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Ruggiano Acquired, Seth Smith Watch Begins

proof that Seth Smith plays the outfield
(Julio Enriquez, Flickr via Wikemedia Commons)
The Mariners made a small move today that they tried to play as a big one by sending out a bulk e-mail about it to fans. They acquired OF Justin Ruggiano from the Cubs for minor league pitcher Matt Brazis.

Let's start with Brazis. He is a 25-year-old righty bullpen arm that put up some great numbers split between High Desert and Jackson. However, he is already a bullpen arm, and a bit old for the leagues he was playing in. He could prove to be replacement level bullpen arm in the majors, but it's doubtful he turns into much more. The Mariners farm system remains in tact.

Then again, the Mariners didn't acquire an incredible talent either, though Ruggiano brings some needed skills. Ruggiano, now 32 years old, broke through a few seasons ago with a surprising second-half surge in Miami. He has never duplicated that magical half-season, but he continues to flash a surprising power-speed combo with limited contact and on-base skills. He combines that with an adequate outfield glove that's even capable of playing in center field. Basically, Ruggiano is a poor team's version of Michael Saunders - or, perhaps a mirror image of Saunders. Ruggiano bats right-handed, seemingly a requirement for the Mariners to pursue a batter these days.

Justin Ruggiano is not an everyday player for a contending team, though his skillset would be very nice to have on the bench. With that said, finding Ruggiano a platoon partner could work out nicely. His wRC+ for his career against lefties is 128, while against righties it is 94. If you aren't familiar with wRC+, a score of 100 is league average. Ruggiano doesn't have a massive split, and he's not a black hole against righties, but he's clearly better against lefties. Moreover, he's better enough, and in the right talent range, that the little edge is the difference between a bench player and a bona fide starter.

So, it would make good sense for the Mariners to find another corner outfielder with a complimentary split. Enter Seth Smith of the San Diego Padres, who I will admit I have been a longtime fan of. I love his swing and overall offensive game. It should play nicely in Safeco Field. Smith, for his career, has a 123 wRC+ against righties and a suicidal 63 wRC+ against lefties. That is a truly massive platoon split, and it's so crippling (given Smith's below-average defense) that it pretty much makes Smith a role player.

Smith, by the way, should be available in the very near future. The Padres have rumored deals complete for Matt Kemp and Wil Myers, both corner outfielders at this point. There would be no logical place for Smith to play, and given his non-prospect status without a role on the Padres, he should not cost the M's a top prospect.

If the Mariners acquired Smith and paired him intelligently with Ruggiano, they are looking at slightly below average defense with a 120 wRC+ in right field. For comparison, Saunders posted a 126 wRC+ last season with above average defense. Saunders is still the better option, but at least at the dish he would not be missed too badly in this scenario.

So let the Seth Smith watch begin, because at this point he's the guy that makes both the Saunders and Ruggiano trades make sense. I still despise the Saunders-Happ trade, but I would tip my cap to Zduriencik if he finds a way to string together a decent everyday right-fielder out of non-premium prospects.