- Smith doesn’t have a broad skill set, but given how good he is at hitting right-handed pitching, he’s an excellent fit for the Mariners, Paul Swydan of Fangraphs writes. And unlike many good hitters against righties, Smith plays outfield and isn’t incredibly costly.
- Still, the trade might not work out for Seattle, Christina Kahrl of ESPN.com writes. Smith is signed through 2016 (for $13MM, which isn’t prohibitive but also isn’t nothing for a part-time player) and might not hold up through age 33, while Maurer has plenty of upside and could benefit from joining up with PETCO Park and Bud Black. The Padres have gotten good value by acquiring pitchers like Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross in trades, and they might do so again with Maurer, meaning the Padres might be selling high and buying low.
- The Mariners don’t seem inclined to add another first baseman to back up Logan Morrison despite Morrison’s past injury issues, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune writes. “We’re going to work real hard with Jesus Montero in spring training,” says GM Jack Zduriencik. “We’ve talked about the strides he’s made this winter. We’ll see if he’s a player or not.” Dutton adds that Brad Miller could be a factor at first if Chris Taylor wins the starting shortstop job.
The 32-year-old Smith (pictured) unquestionably had an excellent 2014 campaign, and his career year earned him a two-year $13MM extension in early July. He’s slated to earn $6MM in 2015, $6.75MM in 2016 and has a $7MM club option ($250K buyout) for the 2017 season. The Padres, at the time of the signing, assured Smith that he wouldn’t be traded after signing, but that assurance was made by different leadership; GM A.J. Preller was not in place yet at that time.
Preller has taken a dogged approach to acquiring talent via trades this offseason, successfully obtaining an entirely new outfield of Justin Upton, Wil Myers and Matt Kemp. Those three additions have left Smith without regular at-bats, and his inability to handle center field makes him a poor choice as a fourth outfielder. Thus, despite hitting a strong .266/.367/.440 with 12 homers, he found himself a frequently mentioned trade candidate. Smith’s strong production was the best of his career, especially considering that it came at Petco Park, but the new Padres front office may have been wary of his ability to repeat a career year.
In acquiring Smith, the Mariners have netted a platoon partner for fellow trade acquisition Justin Ruggiano. Smith’s platoon problems are well known; he’s a lifetime .205/.291/.314 hitter against fellow lefties, but he’s crushed right-handers to the tune of a .277/.358/.481 batting line. That will pair well with Ruggiano’s .288/.357/.569 triple slash against southpaws over the past three seasons.
Upon first glance Maurer’s stats aren’t particularly appealing, but the 24-year-old became a different pitcher upon moving to the bullpen midway through the season. Maurer’s heater averaged better than 95 mph as a reliever, and he posted a 2.17 ERA with a 38-to-5 K/BB ratio in 37 1/3 innings out of the Seattle ’pen in 2014.
The Padres’ pursuit of Maurer has been ongoing for about a year, tweets Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Some within the organization feel he could return to a starting role, though the Padres likely will rely on Andrew Cashner, Tyson Ross and Ian Kennedy atop their rotation, with a combination of Robbie Erlin, Odrisamer Despaigne, Brandon Morrow and Josh Johnson (once his deal is finalized) fighting for the final two spots. San Diego will control Maurer through the 2019 season, and he won’t be eligible for arbitration for another two years.
Maurer is the second arm acquired by the Padres to deepen the bullpen this week, as the Friars struck a deal to acquire Shawn Kelley from the Yankees yesterday. Maurer and Kelley will give manager Bud Black a pair of strikeout arms to add to a bullpen that already featured Joaquin Benoit, Kevin Quackenbush, Nick Vincent, Dale Thayer and Alex Torres. That creates a deep and formidable bullpen, though we of course shouldn’t rule out that possibility that Preller will deal some of those arms in further trades. Benoit, in particular, seems like a possible trade candidate to me, given his $8MM salary and the presence of other closing options in the Padres’ bullpen.
Shannon Drayer of 710 ESPN in Seattle was the first to report that a trade of Smith to the Mariners was close (Twitter link). USA Today’s Bob Nightengale first mentioned Maurer’s possible involvement in the deal (on Twitter). ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick reported that the swap was complete (on Twitter).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
4:30pm: Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune hears from officials with both clubs that a trade is indeed close, but the Mariners are pushing to include a reliever other than Maurer, for whom the Padres are strongly pushing in talks.
12:03pm: The Mariners are close to a trade for Padres outfielder Seth Smith, Shannon Drayer of 710AM ESPN in Seattle tweets. The Padres are trying to get righty Brandon Maurer for Smith, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets.
The Padres, of course, have a surplus of outfielders after their recent string of trades for Matt Kemp, Justin Upton and Wil Myers, and the Mariners lost out on Melky Cabrera and have been known to be looking for outfield help, so a trade involving Smith would appear to make sense for both sides. The lefty Smith would fit well in right field, where the Mariners can use a platoon partner for the newly acquired Justin Ruggiano.
Smith, 32, is coming off a strong season for San Diego in which he hit .266/.367/.440, and in July, the Padres’ previous management signed Smith to a two-year, $13MM extension with a club option for 2017. After that, though, Smith tailed off in the second half, and in any case, the Padres’ current glut of outfielders makes him an obvious trade candidate — Kemp, Upton and Myers are all arguably best best utilized in the corner outfield spots, and Smith has played exclusively corner outfield in the Majors since 2008.
Maurer, 24, had a 4.65 ERA in 2014, but with fairly good peripherals (7.1 K/9, 2.6 BB/9) and a big fastball (averaging 94.4 MPH). Maurer also got much better results pitching in relief (9.2 K/9, 1.2 BB/9) than starting. If the trade is completed, he could compete for the Padres’ fifth starter job, but he might ultimately be best suited for relief. He also has fly ball tendencies, which could make him a good fit for PETCO Park.
Here’s the latest from the American League:
- The Mariners still have their eye on Padres outfielder Seth Smith, writes Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times. However, it’s unclear if San Diego is eager to move Smith. Along with Will Venable, Smith is one of just two left-handed outfielders on San Diego’s 40-man roster. While the club is still expected to trade one of them, there remain several factors in play. Divish also hears that offers have been made by Seattle for Smith.
- After today’s trade of Shawn Kelley, the Yankees appear to have 11 candidates for two bullpen jobs, writes Brendan Kuty of NJ.com. Kuty assumes the club will attempt to identify a long reliever and a spring standout to fill the spots. Chase Whitley, Bryan Mitchell, and Manny Banuelos are the top candidates for to fill in as long reliever. Of those who may be given a chance to surprise in spring training, 2014 draft Jacob Lindgren is perhaps the most interesting. Across four levels, Lindgren struck out 48 batters in 25 innings last season. He’s yet to pitch above Double-A and isn’t on the 40-man roster, so he should still be viewed as a long shot.
- The A’s could be among the clubs interested in 30-year-old Cuban infielder Hector Olivera, opines John Hickey of the Bay Area News Group. Oakland has few internal options at second base beyond Eric Sogard. Meanwhile, Olivera hit .316/.412/.474 in the Serie Nacional last season. After returning from an injury that caused him to miss the previous season, Olivera spent the majority of his time at designated hitter. He has yet to establish residency in another country, making a spring training debut doubtful. Clubs expect Olivera to hold an open showcase once the residency issue is resolved.
The Mariners have unfinished business heading into the new year, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune writes. They’ll need to find a platoon partner for righty Justin Ruggiano in right field, with Seth Smith of the Padres as one possibility. They could also move Brad Miller to the outfield if he loses the shortstop job to Chris Taylor. The M’s could also find a catcher in the Humberto Quintero mold to provide depth at Triple-A Tacoma. Here are more notes from around the big leagues.
- Signing Robinson Cano to a $240MM contract last offseason helped the Mariners press the reset button, Dutton writes. Led by Cano and their pitching staff, the Mariners improved by 16 games in 2014, although they just missed the last AL Wild Card berth.
- The remainder of the offseason could feature plenty of trades for outfielders, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports writes. The Phillies, Reds, Rays, Padres, Rockies, Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Indians and Angels could all have outfielders available, with about the same number of teams looming as potential buyers. Still, it might take time for the market to resolve itself — the key to the outfield market could be the rumors about the Padres trading a package centered around Wil Myers to the Phillies for Cole Hamels, and that might not be resolved until Max Scherzer and James Shields sign.
- Pirates reliever John Holdzkom has been released “five or six” times, he tells MLB.com’s Tom Singer. Some of those releases were no doubt even more depressing than such transactions usually might be. “I got released without the team even calling me. I looked on the Internet and saw my name next to ’Transactions’ — five days before I was supposed to report,” says Holdzkom. “Yeah, that was bad.” And that team wasn’t even a Major League organization, but the independent Laredo Lemurs. Holdzkom emerged seemingly from out of nowhere to become a key part of the Pittsburgh bullpen down the stretch in 2014.
- The Indians’ signings of Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn haven’t worked out so far, at least not from a baseball perspective. But they were still the right moves, Terry Pluto of the Plain Dealer writes. The signings prevented a big drop in the Indians’ season-ticket sales and helped them increase revenues while also helping make them more relevant. Bourn’s presence also allowed Michael Brantley to move to left field.
- Infielder Rafael Furcal has a torn hamstring and will miss Winter League playoffs in the Dominican, Dionisio Soldevila of ESPNDeportes.com tweets. Furcal had hamstring issues in the 2014 regular seasona and only made 37 plate appearances with the Marlins, so this latest injury could affect his attempt to come back next season.
The Orioles are still talking with the Padres about the possibility of dealing for a piece of San Diego’s overstocked outfield, Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun reports. Left-handed hitters Seth Smith and Will Venable are the two names that have drawn the most interest from Baltimore, Encina adds.
For their part, the Padres have asked about young arms Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy — a common target for teams eyeing the O’s system — but that appears to be a non-starter. Baltimore has already shown it will not rush to fill in for the losses of Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz, and Encina notes that the Padres are not exactly flush with leverage given their readily apparent logjam.
Though both Smith and Venable are most useful against right-handed pitching, Encina says that the O’s are content to combine such a player with another bat in a platoon. The club has long been said to be interested in a reunion with Delmon Young, for instance, and he would presumably be a candidate for that sort of role. Of course, Baltimore recently tendered a contract to Alejandro De Aza and owns the rights to David Lough, and adding a new left-handed-hitting outfielder would almost certainly push one or both of those players off the roster.
After reaching agreement on their deal to acquire Wil Myers, the Padres are likely to keep trading, and Seth Smith is one player who might be moved, ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick tweets. As Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan notes, the Padres have a huge number of outfielders, with Myers, Smith, Matt Kemp, Will Venable, Cameron Maybin, Abraham Almonte, Rymer Liriano and Carlos Quentin.
Assuming the Kemp trade goes through as planned (which doesn’t appear entirely certain at this point), Smith’s role with the Padres, in particular, would seem to be open to question. Smith and Myers are almost exclusively corner outfielders, and while Kemp is nominally a center fielder, he is very weak defensively there, so an outfield headlined by those three players would leave the Padres vulnerable. Smith, though, was one of the Padres’ few effective offensive players last season, hitting .266/.367/.440 in 521 plate appearances and earning a two-year extension in July. Following that extension, Smith faded in the second half, hitting .243/.340/.346 after batting .283/.387/.508 in the first.
- The Padres are interested in a wide array of hitters, but they’re “all over” Justin Upton, Rosenthal hears. However, now that they’re set to acquire Matt Kemp, the Padres don’t want to trade Andrew Cashner, Ian Kennedy or Tyson Ross, which might make a deal difficult to line up. They could possibly follow the Howie Kendrick-for-Andrew Heaney model and offer six years of a top prospect such as Austin Hedges or Matt Wisler.
- Seth Smith is drawing interest from the Mariners and Orioles, among other clubs. Trading Smith would be an easier route for the team to take than moving one of Carlos Quentin or Cameron Maybin, neither of whom has much (if any) trade value. The Padres, however, gave Smith assurance that he wouldn’t be dealt this offseason when he signed a two-year, $13MM extension in early July. Then again, that assurance came before GM A.J. Preller had been hired.
- The Nationals recently offered the Mariners both Jordan Zimmermann and Ian Desmond in exchange for right-hander Taijuan Walker and shortstop Brad Miller, according to Rosenthal. However, the Mariners balked at giving up six years of Walker and five of Miller for just one year of Zimmermann and Desmond at a combined total of $27.5MM. Washington also discussed Zimmermann with the Red Sox.
- The Marlins could look to trade Dan Haren if he doesn’t want to pitch for them in 2015, Rosenthal tweets. Haren made his preference to pitch on the West coast (specifically near his wife and two young children) clear when he signed with the Dodgers. At the end of the 2013 season, he discussed the difficulty of pitching across the country from his family with Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post, and more recently he said he planned to retire if traded out of the area. Rosenthal notes that the Marlins spoke to Haren the night of the trade, and their preference is for Haren to pitch for their club in 2015. The Angels, who would represent one logical trade partner, given Haren’s geographic preference, have said they won’t be trading for him.
Here’s the latest on the Mariners heading out of the Winter Meetings, courtesy of Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune:
- The Mariners and Melky Cabrera seem to have staked out their positions, with Cabrera after five years and upwards of $60MM and the M’s not willing to go past three and around $42MM.
- Seattle is increasingly looking at other possibilities, though the idea of a Dayan Viciedo trade was downplayed by Dutton’s sources. The team does have interest in Alex Rios, though he seems to be waiting out other market moves.
- The M’s still have interest in Justin Upton, but do not want to meet the Braves’ asking price. Meanwhile, the team is “cool” at present to the idea of dealing for Ian Desmond.
- One alternative trade candidate is Seth Smith of the Padres, though Dutton notes that he would not be optimal since he swings from the left side.
The Padres have officially agreed to a two-year, $13MM extension with outfielder Seth Smith, as originally reported by MLB.com’s Corey Brock (Twitter links). Smith will earn $6MM next year and $6.75MM in 2016 before an option year in 2017, when the club will decide whether to pay a $250K buyout or $7MM salary, Brock reports on Twitter.
Surprising on several levels, the new contract for Smith will presumably keep him off the upcoming trade and free agent markets. Indeed, he has been assured he will not be dealt, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter). Smith, a 31-year-old who swings from the left side, was playing out his final year of arbitration eligibility in San Diego after being acquired for reliever Luke Gregerson before the season.
To be sure, Smith has been excellent thus far for the Padres. He owns a .281/.384/.506 triple-slash and 9 home runs through 277 plate appearances. Those numbers are good for a park-adjusted 158 OPS+ and 155 wRC+. Though his defense has never been a strong suit, Smith has still managed to put up 2.2 fWAR and 3.0 rWAR in just about a half-season of work in 2014.
On the other hand, that tally of wins above replacement is more than twice what he has produced on average over the past four seasons. Between moving out of Coors Field (after the 2011 season) and into Petco Park, Smith had slashed .246/.331/.406 with 22 home runs in 851 plate appearances for the A’s. It would be unrealistic to expect Smith to keep up his torrid current pace, of course, though projection systems ZiPS and Steamer like him to maintain a more-than-serviceable 120 wRC+for the rest of the season.
In terms of value, Smith will receive a deal that lands just north of several two-year contracts signed over the last free agent period. David Murphy got two years and $12MM from the Indians, while Rajai Davis and Nate McLouth received two-year pacts for between $10MM and $10.75MM. Put in those terms, the deal appears to be a fair one for both sides, with each avoiding the risk of shifts in second-half performance as well as the unpredictable nature of the open market.
The larger question, it would seem, is whether the contract makes sense for San Diego. Even after a recent run of good play, the club remains 10.5 games back in the NL West and 8.5 out of the Wild Card. Smith looked to be an attractive trade chip in the run-up to the deadline, with his pop from the left side of the dish already drawing calls. Then, of course, there is the fact that the Padres just fired GM Josh Byrnes, and are currently in the process of selecting a new steward while operating under a trio of preexisting executives.