The Brendan Ryan Trade: Mariners Perspective

The Seattle Mariners of 2010 are known for their offensive incompetence, and rightly so. The team managed a mere 3.2 runs per game and a paltry 80 wRC+, both league worst marks. Truly the lack of offense was the Mariners’ failure, but even the run prevention of the team – its supposed hallmark – was only average, with a 4.3 runs allowed per game ranking 14th in the majors and 6th in the AL. Their team defense ranked 5th in the majors in Defensive Efficiency Rating- good, but not the elite, potentially best-of-all-time defensive unit advertised beforethe season. On Sunday, the Mariners added Brendan Ryan, an elite defender at the shortstop position whose bat, although light, may be an improvement as well. In exchange, the Mariners sent right handed A-ball reliever Maikel Cleto to St. Louis.

A pair of J. Wilson’s manned the position for the Mariners last season, and neither did their job at a passable level. Both managed to post only a 64 wRC+. Jack has consistently been of the better defenders at the position, and TZ, DRS, and the FSR all agreed that he still was solid and possibly even elite in 2010. But the solid defense only mattered when he was able to take the field. Leg and back injuries have marred much of Jack Wilson’s career, and those combined with a fractured hand suffered late in the season combined to keep Wilson out of 101 games. Josh Wilson, meanwhile, brings nothing more than Jack with the bat and none of the glove, with negative ratings from all of our defensive metrics at SS for his career.

Although Ryan’s glove might not be demonstrably better than Jack Wilson’s, the 28 year old (29 on opening day) Ryan should have a much easier time of remaining on the diamond. Ryan’s only two DL stints came on a rib injury and a hamstring injury (source), and none of those appear to be lingering, as Ryan was completely off the injured list in 2010.

The real reason that Ryan was jettisoned out of St. Louis is likely a lack of confidence in his bat. His 2010 was poor, as Ryan only managed a .223/.279/.294 line. Although that line is horrendous, the shortstop position is important enough where even performing at a AAA level can result in solid production. Using Ryan’s +11 UZR, he comes out to a 1.0 WAR player last year despite his offensive struggles; using his +15 TZ or his +27 DRS would result in 1.4 or 2.6 WAR respectively.

So, if Ryan’s bat recovers at all – something in the range of his career .259/.314/.344 line – the Mariners will be receiving a productive player. Ryan should be good for 2 WAR on a yearly basis, thanks to his excellent glove skills, with some upside in his bat. Some people might be disappointed, as this move is similar to some of the other moves by Jack Zduriencik which resulted in the horrific 2010 season at Safeco. But it’s just hard to find a downside here. Ryan’s bat is likely better than either of the Wilson duo, and his defensive wizardry doesn’t come with Jack’s durability issues. Ryan is a solid asset for this team as well, with three years of team control remaining. Cleto, the prospect heading to St. Louis, is a high-risk project at least two or three years from the majors who seems destined for the bullpen. This trade is simply an all around win for the Mariners, who improve at a premium position for the foreseeable future at little cost.

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As a fan of the Cardinals I am sorry to see him go. It’s likely his offensive value is somewhere between his awful 2010 and his surprising 2009. He also had wrist issues in last year’s offseason, and had to have wrist surgery right before Spring Training.