The Mariners are one of the pseudo-contenders who are are hanging around the second wild card chase, leaving them in the somewhat awkward position of wanting to upgrade but not being in a position where a significant move makes good sense. We currently estimate their playoff odds at 18%, about the same as the Indians, and that’s entirely tied to making the Wild Card game, so their chances of reaching the division series are a little less than half of that. But, at 55-52, they weren’t going to entirely stand still, so the task for the day was to find a player who could make them better without costing them something that they’ll miss in the future.
Enter Chris Denorfia. He just turned 34 a few weeks ago, will be a free agent at year’s end, and is hitting .242/.293/.319 for the Padres. That’s the kind of trifecta that will basically guarantee a low acquisition cost, and sure enough, the Mariners gave up little to get him, sending Abraham Almonte and Stephen Kohlscheen, who you have never heard of and probably will never hear of again.
In Denorfia, the Mariners get a guy who has a history of hitting left-handed pitching well and playing solid defense, though the hitting part hasn’t really happened this year. Still, a longer view of his talent level suggests he should be something like an average hitter, or maybe a tick below. Toss in the defense and some baserunning value, and Denorfia is a nifty little part-time outfielder. Not a guy you want in the line-up everyday, but a useful role player.
For the Mariners, though, that’s a massive improvement, considering that they have been using Endy Chavez as their starting right fielder. Since the start of the 2012 season, covering his last 617 plate appearances Chavez has been worth -2.3 WAR. If ever there was addition by subtraction, it is in replacing Chavez with an actual Major League player.
This move probably won’t help the Mariners enough to make a difference down the stretch, but it makes them better, and it makes them better at basically no cost. This is exactly the kind of move a team with a one-in-five chance of winning the second Wild Card should be making.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.
I was going to make this joke about Dan Uggla, but a windsock would be an upgrade over Endy Chavez.
Denorfia’s floor is replacement-level (like this year has basically been), so that is an upgrade.