So, the Mariners didn’t exactly trade for Justin Upton. But what they did might be better. Let me pump my brakes: The Mariners acquired OF Justin Ruggiano from the Chicago Cubs in exchange for 25 year old RHP Matt Brazis. My favorite part of this trade? I had never heard of Matt Brazis up until this point.
Brazis is an intriguing relief prospect that has performed pretty well, but he has yet to surpass AA. His peripherals are very good, especially for a player that was drafted in the 28th round. Although it’s easy to say after trading him, at the end of the day Brazis is just a relief pitcher. In the same way we traded Carter Capps and Stephen Pryor for players we thought would be beneficial to our team, we traded Brazis for a pretty valuable role player. Sometime it works out (Capps for LoMo) sometimes not so well (Pryor for Kendrys). Brazis is too old for AA, and he his velocity isn’t very high.
Justin Ruggiano is very likely going to be a crucial part of a two-man platoon in right field. The dude mashes lefties, which has been a priority of the Mariners this offseason. Over his career, he has slashed .266/.329/.508 while hitting for a .360 wOBA and 128 wRC+. Just last year, Ruggiano slashed an impressive .305/.333/.512 while also hitting for a .362 wOBA and 129 wRC+. While he’s only been worth 4.4 WAR over his career, in 2012 he was worth 2.6 WAR in a mere 91 games. He won’t steal a ton of bases or play Franklin Gutierrez-esque defense, but sometimes there’s nothing wrong with being an average fielder. One thing Ruggiano does bring to the table is versatility, which is quite valuable. He can play all three spots. While he says he prefers CF and RF, he’s played enough LF to be comfortable at any of the spots. The weird part is that according to both UZR and DRS, he is actually best suited in left field. Ruggiano is rather inexpensive, too. He has two years of club control left and shouldn’t be much more than the $2M he made last year.
I’ll say it again: This is, in a way, better than acquiring Justin Upton. J-Up has just a year left on his contract, is more expensive, and would have cost an arm and a leg (rather than a Matt Brazis). As it stands, James Jones is probably on the other end of the platoon with Ruggiano. Actually, if the season started today I’m not sure I would even platoon Ruggiano. (James Jones is that bad, and Ruggiano is that, uh, well not awesome but not bad.) As many other writers and bloggers have suggested, trading for Seth Smith of the Padres makes sooooo much sense. They have just revamped their outfield in the form of Matt Kemp and Wil Myers, and we need good lefty hitter. It’s a match made in heaven. So have at it, Jack! Take advantage of these market inefficiencies while they last!