It seems as if once Jack Zduriencik gets an idea in his head, he goes for it full-bore. First, it was instituting a phenomenal defensive outfield in Seattle, despite an obvious offensive decrease. Lately, his cause has been power: notably hitters who can add enough power to his Mariners lineup to pierce the marine layer at SafeCo Field. After starting the season a bit worse than they would have liked -- five games under .500 and fourth place in the AL West -- you can see why the team may want to make a change.
And so, they have. The Mariners acquired slugging outfielder* Mark Trumbo and pitcher Vidal Nuno from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for catcher Welington Castillo, reliever Dominic Leone, and two prospects: Gabriel Guerrero and Jack Reinheimer. Of all the six players in this deal, Trumbo is both the biggest name and the most important part of the trade.
* - He's sort of an outfielder. At least in name. We'll get to this later.
Weird, right? I mean, the Mariners are a team who has actively sought out too many corner outfield / first base / designated hitter types over the past few seasons. Corey Hart, Kendrys Morales, Logan Morrison, Nelson Cruz, etc. Now that the team is scuffling -- it's time to double-down on another corner guy in Trumbo?
Yeah, sure. Why not? The problem that it seems the Mariners are trying to solve here is getting better overall production out of left field. Currently, that position is being manned by a platoon of Dustin Ackley and Rickie Weeks, which is the least scary two-headed monster I've ever heard of. According to FanGraphs' wRC+ (a great way to account for a hitter's overall offensive performance) Ackley has performed 43% worse than league average (57 wRC+), while Weeks has performed 41% worse than league average (59 wRC+). Save Willie Bloomquist and Chris Taylor -- both shortstops -- they've been the team's worst two hitters. And they're being platooned, getting almost every possible advantage!
Of course, it's been only about a third of a season, and we're still in that tricky small sample size range ... but while neither player is projected to be this bad going forward, it's not like either is a guy who's expected to turn it around in a big way. Weeks' big power bounce from last year looks like one of the dead-cat variety, and Ackley has yet to turn in a single full season of league-average offensive performance. The saving grace of these two players could have been their outfield defense -- but Weeks' conversion hasn't been amazing, and Ackley has yet to emerge as the plus defensive outfielder many thought he could eventually be.
So if your team is already kind of punting defense in the corner to some extent, doesn't it make sense at least to bring in a guy who can hit while you do it? Oh yeah, Mark Trumbo is a legitimately terrible defensive outfielder. Pick a metric, any metric. DRS, UZR, eye test -- they all say the same sort of thing. Mark Trumbo has a tendency to cost his teams between half a win and a win and a half in the outfield each year.
But Trumbo can hit. This year, he's hitting for a .299 on-base percentage (which is bad), but a .506 slugging percentage (which is pretty darn good!). Most of the time, sabermetric folks put OBP on a pedestal above almost all other offensive stats, but if you're able to hit consistently for that much power, you can absolutely get away with a sub-.300 OBP. In Arizona this year, Trumbo's posted a 115 wRC+ -- nothing groundbreaking -- but substantially better than most members of the Mariners. And that number is adjusted to account for the difference between pitcher-friendly SafeCo and hitter-friendly Chase Field.
There might even be a way to help mitigate some of Trumbo's issues on defense. It turns out that Trumbo has demonstrated at least a little facility for first base in the past. That means it's possible that the team's best defensive alignment might consist of slotting Trumbo at first and letting fellow glove-toting question mark Logan Morrison try his hand again at left field. It's a possibility.
The rest of the deal, for Seattle, isn't as important, in my view. It's great to get a versatile pitcher like Vidal Nuno along with Trumbo, but he's also the type of guy you can get as an extra piece in nearly any trade. Welington Castillo was completely fungible for this team, a competent backup catcher who had no long-term role, and who hadn't even spent that much time on this roster. Dominic Leone is a live-armed reliever, but his performance this season teetered between "not good" and "call for help". He may be broken right now.
The "get" for Arizona is probably Gabby Guerrero, and yes, he is related to Vladimir Guerrero (nephew). He's made some top-10 Mariners prospect lists, and he's currently a 21-year-old in Double-A. So that's nice. But for a team like the Mariners, trying to compete immediately -- yesterday if possible -- he fits nicely in that sweet spot of "gee, wouldn't it be great if he works out" without being a player who's expected to be a star. Prospects of Guerrero's age and background miss all the time, and to get a reasonably-talented major leaguer at a time in which you need them -- that's kind of what they're here for. If Guerrero turns into a major leaguer with six years of service time for the Diamondbacks, maybe this could hurt. But I doubt it.
Jack Reinheimer is an infield prospect, and not a terrible one, but given the Mariners' track record of developing their recent crop of infielders (Ackley, Miller, Franklin, Taylor), maybe it's best that they just give up. Kyle Seager must've stolen all the talent?
I think I'd be remiss if I didn't touch on the Arizona perspective for this deal, so here it is. For the Diamondbacks, this move was kind of a no-brainer. The team lost Tuffy Gosewich for the season recently, and he's the only person who even slightly resembles a full-time catcher on an Arizona squad in desperate need. When you combine that with an outfield crunch brought about by Yasmany Tomas' long-awaited move to the outfield, you can certainly see why the team might look to move Trumbo. Unlike Ender Inciarte, A.J. Pollock, Jake Lamb, and Tomas, Trumbo likely isn't a long-term part of the future plan in Arizona, especially after his disappointing 2014.
As a result, the D'backs divest themselves of a player whom they didn't particularly need (and many fans and analysts of the team didn't want), and in exchange they filled a hole and got a few fliers. It's about all you could ask for, given how Trumbo's value has diminished since arriving from L.A.
Yep, this is one of those trades that's really only interesting on one hand, and that hand belongs to Jack Zduriencik. He's continued to gather guys with huge power potential, and there's a chance that there's actually a role for this one to fill. Mark Trumbo could, believe it or not, make the Mariners a better team with his bat, his glove, and everything else he can and can't do. I really see this one as a win-win right now, and it could turn out to be very successful for the Mariners if a couple of long homers break right.
The real question is whether or not Mark Trumbo can provide this team with enough extra value to carry them up past the bottom of the AL West and into playoff contention.
(Spoiler alert: He can't. Not by himself, anyway. Unless he turns into Willie Mays.)
At least watchers will continue to get what they always get from Trumbo: a few long-distance homers. Welcome to the 2015 Seattle Mariners. I'll leave you with this image of what Jack Z. must dream about at night.