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June 30, 2009 at 9:37 AM

Garrett Atkins seems like one realistic solution for the Mariners at third base

Lots of talk going on today about who is going to replace Adrian Beltre at third base for the next couple of months. Well, I’ll throw one more name into the ring. How about Garrett Atkins of the Colorado Rockies?
I know some of you are anxious to repatriate Greg Dobbs from the Phillies, but he played only 58 games at third base last year and 62 in 2007. Not sure you want him taking over on a day-to-day basis.
Atkins played 94 games there last season and 154 the previous year. And there appears to be a solid trade match between the Rockies and Mariners.
Want more reasons to deal for him? I’ll give you some.
Photo Credit: AP

For one thing, the trade commodity being sought by the Rockies is something the Mariners could afford to spare. Miguel Batista comes to mind right off the bat. There would be about $1 million in remaining salary difference between the two if the deal went down within the next couple of weeks. The Mariners could either offset that on their own in a Batista trade, or opt to deal one of their younger bullpen arms.
But doing so alone would create a huge salary discrepancy since Atkins is earning $7.05 million this year. So, that wouldn’t work.
Batista and a younger arm would work, but that would be a lot to give up. You do have to give up something to get something in baseball, but I’d try to move Batista first, obviously. The remaining money discrepancy can be worked out.
Second reason for doing this deal is that Atkins can hit.
Of all the names I’ve seen tossed around as potential Beltre replacements. Atkins is one who can make solid contact. His ZiPS projected OPS was .818 before the season while his weighted on-base-average was .358.
Both are very good, though somewhat inflated by playing half his games in Denver. Atkins is also off to a slow start at the plate this season and nearly got demoted to Class AAA until a recent surge he attributes to mechanical changes in his swing kept him in the majors.
He is not a Gold Glove defender by any stretch. But neither is any guy the Mariners are going to pick up for a bullpen arm in return. This is about improving the current team while not taking away from it. Trading a starting pitcher or Russell Branyan to get somebody better than Atkins is not realistic because you weaken the team while trying to strengthen it.
And frankly, there would still be no Gold Glove types available in any case.
Another reason to consider dealing for Atkins is that his former Rockies hitting coach is now in the same capacity with the Mariners. If anyone is going to be able to give the M’s a scouting report prior to this deal, it’s hitting coach Alan Cockrell.
So, there you go.
Yes, Atkins is a righthanded bat, but so what? So was Beltre. The Mariners have other places where they can add lefty bats. And yes, Atkins is hitting well below where he was expected to so far. That’s why he’s available, possibly for the price of a lone bullpen arm.
You don’t see many everyday third basemen traded for a non-closing reliever.
This is where the talent-spotting skill of GM Jack Zduriencik and sidekicks like Cockrell — with close-up knowledge of the guy in question — come in handy. They would have to decide whether Atkins is washed up at the ripe old age of 29. Or whether he’s ready to go on a hitting tear based on his recent results.
Don’t forget, they only need him to do it for two months.
I am not getting any “insider tips” on this one, so please don’t read more into it than there is. I am trying to be realistic about what’s out there for the Mariners. We can compose all sorts of fantasy scenarios, but it takes two willing teams to do a deal. This is one where both teams have needs that must be met rather quickly, they have the chips to get a deal done and — in Seattle’s case — the insider knowledge to know whether it’s a trade that could work.
But when you’re discussing a shift of Jose Lopez to third, or putting Chris Woodward there full-time, this Atkins move would seem to make the team better than either of those two scenarios.

Comments | Topics: Chris Woodward


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