Mariners continue off-season roster overhaul with trade for Adam Lind
New Seattle general manager Jerry Dipoto’s apparent attempt to turn over the Mariners’ entire 40-man roster continued on Wednesday with the acquisition of first baseman Adam Lind from the Brewers for a trio of minor-league pitchers. With that move, the Mariners now have 15 men on their 40-man roster who were not in the organization in October, a 37.5% turnover that may grow even larger as the off-season progresses.
The 32-year-old Lind, whose $8 million option for the coming season was picked up by the Brewers in early November, is an upgrade at first base for Dipoto; earlier this off-season, he dealt Logan Morrison to the Rays and Mark Trumbo to the Orioles in separate trades, leaving busted prospect Jesus Montero as his top in-house option at first base. Montero, still just 26 and with five years of team control remaining, has salvaged his career by slimming down and hit .322/.374/.530 for Triple A Tacoma over the last two seasons, but he continues to struggle to reproduce that production in his major league opportunities.
Montero will now likely be the short-side platoon partner for Lind, who has hit .313/.389/.523 against righthanded pitching over the last three years but just .193/.245/.279 against lefties over the same span; he hasn’t homered off a lefty since 2013. That will give the Mariners two strict platoons, with the pairing of lefty Seth Smith and righty Franklin Gutierrez in leftfield as the other, to compensate for what is otherwise a suddenly lefty-heavy lineup. When facing a righthanded pitcher, designated hitter Nelson Cruz and recently signed catcher Chris Iannetta will be the only righties in the Mariners’ lineup, and Iannetta will occasionally be spelled by lefty Steve Clevenger, who was the return from Baltimore for Trumbo.
Dipoto isn’t merely playing tribute to the local political climate by making the Mariners’ lineup lean so far to the left; he’s also tailoring it to the team’s ballpark. Safeco Field is tough on all batters, but it plays closer to neutral for lefties than righties. It’s not surprise, then, that three of the four players Dipoto has added to the Mariners’ projected 2016 lineup are lefthanded (Lind, rightfielder Nori Aoki and centerfielder Leonys Martin), or that he traded the righthanded Trumbo for the lefty Clevenger. That lefty-heavy lineup is an increasingly impressive one, as well: Lind will slot in behind Cruz, Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager, likely pushing Smith down to the seventh spot. That five-man core will likely be bookended by sophomore shortstop Ketel Marte and Aoki up top and Iannetta and Martin at the bottom. Lind may see his numbers dip after calling the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre and Miller Park his home to this point in his career, but as a lefty in the heart of a strong lineup, he’s unlikely to see his production gutted by his new ballpark.
As for the three pitchers going to the Brewers, it might be generous to call them lottery tickets. All are soft-tossing, righthanded, undersized teenagers. The oldest, Daniel Missaki—a product of Brazil’s large Japanese community—won’t turn 20 until April and had Tommy John surgery this past May after making just six starts in what was supposed to be his first year of full-season ball. Freddy Peralta, who is listed at 5’11” and won’t turn 20 until June, is a Dominican who posted outstanding peripherals but had poor results in nine starts and two relief appearances in short-season rookie ball this past season. The rail-thin Carlos Herrera, meanwhile, just turned 18 in October and has yet to pitch in the United States, having made his professional debut this past season as a 17-year-old in the Dominican Summer League. If any of those three is going to have a major league career, it likely won’t start for a good five years, which tells you something about the long-term view the Brewers are taking in their current rebuilding process.
Before adding Lind, Dipoto made another trade on Tuesday night, netting reliever Evan Scribner from the Athletics for minor leaguer Trey Cochran-Gill. An undersized righty who will turn 23 on Thursday, Gill is largely irrelevant: He cracked Triple A this past season but spent most of the year at Double A, where he walked more men than he struck out and posted 5.43 ERA. Scribner, however, adds some much-needed depth to a bullpen that lost would-be closer Carson Smith in the questionable Wade Miley trade on Monday. The 30-year-old Scribner lacks great stuff or results, but the righty has walked just four men in 71 2/3 innings over the last two seasons and struck out more than a man per inning. The trouble is that all that strike throwing combined with his fly-ball tendencies has made him particularly homer-prone (he allowed 18 in those 71 2/3 innings). Given that Oakland’s O.co Coliseum has been the most difficult American League ballpark in which to hit a home run over the last three years (according to the Bill James Handbook), Scribner—who is out of options and arbitration eligible—is as project for the Mariners’ new coaching staff, albeit one with four years of team control.