Step 1: Trade for Lars Nootbaar
Proposed deal: Seattle receives Lars Nootbaar, Cardinals receive Bryce Miller
If you want to catch a big fish, you're gonna need some nice bait…hello Lars Nootbar. If you're going to trade away a valuable piece like Miller from an area of great strength, then you need to make sure you're getting better on offense, and I think Nootbaar can be the upgrade Seattle needs. While some mid tier prospects may be involved in this deal, the meat of the deal is Miller for Nootbaar.
While he has one of the coolest names in baseball, you may not be familiar with Nootbar's game. Lars is a 26 years old versatile outfielder that in his first three seasons has been a good to very good bat.
In 2023, Nootbaar posted a 3.3 WAR, slashing .261/.367/.418, good for a 115 OPS+. When you talk about why the 2023 Seattle Mariners failed, it doesn't take long to point to insane strikeout numbers by Mariners hitters, specifically Teoscar Hernandez. We're going to let him walk, with no qualifying offer, and look to replace him with about the most opposite player possible.
Nootbaar is a plus defender in the corners, and can hold up for an extended period of time in center field. While he may not have the arm that Teo is gifted with, Nootbaar himself has an above average arm. As a hitter. Nootbaar will likely never threaten more than 20 home runs a season, but he's an ideal "Control the Zone" addition. Nootbaar had a 19.6% K rate in 2023, which is better than average. When you compare it to Teo's 31.1% K rate, we're talking about a massive difference in philosophy. Add in Nootbaar posting a 14.3% walk rate in 2023 (95% percentile in baseball), and the Mariners could be making a massive OBP boost to their lineup, sacrificing just a little bit of power on the surface.
While Nootbaar would be a strong addition to the Mariners, there's more value to this deal. There's a friendship between Nootbaar and Shohei Ohtani. Nootbaar joined Team Japan in this spring's World Baseball Classic, and became both an instant star in Japan and friends with Ohtani.
When talking about his time with Ohtani and Japan, Nootbaar said this summer, “Going over there and having him accept me, obviously his word means a lot so the fact that he embraced me, I think, helped me and I think helped help the team, honestly”
While one friend isn't going to swing Ohtani's decision, it can't hurt to create an environment where Ohtani feels comfortable. His comfort visiting Seattle, and his friendships with Ichiro Suzuki and Lars Nootbaar can only help in the recruiting process.