The Seattle Mariners acquired Danny Valencia on Saturday which will give manager Scott Servais more options around the diamond in 2017. Until the Mariners acquired Valencia, the only player projected to be on the 2017 25 man roster who could provide Seattle the ability to play multiple positions was Shawn O’ Malley. Players who can play more than one position successfully have become a valued roster piece over the last few seasons and Danny Valencia will bring that to Seattle.
During the 2016 season, Danny Valencia was a hot commodity moving towards the trade deadline after a blistering first half. Oakland decided to keep Valencia and it became a tale of two halves for him, as the wheels continued to fall of Oakland in general. The Athletics floundered all season, only putting together one month above .500 (they were a modest 13-12 in April). The second half saw Valencia and Billy Butler get into a clubhouse incident, that eventually lead to the release of Billy Butler. In addition to the club house culture erroding, Valencia did not perform as well as he did in the first half of the season, which may have been expected due to a great first half.
Through 320 plate appearances before the trading deadline, Valencia had 13 home runs, and generated a .357 wOBA, .358 BABIP, and a 129 wRC+. After the trade deadline, Valencia had 197 plate appearances and hit only four home runs; his .317 wOBA, .326 BABIP, and a 101 wRC+ were far more pedestrian than his performance earlier in the year. (Stats are split by the trade deadline due to the fact Valencia was a potential trade deadline addition for contenders in 2016, but a deal never came to fruition).
The batted ball data may tell more to the story of Valencia’s numbers. In the first half, Valencia had a line drive percentage of 24.9 and a Hard-hit percentage of 35.6. Those numbers saw a big change over the second half. Valencia’s line drive percentage went down to 20.3 and his Hard percentage went down to 24.8. Overall, I think Danny Valencia is somewhere in between the first half and second half, but a little bit closer to the second half Danny Valencia.
Danny Valencia has the ability to play third base, both corner outfield positions, and first base - the position he may see the most of in Seattle. The Mariners have Kyle Seager firmly entrenched at the hot corner and Seth Smith and Ben Gamel are currently projected to start in left and right field, respectively. Danny Valencia will see most of his time at first base, sharing time with Dan Vogelbach.
Vogelbach was a September call up for the Mariners, after being acquired from the Cubs with Paul Blackburn (ironically the same player going to the A’s in this trade) for Mike Montgomery. Between Triple-A for the Cubs and Mariners Vogelbach totaled 23 home runs with a 158 wRC+ in the Cubs system and a 127 wRC+ in the Mariners system. He will more than likely begin 2017 as the everyday first basemen in Seattle, but the addition of Valencia gives the Mariners another weapon against left handed pitchers.
There may not be a straight platoon, but Valencia had great numbers last year against lefties. In 144 plate appearances, he had a seven home runs with a .395 wOBA and 155 wRC+. Of the four positions Valencia plays, all the current players hit left handed. However, Kyle Seager is not losing playing time at third and Seth Smith and Ben Gamel may occasionally be spelled by Danny Valencia, the most likely scenario is Dan Vogelbach and Danny Valencia teaming up to man down first base in 2017.
The Mariners just missed the playoffs in 2016, but 2017 may end the longest current postseason drought in Major League Baseball (15 years since the Mariners last made the playoffs in 2001), if Jerry DiPoto and his staff continue to make the correct moves.
Early indications are that Seattle will not be making any further additions to the outfield, but there is plenty of time between now and the start of the 2017 season to make further improvements to the big league roster. The offseason is just beginning, but the Mariners are off to a good start with the addition of Danny Valencia.
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Carl Triano is a contributor at Beyond the Box Score and Minor League Ball.