Seattle Mariners: 5 Under-the-Radar Free Agent Targets

ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 10: Garrett Richards #43 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim pitches during the first inning of a game against the Seattle Mariners at Angel Stadium on July 10, 2018 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - JULY 10: Garrett Richards #43 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim pitches during the first inning of a game against the Seattle Mariners at Angel Stadium on July 10, 2018 in Anaheim, California. (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) /
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C A.J. ELLIS

SAN DIEGO, CA – APRIL 2: A.J. Ellis #17 of the San Diego Padres walks to the plate during the first inning of a baseball game against the Colorado Rockies at PETCO Park on April 2, 2018 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CA – APRIL 2: A.J. Ellis #17 of the San Diego Padres walks to the plate during the first inning of a baseball game against the Colorado Rockies at PETCO Park on April 2, 2018 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images) /

The Mariners have put their trust in Mike Zunino without providing a solid backup for far too long. Whether it be Carlos Ruiz, David Freitas, Chris Herrmann, or Steve Clevenger, the M’s just can’t seem to figure out their secondary backstop.

Enter A.J. Ellis, who’s coming off the third-best offensive season of his career at 37-years-old. Of course, his age indicates he isn’t much of a long-term solution. In fact, this may only be a one-year deal. But the Mariners need something a bit more consistent behind Mike Zunino in case he disappoints once again.

Ellis has been one of the premier defensive catchers in the MLB over the course of his career. This includes back-to-back 10+ DEF grades by FanGraphs in 2012 and 2013. While Herrmann was a fairly successful hitter in 2018, he struggled to control the opposition’s run game and manage his pitching staff.  Typically when acquiring a backup catcher, you prefer them to be more defensively inclined. Therefore, Herrmann is certainly not a guarantee to make this team out of Spring Training.

In 2018, Ellis slashed .272/.378/.344 in 183 plate appearances. The number that clearly jumps off the page is the extremely high on-base percentage, which is due in part to a fantastic walk-rate of 14.2%. This number has been pretty consistent throughout his career, breaking the 14% threshold three times in his career. What’s even more encouraging is that all three instances have come in the last five seasons.

At the very least, Ellis gives you a bit more insurance to let Zunino try to figure things out for one more season. Having the veteran experience of Ellis on this team, especially to work with a fairly inconsistent pitching staff, would be very beneficial to the Mariners in their current state.

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