has slashed .269/.330/.392, including posting a .353 OBP in 2018. Heredia is a nice glove in the field, particularly in a corner spot, but has no business getting regular AB’s.
The Mariners would be better served to enter 2019 with Gamel as the 4th OF, using him in Gamel friendly matchups. Thankfully for Seattle, there are several interesting options available for their consideration in Free Agency.
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The biggest name they could consider is Michael Brantley. Brantley is a 32-year-old outfielder who has spent his entire career in Cleveland. His father, Mickey Brantley, played for the Mariners, and Brantley was born in Bellevue.
More importantly, Brantley is an excellent baseball player. A career .295/.351/.430 hitter, Brantley has recently tapped into some power, posting a .470 slugging percentage in his past 3 full seasons. Brantley carries an injury-prone label. However, it isn’t exactly accurate. Since 2011, Brantley has averaged 118 games played. That sample even includes the mere 11 games he played in 2016.
A player who was linked to the Mariners as recently as the last off-season is Jon Jay. Jay was heavily rumored to be in strong consideration to be the Mariners starting center fielder this winter.
However, after Jay was hesitant to sign, Jerry Dipoto completed the trade for Dee Gordon. Jay is basically an older, more expensive Ben Gamel. He is a fine player, but a bit redundant with Gamel on the roster.
In terms of older vets, most fans of heard of, Carlos Gonzalez and Adam Jones fit that mold. We talked about the possibility of acquiring Adam Jones this July, and the points still stand. Gonzalez, or Cargo, makes a bit more sense.
While not a great defender any longer, Cargo still provides left-handed power. Over his past 4 seasons, Cargo has slashed .277/.336/.485 averaging 24 homers as well. This falls right in line with his 2018 slash of .273/.328/.457.
An aging player, Cargo is a good fit for an A.L. team that can use the DH to protect him on occasion.
The Mariners will absolutely need to add at least 1 OF this off-season, and probably 2. Entering 2019, Seattle has 1 known commodity they can play every day in the OF. There are numerous trade options as well. The market will be flooded with quality options, and the Mariners must take advantage of this opportunity to solidify their OF.