Mariners trade OF Saunders for LHP Happ, weaken outfield

The Mariners took the plunge and traded 28-year-old outfielder Michael Saunders for a 32-year-old left handed pitcher. Saunders was one of Seattle’s better bats, even though he only played in 78 games.

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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.

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Fly free Condor, fly free. (Courtesy of Zimbio)

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.

  1. We knew this was coming. He played in 78 games this year so his batting average of .278 doesn’t really mean much. Defensively, it’s hurts due to his body frame and great glove. We’ll find somebody else, perhaps Alex Rios or Charlie Blackmon

    1. 1.9 fWAR is about 3.5-4 wins over a full season.

    2. That’s the difference between being in the playoffs, and not being in the playoffs last season.

  2. […] Seattle desperately needs to improve the offensive output from its outfielders, especially after trading Michael Saunders. Upton would take the right field position that was vacated by the Saunders trade, the smallest […]

  3. […] Seattle won 87 games in 2014, and missed out on the playoffs by one game. The Mariners success was primarily built off of an incredible bullpen performance that was able to mask some of the team’s offensive issues. It’s extremely unlikely Seattle is going to be able to repeat the performance. So the Mariners have focused on improving te offense during the off-season, as they signed outfielder/designated hitter Nelson Cruz; but traded away the team’s third best hitter in Michael Saunders for a mediocre starting pitcher J.A. Happ. […]

  4. […] Seattle won 87 games in 2014, and missed out on the playoffs by one game. The Mariners success was primarily built off of an incredible bullpen performance that was able to mask some of the team’s offensive issues. It’s extremely unlikely Seattle is going to be able to repeat the performance. So the Mariners have focused on improving te offense during the off-season, as they signed outfielder/designated hitter Nelson Cruz; but traded away the team’s third best hitter in Michael Saunders for a mediocre starting pitcher J.A. Happ. […]

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