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Transaction Roundup: Mariner's Edition

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I've fallen behind with my transactions, but the Mariners had a field day with the deadline approaching, so I'll have at it myself. Let's start with a long overdue transaction:

Mariners designate Carl Everett for assignment

Carl Everett only hit .186/.269/.286 against left-handed pitching this year, which is most of the reason the Mariners pulled the trigger on the Eduardo Perez deal. After about a month, the Mariners realized that Everett still couldn't hit right-handed pitching either (.239/.306/.382) and sent him packing. Of course, he never should have been signed in the first place, but it's July 26, and I guess you can't complain about that sort of thing now, just pour salt in the gaping wound that was the number five and six spots in the Mariners' order for 308 at-bats this year.

Chris Snelling was brought up to take Everett's roster spot. Snelling's most obvious problem is health; luckily, if he's on the disabled list he'll be causing less damage to the M's lineup than the .230/.301/.365 line he's replacing. I'll defer to my team preview on the Mariners for more Snelling/Everett analysis:

Everett shouldn't be a bad designated hitter, if one is to believe PECOTA and its EqA projection of .270 (league average EqA for a DH in 2005 was .278). I'm of the belief that the DH should go to someone who can hit the hell out of the ball though, and even though I understand that isn't always the case and you sometimes have to settle for Carl Everett, I don't think that the Mariners should. First off, they have Chris Snelling sitting in the minors and attempting to make the major leagues. The one thing keeping from from coming up the majors is his health. Baseball Prospectus put him on their top 50 prospects list at #46, and John Sickels ranked him with a grade of C; obviously two very different viewpoints. Sickels lists his reasoning thus:
...his body may simply not be up to the rigors of professional baseball, as his season ended early again, this time with a knee injury. If health wasn't a problem, Snelling would have been in the majors two years ago, hitting .280 or better with a high OBP.

That quote straight from Snellings' comment in The Baseball Prospect Book 2006, a book I recommend to any fans of prospects and the minor leagues.

If Snellings body can't handle the rigors of everyday professional baseball, then why not attempt to use him at DH? David Ortiz used to have multiple injury issues, and he has been able to put many of those away since sliding over to full-time DH. It is certainly worth the try, especially with Ichiro entrenched in right already. It isn't any fun losing Snelling's defensive potential in the outfield, but if he simply cannot handle a season in the field and at the plate, the least you can do is see if one or the other works. Here is his projected season as a DH:

2006: Chris Snelling .303/.376/.486; +15.64 pNRAA; +18.30 pNRAA

Using the .280 average Sickels posted in his comment, you can expect a pNRAA of +2.65; still higher than Everett, and on the lower end of his PECOTA projection even. There is really no reason to not give this a shot, besides the fact that they signed Everett.

Yes, I realize I wrote that Everett "shouldn't be a bad designated hitter," but I never said he'd be a useful one either, and it was obvious that the Mariners' were really reaching with the move. Main point: Snelling is a better use of roster space and plate appearances than Carl Everett at this stage. Snelling is also only hitting .251/.362/.389 in Triple-A, but he is hitting left-handers well, and the road seems to be the major issue for him (.187/.324/.352). To be fair, Snelling did not start playing until May 20 due to surgery, and his May was uninspiring. He did well in June, but has slumped this month. A final caveat: the league average was /268/.340/.409, so Snelling really wasn't that far off from average.

Of course, who knows what Snelling's role will be, now that the Mariners have picked up the other half of the Eduardo Perez platoon from Cleveland. Ben Broussard was shipped to the Mariners in exchange for Shin-Soo Choo and a player to be named later. Broussard and Perez were a devastating platoon in Cleveland before the initial trade: .320/.361/.562 with 18 homeruns is some fine production from first base, and it's a massive upgrade over Everett's aforementioned offense.

Shin-Soo Choo is 24-years old, and a centerfielder. He was in the midst of what looks like promising season in Tacoma, hitting .323/.393/.499 with 26 steals (87% success rate), walking in 10% of his plate appearances and striking out in a career low 16.5% of all PAs. He was hitting a homerun every 28 at-bats or so in Triple-A; a good sign after last year's complete lack of power output, although his .381 batting average on balls in play is mildly worrisome. Here's his batted-ball data from the minors, courtesy of the Minor League Splits Database:

Batted-Ball Splits 2006
Overall 13.8% 24.4% 57.6% 16.7%
Vs. RHP 16.3% 23.3% 55.4% 21.4%
Vs. LHP 3.6% 29.1% 67.2% 0.0%

The high BABIP is most likely a product of a large number of groundballs hit by Choo this year; he also has 26 infield hits on the season in Tacoma, and that's helping out his standard statistics. PECOTA expected him to hit .272/.341/.404, which is nifty production from a first-year centerfielder at age 23-24. Considering I don't have splits for his previous seasons, I cannot say if infield hits seem like a repeatable skill of his, or a fluke of Alex Sanchez proportions. John Sickels was mostly pessimistic in his report from this winter:

A front office type told me last spring that I had been far too enthusiastic about Shin-Soo Choo in the past, and that the Mariners outfield prospect would not develop much beyond where he currently was. There could be something to this, as Choo seemed to stall out somewhat in Triple-A. His overall numbers show an OPS just +3 percent compared to league. His SEC was better at a pleasant +19, reflecting his on-base abilities and speed. But his power was unimpressive considering league context, and unless it improves significantly it won't be enough for him to start at an outfield corner, where he fits best defensively. My thinking now is that Choo will probably end up as a backup outfielder/platoon guy. Grade C+

Considering 20-year old Adam Jones passed Choo on the depth charts and took over in centerfield when Jeremy Reed went down, it's entirely possible that the Mariners have held to their belief that Choo has leveled out. His power has increased from last year, but if he turns out to be a Juan Pierre type that relies on his legs to get on base -- without the consistent bat of someone like Ichiro -- then he won't be of very much use in a corner outfield spot. Of course, if he makes a habit of slapping infield hits all over the place and causing disruption for opposing teams all over the basepaths, then the Indians will be able to make room for him somewhere.

One serious point of interest is his inability to hit the ball with any authority against left-handed pitching. Notice in his batted-ball chart above that a mere 3.6% of non-bunt batted-balls are line drives, and his groundball percentage increased by roughly 12% versus his numbers against right-handers. That's a very small sample size, but his line of .205/.272/.233 with 17 strikeouts (20.7% of PA) reinforces that nervous feeling. He's currently 0 for 7 with 2 K against southpaws in the majors, not that it really means anything with so few appearances. The speedy-platoon-slap hitter tag looks like it might be the proper path with Choo though.

According to this story, Victor Martinez and Casey Blake will share duties at first base.