As you may have heard, the Athletics, Mariners, & Nationals collaborated on a somewhat bizarre three-way trade today, with Mike Morse heading back to Seattle, John Jaso going south to Oakland, and prospects going to Washington — including highly-rated pitcher A.J. Cole, who the Nationals had sent west last year in the Gio Gonzalez trade. It’s seemingly a fantastic deal for Washington, a reasonable one for Oakland, and, well… Seattle fans, they’re not happy.
But that’s a Seattle problem, isn’t it? As with nearly every trade, I’m looking at this one with an eye towards whether the Dodgers can work it to their advantage. What follows is pure speculation, but the moving parts today may have made two players readily available at low prices that could fit this team really well.
As soon as I heard that Jaso (a lefty swinger with a huge platoon split) was headed to Oakland, I knew that he’d be paired with Derek Norris behind the dish and that George Kottaras (a lefty swinger with a huge platoon split) would soon be out of a job. Moments later, according to Danny Knobler of CBS, he was indeed DFA’d. Despite the presence of Tim Federowicz and the seemingly endless stream of non-roster catchers the team has brought into camp this winter — including Jesus Flores, who we learned about this morning — I would not be at all disappointed if the Dodgers showed interest in bringing Kottaras in.
Part of that, of course, is that I’ve never really been high on Federowicz, who ranked a mere #26 on Dustin Nosler’s organizational rankings over at Feelin Kinda Blue this morning. I don’t doubt his defensive chops, and maybe his best case scenario with the bat is “average offensive catcher,” but I also don’t see him as an impediment if there’s other options out there — after all, too much depth is never a bad thing. Kottaras, 30 in May, was briefly a hot prospect in the San Diego & Boston organizations, but has never been able to translate that into consistent big league success, though he did hit .211/.351/.415 between Milwaukee & Oakland last year.
That’s fine — no one’s looking at him to be a starting catcher, but a lefty catcher with huge platoon splits makes for a very intriguing option. As a lefty hitter, Kottaras absolutely cannot hit lefties — a grotesque .194/.336/.323 in 153 career plate appearances — but it’s a different story against righties, with a .226/.315/.436 line in 541 plate appearances. I’m hoping that we can see past the lousy batting average and realize that a guy with a 17.7% BB rate last year and 24 homers in basically a season of play against righties could make for a fantastically interesting partner to A.J. Ellis. No, he’s not anywhere near the defender Federowicz is, but haven’t we had enough of the all-glove backup backstop in recent years with Matt Treanor & Brad Ausmus? Signed for just $1m in 2013, he’d seem to be a better choice than just resigning yourself to Federowicz, especially if you could let the prospect play every day in Triple-A.
But it’s not just Kottaras that might find himself on the move because of today’s trade; the addition of Morse to Seattle adds yet another 1B/DH/OF bat into a mix that was already well overbooked. As I put it in early January when we were thinking about the possibilities of sending Andre Ethier north…
Just last week at FanGraphs, I wrote about how the additions ofJason Bay, Raul Ibanez, & Kendrys Morales this winter make for a huge 1B/LF/DH logjam in Seattle, given that Justin Smoak, Casper Wells, Mike Carp, Eric Thames, Michael Saunders, & Jesus Montero are all already in the picture.
Adding Morse does not help that situation. (It also means they need Montero to catch every day, unless they’re going to completely rush 2012 draftee Mike Zunino to the bigs or rely on some retread like Yorvit Torrealba. I just do not understand this trade for Seattle.) So someone’s going to have to go, and the name that really stands out to me is Wells, who in part-time play has been worth a little over 1 fWAR in each of the last three seasons for Detroit & Seattle.
Wells has 656 plate appearances in those three seasons — just more than a full season — and has hit 25 homers with a .246/.317/.435 line. The power is very nice, though I’ll admit that a .317 OBP is hardly anything to get excited about, but that’s his line against all pitchers. Against lefties only, that line is .264/.349/.489 with 13 homers in 313 plate appearances — unadjusted, by the way, for the atrocious hitting environment in Seattle — and I think you see where I’m going with this, because I’ve been dying for a righty alternative to Ethier since at least 2009.
Oh, and there’s more. Not only does Wells have experience at all three outfield spots, he’s considered to be above-average (with a good throwing arm) at all three of them. So a plus defender who can hit lefties, and is only 28… yes. Yes, please. I know a lot of people would be a bit underwhelmed at a deal with Seattle that didn’t include Ethier and/or a large return from the Mariners after all the talk this winter, but sometimes small parts are just as important, and if you’re going to keep Ethier — which I prefer they do — then you absolutely have to get a righty alternative, and this is seemingly a fantastic low-cost way to do it.
Besides, who wouldn’t want a guy named Casper?