Underrated free agent hitters who could help the Mariners.
I talked before about some players the Mariners could target through free agency to improve the offense (you can read that article here). Those players were big name, expensive guys that a lot of people want us to shy away from because of past signings.
There are a few guys who will be free agents this winter who could help the team much more than their price tag would indicate. Guys that have put up solid seasons either this year or in the past. Keep in mind, these most likely aren’t the kind of guys who will turn our offense around completely, but they would all help get it going in the right direction. For optimum results, we would want to bring in another hitter of equal or greater value to go along with one of these guys.
Jonny Gomes, OF, 31
2012 stats: .375 OBP, 17 HR, .376 wOBA, 142 wRC+, 1.9 WAR in 90 games.
Gomes has been simply awesome this year, as seen above. While he was solid at the beginning of his career for Tampa, he has become more of a part timer over the last few years. And while that is the role he has been in this year, he has outplayed it by far. He is only hitting .257, but his 13% walk rate has helped give him a much higher .375 OBP. He has a better wOBA and wRC+ than Nick Swisher, who I mentioned in my other article, albeit in about 35% less time. Gomes could be playing a little over his head thanks to some A’s magic, but he could be like a right handed Jaso with more pop. Also, as seen below, he would only lose a couple homers in Safeco.
I would be all for giving Gomes $3-5 million and giving him a shot in the OF and at DH. He should be an upgrade over Thames/Wells. Maybe he can even learn some 1st as well.
Ryan Ludwick, OF, 34
2012 stats: .349 OBP, 26 HR, 372 wOBA, 132 wOBA, 2.8 WAR in 120 games.
Ludwick’s career has been similar to Gomes’s the past couple years. He has bounced around to three teams, and has been alright. Not quite as good as we was on the Cardinals however. He was moved at the deadline last year to try to aid the Pirates in their playoff run, but he struggled down the stretch, and was picked up by the Reds for $2 million. And talk about under the radar this year. I didn’t even think he was getting consistent playing time, and it turns out he has a .372 wOBA and 26 homers this year. As seen below, he would probably only lose a few of said bombs at Safeco.
I would consider Ludwick for $2-5 million, but I have a feeling he will make more than that. I’m not sure the age risk, and the fact that he was greatly affected by Petco in the past, are worth what he could end up making.
Cody Ross, OF, 31
2012 stats: .331 OBP, 21 HR, 349 wOBA, 115 wRC+, 2.5 WAR in 121 games.
Cody Ross is another on and off guy, who had an “on” year this season. He was one of the better hitters on what became a very disappointing Red Sox team. They were bitten by the injury bug, and eventually traded their best hitter in Adrian Gonzalez, along with Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett, to the Dodgers. He was a big part in keeping the Red Sox afloat as long as they were. He had his best year in terms of OBP, and is 4 homers away from breaking his personal record. While Ross was big time for the Giants in the 2010 playoffs, he wasn’t able to put it all together until this year.
He would be an improvement over Casper/Thames, but I tend to think he was helped out by Fenway. As seen in his home run chart, he would probably lose 5-6 homers at Safeco. He isn’t a natural home run hitter anyway, and is more of a on base, gap power kind of guy.
All that being said, I would take Ross for $5-7 million a year. He may end up getting more, but he isn’t worth much more than that to the Ms. He is 2 or 6 hole kind of guy (similar to Saunders), whereas we need a power bat in the middle of the lineup.
Adam LaRoche, 1B, 32
2012 stats: .342 OBP, 32 HR, .359 wOBA, 125 wRC+, 3.3 WAR in 144 games.
Adam LaRoche is one of the most underrated players in the game. He consistently goes out every year and puts up a .340+ OBP and 25 homers. This year is no exception, as seen above. Adam has helped bring the Nats to where they are, and bounced back from an injury-plagued season in 2011. He is 4th in the NL in homers, and still his name is rarely heard. LaRoche is a mainly a pull hitter, but as seen in his chart, he has hit quite a few to center and right field. It looks as though he would lose 4-5 homers if they were hit at Safeco, most of them being the “oppos”.
LaRoche is the best hitter of this group, and makes the most sense in terms of improving the offense right now. However, if we were to sign him for 2-3 years, once Zunino is up, either he or Jaso would be out of a job. That doesn’t change the fact that the dude can flat hit. Who knows if Jaso will play as well as he has, or if Montero will break out. Plus, one of them could always be traded. Still, an outfielder makes more sense after a year of two.
I would be willing to give him $7-9 million a year for 2-3 seasons. I have pretty much given up on Smoak, and we need production from 1st base. The future log-jam can be handled when the time comes
Honorable Mention: Angel Pagan
2012: .342 OBP, 8 HR, 344 wOBA, 119 wRC+, 4.4 WAR in 145 games
Any of these guys would be fairly low cost, but possible high reward type players that the Mariners could pursue, either instead of or along with a (or in LaRoche’s case, another) proven MOTO bat. Outfield makes more sense with a 3 headed monster of Jaso, Montero and Zunino at 1st, DH and catcher on the way, but anything helps at this point.
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