Mariners acquire Seth Smith for Brandon Mauer
Jack Zduriencik made a late addition to his holiday shopping cart on Tuesday as the Mariners general manager completed a trade for Padres outfielder Seth Smith that gives Seattle a strong platoon option in right field for 2015.
The Mariners sent right-handed pitcher Brandon Maurer to the Padres in the deal, using their bullpen depth to add another offensive piece to a club looking to challenge in the American League West next season.
Smith, 32, is a left-handed hitter who has performed very well against right-handed pitching in his eight-year Major League career and figures to team with recently-acquired Justin Ruggiano in a platoon situation in right field.
Smith hit .266/.367/.440 with 31 doubles, five triples, 12 home runs and 48 RBIs in 443 at-bats for the Padres last season. He had a park-adjusted OPS+ of 135, ranking ninth in the National League.
Smith has two years and $12.75 million remaining on a contract extension he signed last July with the Padres, with a club option for 2017 for $7 million with a $250,000 buyout.
Smith has a career line of .277/.358/.481 for an .839 OPS against right-handed pitchers, compared to .205/.291/.314 for a .605 OPS against southpaws. That would seem to make him a nice match with the right-handed hitting Ruggiano, who was acquired from the Cubs two weeks ago and has a career OPS of .836 vs. lefties compared to .704 against righties.
The 6-foot-3, 220-pounder also has performed well at pitcher-friendly Petco Park and Safeco Field in his career. He has a .276/.361/.473 slash line in 102 games at Petco and .291/.361/.436 in 16 games at Safeco.
The Mariners pitching staff posted the American League’s lowest ERA last season, but Zduriencik is looking to upgrade an offense that finished 11th among the league’s 15 teams in scoring and last in OPS. The club traded Michael Saunders to the Blue Jays in early December to open up the right field spot. The left-handed Saunders has a career OPS of .709 against right-handers and .636 vs. left-handers.
Smith was one of the Padres most-consistent hitters last year, but became expendable after San Diego acquired outfielders Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and Wil Myers in a roster makeover by new general manager A.J. Preller.
Smith brings another veteran presence to a Seattle club that improved by 16 wins in 2014, but came up one victory shy of the final AL Wild Card berth at 87-75. The Mississippi native has played in four postseasons – two with the Rockies early in his career and twice with the A’s in 2012 and ’13 – and was on Colorado’s World Series club in 2007.
Maurer, 24, struggled in his first year as a starter for Seattle in 2013 when he was 5-8 with a 6.30 ERA, but found success at midseason last year when he moved to the bullpen. He was 1-4 with a 7.52 ERA in seven starts last season, but posted a 2.17 ERA in 31 relief appearances after being recalled from Triple-A Tacoma in late June.
The Mariners still have numerous options for their expected seven-man bullpen from a group that led the Majors with a 2.59 ERA. Seattle is returning right-handers Fernando Rodney, Tom Wilhelmsen, Yoervis Medina, Danny Farquhar, Dominic Leone and Carson Smith, as well as southpaws Charlie Furbush and Lucas Luetge and new Rule 5 pickup David Rollins.
Seattle’s outfield now has Dustin Ackley returning in left field and Austin Jackson in center, with Smith and Ruggiano likely to share time in right. That leaves James Jones and Stefen Romero, who both played last year as rookies, fighting for backup roles or looking to break through with big springs to challenge for more playing time.
Nelson Cruz, Seattle’s biggest offseason acquisition, figures to primarily fill the designated hitter role. But Cruz played 70 games in the outfield for the Orioles last year and can also be used in one of the corner spots if needed.