It’s only the first week of June, but the hot stove is already cooking.
The Mariners, who entered the season with high hopes but entered play Wednesday five games under .500 and nine games behind the Astros in the AL West, acquiredMark Trumbo from the Diamondbacks in a six-player trade they hope injects life to their flagging offense. Lefthanded pitcher Vidal Nuno is headed to the Pacific Northwest alongside Trumbo, with catcher Welington Castillo, righty Dominic Leone, minor league infielder Jack Reinheimer and minor league outfielder Gabby Guerrero going to Arizona.
Seattle was a chic pick to win the AL West and advance deep into the playoffs, but its offense has faltered to this point, despite the heroics of Nelson Cruz. The Mariners have scored just 191 runs, the third fewest in baseball, and have a team-wide weighted on-base average of .303, which ranks 20th in the league.
Trumbo adds more pop to the middle of their order—he has nine homers and a .506 slugging percentage—but he’s hitting just .259 with a .299 on-base percentage. While the Mariners can use all the reinforcements they can get, Trumbo doesn’t really address their most glaring offensive weakness; their .298 OBP is worse than every team in the majors other than the Angels, Phillies and Brewers.
Having said that, you can bet you’ll see Trumbo—who became expendable for the Diamondbacks with the dual emergence of Yasmany Tomas and Jake Lamb—right in the middle of Seattle’s everyday lineup. Outside of Cruz and Kyle Seager, every Mariners regular has either been a major disappointment or, at best, barely met expectations. Robinson Cano is hitting .249/.291/.337, continuing the power outage that began last season, but this year providing worse than replacement-level value. Mike Zunino is slashing a meager .183/.240/.373, and Dustin Ackley has contributed just a .185/.227/.319 line in 130 plate appearances.
Trumbo will give manager Lloyd McClendon some lineup flexibility. He’d been playing rightfield with the Diamondbacks, but that was mainly because of the presence of Paul Goldschmidt and the absence of a designated hitter spot. In Seattle, he’ll take over for Ackley in left, but he provides depth at other positions. Trumbo also gives the Mariners a righthanded option at first, pairing with Logan Morrison, and can mix in at DH and in rightfield, allowing Cruz to get a day off in the field while keeping his bat in the lineup.
The Mariners actually have decent numbers against lefthanded pitching, hitting .267/.315/.443 with a .329 wOBA that has them tied for eighth against southpaws. Of course, Cruz and Seager account for nearly all of that. Morrison leads the team in plate appearances against lefties, and he’s hitting .208/.263/.226. Meanwhile, Trumbo’s a career .263/.311/.516 hitter against lefties. This year, he’s mashing them to the tune of .293/.356/.659. Going forward, the Mariners could opt for Trumbo at first against lefties with Justin Ruggiano in leftfield.
Seattle’s pitching staff will undoubtedly be happy with the additional run support Trumbo will ostensibly generate, but they all might want to learn how to throw a heavy splitter. With Trumbo and Cruz in the same outfield most games, a lot of would-be flyouts could turn into cheap hits. Austin Jackson may want to get his running cleats ready.