The Mariners have finalized the trade to acquire outfielder Seth Smith from the Padres. In exchange, they will send right-handed reliever Brandon Maurer to San Diego.
Seattle has been interested in Smith for much of the offseason. The two teams had been in negotiations the past few weeks. The Padres, who had been in the midst of a myriad of details of other offseason moves, eventually agreed on terms after finalizing several other trades that gave them a glut of outfielders. Smith became expendable with their offseason additions of Justin Upton, Matt Kemp and Wil Myers.
“We were in search of adding another outfielder,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said via conference call. “In Seth Smith, we’ve got a player that’s a professional hitter, a guy that’s going to give us really good at-bats, particularly against right-handed pitching.”
Smith posted a .267/.367/.440 slash line with 12 homers and 48 RBI in 136 games for the Padres last season. The bulk of his numbers came against right-handed pitching. Of his 521 plate appearances last season, he had 455 against right-handers, posting a slash line of .270/.359/.455 with 27 doubles, five triples, 12 homers and 40 RBI. For his career, he has a .277/.358/.481 line against right-handers.
“Seth would be a good fit on any team,” said Padres general manager A.J. Preller. “He’s a quality, left-handed, professional bat. Some teams were going to be attracted. From Seth’s standpoint, that’s why he has value — he fits for a lot of different clubs. He’s a very professional hitter.”
With the Mariners recent acquisition of outfielder Justin Ruggiano, it sets up perfectly for a platoon in right field. Zduriencik wouldn’t commit to a platoon, but hinted it’s a possibility.
“We’ll see in spring training,” he said. “We’ll let them compete. I don’t want to pigeon hole anybody or predict what’s going happen. If you look at what Ruggiano can do against left-handed pitching and what Seth can do against right-handed pitching, I think it’s a good combination.”
Smith, 32, is under contract for the next two seasons. He will make $6 million this season and $6.75 million in 2016. There is also a $7 million club option for 2017. That club control for relatively affordable salary was attractive to the Mariners.
“We clearly think he can be with us for a few years and we are happy with that,” Zduriencik said. “That was a big component in the deal was getting someone that has the potential to be here for two years and possibly three.”
Zduriencik admitted that players with only one-year of club control were less attractive to the organization.
“One of the things we tried to stay away from is trying to give up talent for one-year returns,” he said. “And often case in some of the names we’ve talked about, the dollars were higher. If you look at particular case like Seth Smith, it’s a two-year deal and he has an option for a third year. It’s a very agreeable contract.”
It’s also a reason why the Mariners had to give up a power-arm like Maurer in return.
After showing promise as a starting pitcher in the minor leagues and during spring training before the 2013 season – earning him a spot in the opening day rotation, Maurer struggled to find success as a starter at the big league level. In 21 career starts, he posted a 4-12 record with a 6.62 ERA. The Mariners changed his role after two failed starts early in the season. As a reliever, Maurer seemed to find his comfort level. He had success at Class AAA Tacoma and then wowed the Seattle coaching staff after being called up in late June. In 31 relief appearances (37 1/3 innings pitched), he posted a 2.37 ERA with 38 strikeouts and just five walks. He looked like a definite power set-up man with the potential to be a closer.
“It was a tough decision to trade Brandon,” Zduriencik said. “We think a lot of him. We know his value. We know his upside. He’s a guy I would have loved to held on to. I told Brandon today in our conversation, ‘this was a hard one.’ But he did himself well by the move to the bullpen. I think he really found a nice little niche for himself.”
With the Mariners having a surplus of right-handed power arms in the bullpen, Maurer became expendable. There are reports out of San Diego that the Padres may consider moving Maurer back to starting.
While the Mariners addressed a major need, it doesn’t mean they are finished making roster moves.
“To say we are done, I don’t think that would be accurate,” Zduriencik said. “I have continued discussions going on. I don’t think it will be anything big like a multi-player deal or some earth-shattering free agent sign. I don’t think that will be the case. But I think there are ways we can help our ball club and there are fits for ball club and we will continue to investigate them and we’ll see where it ends up.”