When you think about the problem areas for the Seattle Mariners in 2021, your mind should instantly go to hitting. Yeah, they struggled with that final pitching spot for a while, but hitting was a problem for the majority of the year. It’s why, once the season resumes, I think that they should call up the Miami Marlins and see if Garrett Cooper is available.
Cooper primarily slots in as a first baseman and a right fielder, at least in his time with the Marlins. Bringing him over to the American League would open that up a bit more, allowing him to play some DH as well. He’s played a bit of left, albeit a few years ago, so I think of him as a utility guy with a strong bat that can rotate positionally, and still get 100-120 games in. Shoot, he could get even more depending on how well he hits and the health of the team.
Garrett Cooper could be a lower cost option to improve the Mariners lineup
Having just turned 31 on Christmas, Cooper doesn’t really fit in with what the Marlins have done over the last… well, forever. Older players with any sort of value get traded away so that they can try and fill out the team and the system with younger players with team control. With Cooper, he has two years left and is expected to make about $3 million in 2022, before hitting his final arb year in 2023, after which he will become a free agent.
He’s been a pretty consistent hitter over the last three seasons, hitting .281, .283, .284 over that span. It seemed like 2021 had a strong chance of being his best offensive season, but that was derailed when he went on the IL with a Torn UCL. For non-pitchers, it’s only a few months of rehab, so he should be good to go once the lockout/labor stoppage is over. He finished with just 215 ABs, but a .284/.380/.465 slash line, with 10 2Bs and 9 HRs.
There’s a bit of a worry that he is going to fall offensively when you look at his BABIP. It’s been at .357, .337, .374 over the last three seasons, with the MLB average being just .296. However, Cooper hits the ball hard much higher than average, with a rate of 42.8%, 41.6%, and 52.7% over that same three-year span, with the MLB average at just 38.6%.
If the Mariners were to go after Garrett Cooper, I feel like he could be an interesting utility piece to acquire. Normally, when you think of a utility piece, it’s a guy with no pop and high average, high pop and no average, or high defensive acumen without much hitting. With Cooper, you’re getting a slightly below-average defender, but with an all-around solid bat.
Cooper is a good player, yet he has only played 212 of 384 (55.2%) possible games in the last three seasons. It’s why I think the Mariners could send over a few lower-tier prospects, all of which have a bit of time before they get to the majors. He just so happens to be one of those players who is probably worth more than that, but the limited sustained success and injury history drop down the possible return.
It’s why I’m sending over an SP, a CI, and an OF. Isaiah Campbell headlines the deal as a pitcher coming off a cleanup surgery in his elbow that had nothing to do with Tommy John. Keenan is an interesting third base candidate, and Feliz is a 19-year-old CF with an interesting power/speed potential.
I think it would take something in this range to get it done, although the pieces could vary a bit depending on what type of positions the Marlins are looking for. They’ve got a good system, so I send them a mix to further give them depth, without anything major changing hands. Don’t expect anything near a top 100 player in exchange for Cooper, as he just isn’t that type of value.
Even though I do like what he brings to the table, I will admit that it would be a bit of a gamble. If his BABIP falls to league average, his batting average is likely going to fall off by quite a bit. However, if he can continue to hit as he has over the last three years, the Mariners could be getting a valuable addition to their lineup for a good price. A .280 average with 20 2Bs and 20 HRs is something that the Mariners lineup desperately needs after last year’s struggles.