Before addressing the moves by the Mariners yesterday, I have to touch on the story about Floyd Landis that broke today. Landis, this year's Tour de France winner, is under suspicion of doping after a urine sample taken from him before stage 17 (the stage where he miraculously made up nearly eight minutes after supposedly falling out of contention) indicated high testosterone levels. What this really means is that his testosterone to epitestosterone ratio was abnormally high, and from what I have heard he did not have lots of testosterone but rather a lack of epitestosterone. Some have hypothesized this could be a result of several conditions, most notably the cortisone shots he has been taking to dull the pain in his arthritic hip. Whether that is a credible medical excuse, I have no clue. However, should anyone be surprised that Floyd Landis's drug test revealed high testosterone levels? The man not only just cycled around the perimeter of France on a severely arthritic hip, but also cycled around it faster than everyone else. The drug test proves what was already known: Floyd Landis has serious balls.
Now to the real point of this post. The Mariners were quite busy on Wednesday, starting the day by designating Carl Everett for assignment and finally ending his brief Mariner career. To take his place they called up oft-injured Chris Snelling, who somehow managed to injure himself without playing last night and land back on the disabled list today. This move should have been made over a month ago, so I will not give the Mariners too much credit. Still, I am happy to finally see Everett gone, though I also have to admit he exceeded my expectations. With the announcement of this move, Bill Bavasi added that the Mariners might not be done making moves, almost as if he knew something the rest of us did not. Bavasi was true to his word as he acquired just hours later Ben Broussard from the Cleveland Indians for Shin-Soo Choo and a player to be named later. Bavasi would admit later in the day he knew he would get a deal for a left-handed hitter done, either for Broussard or a mysterious "Player B". "Player B" was most likely Todd Walker of the Cubs.
There is alot to like about Ben Broussard. First of all, he is a left-handed hitter with some power that has destroyed right-handed pitching this year. He had platooned with Eduardo Perez at first base in Cleveland until Perez was traded to the M's, and now they will platoon again at designated hitter. Furthermore, Broussard is under the control of the Mariners until 2008, so he is both a short-term and long-term fix.
However, I have my concerns about this trade. Taking a look at Broussard's home/road splits, I noticed something that worried me. At Jacobs Field this year, Ben has batted .381 with 11 home runs, and on the road he has batted just .248 with 2 home runs. Jacobs Field is not a particularly hitter-friendly park and Broussard has not had a major difference in his home and road numbers in previous seasons, so this may be an aberration. However, Broussard has really broken out this year and it may be just because he has been absurdly hot at home for no apparent reason. Another troubling statistic is his pitches seen per plate appearance. Usually, hitters see more pitches per plate appearance as they get older because they get more selective and discern balls and strikes better. However, Broussard is seeing an average of 3.57 pitches per plate appearance this season, easily the fewest of his career. Considering that the Mariners seem to promote an aggressive approach at the plate, Broussard may average even fewer pitches seen in Seattle which will likely cause his batting average and power to dip even more. Though it is possible Broussard has put everything together this year (like the M's believe), I think it is more likely this is an aberration and that the real Ben Broussard is less than what the M's are counting on him to be. Kudos to the Indians for trading him at what will likely prove to be his peak value.
Even more kudos are in store for Cleveland for getting Shin-Soo Choo in return. I have been high on Choo for several years now and I don't understand why the Mariners did not give him more of a chance. I feel that Choo's hitting ability is at least comparable to Broussard's right now and he definitely has a ton more speed. Choo is also only 24 years old, four years younger than Broussard, so it is not outlandish to expect Choo to develop into a significantly better player than Broussard. According to Bavasi, interest on the trade market for Choo has steadily declined over the last three years, and he also felt there was no place in the Mariners organization for him, so he was content to part with him to get Broussard. The way I see it, the Mariners just made a trade that is considered equal on the current trade market, but they acquired a player at his peak value and gave up a player at his lowest value. A deal like this could end up lopsided, and I do not think it takes too much brain power to decipher which team will likely end up on top. Plus, the Mariners will eventually include a dreaded player to be named later. That player could be an absolute zero or they could be an integral part of the deal; no one will know until that player to be named later is named, later.
As negative as I have been about this trade, the psychological impact it has on the team must be considered. The Mariners players have said from the start that they thought they could win the west and they have to be excited that the front office has been aggressive and added some players that will make a difference. It helps even more that to this point no one else in the division has made a move, which means the guys in the M's clubhouse have to think they have improved the most. The numbers-crunching part of me says the players would perform the same whether the M's made any deals or not, but there is no doubt the players will be happier and more motivated knowing that the front office has faith in them and that the whole organization is committed to winning this year. I do think it is fair to argue that the team's second half swoons, especially in 2002 and 2003, were partially caused by a lack of action at the trade deadline. The players clearly wanted help those years and when they did not get it, they had to be disappointed and that may have carried onto the field and ultimately all the way into the standings. As minor as the Perez and Broussard moves may look, a quick glance around baseball shows no other team that has done more to improve their ballclub (though that is certainly subject to change) and I think the M's players are aware of that.
In the end, the Mariners are a better team with Ben Broussard in place of Carl Everett, but I think Shin-Soo Choo was too heavy of a price to pay. This will be the most compelling August and September northwest baseball fans have seen in years.