The Seattle Mariners have traded right fielder Michael Saunders to the Toronto Blue Jays for left handed pitcher J.A. Happ. Seattle has been looking to improve its outfield, and add depth to its starting staff; this trade strengthens starting pitching, while weakening the outfield.
Happ is 32-year-old and has been a slightly below average pitcher during his time in Toronto. In 2014 he tossed 158 innings, posted an ERA of 4.27 and a FIP of 4.27, while not registering an xFIP. The left hander was consistently mediocre in 2014, as he recorded an 11-11 record while striking out 7.86 batters per nine innings and walking 2.91 per. He was also worth 1.3 wins (fWAR).
Steamer’s early projections had Happ posting a similar ERA and FIP in the 2014 season, but those can now be thrown out the window thanks to the fact nearly half his starts will take place at Safeco Field. Happ’s fly ball pitching style will benefit from Safeco’s spacious outfield, but concerns about the outfield defense should temper expectations (if any) for the Mariners’ new fifth starter.
Trading Saunders is frustrating because the Mariners have been looking to improve their outfield this off season, and this trade weakens it. Saunders hit .273/.341/.450 with a 126 wRC+n 263 plate appearances, while posting an fWAR of 1.9. He was an above average hitter when he was playing, which wasn’t very often due to injury.
Now the Mariners will be trotting out an outfield of Dustin Ackley (LF), Austin Jackson (CF), and Stephen Romero/James Jones (RF); of those four players, only one has consistently performed at the major league level…and that’s Jackson. Seattle will need to acquire another outfielder if the team is going to prevent the defense from becoming laughable.
Saunders is expected to make about $4 million after his arbitration and has two years of club control left. While Happ will make $6.7 million in the last year of his deal.
This trade is not a disaster for the Mariners, as they were just trying to dump Saunders and got okay pitcher in return, but it does weaken the team’s offense and defense.