Mariners' remodel takes a strange shape

Otto Greule Jr

This guy has still has some work to do.

After shelling out a record deal for Robinson Cano, the M's attacked the Winter Meetings -- netting first baseman Corey Hart and, well, first baseman Logan Morrison.

Winter Meetings roundups: Day One Day Two Day Three

In their suddenly fervent efforts to build a winner, they've snared a few bargain bats to go with their cash-garnished centerpiece -- but where are these guys going to play? The team already had a promising second baseman (Nick Franklin), and now they've added what looks like two guys who play the same position as the incumbent at first, Justin Smoak.

It's not that their additions aren't improvements. Cano has arguably been one of the best second baseman of the last decade, so it's pretty safe to say he'll be the best on the Mariners. Smoak has done some positive things in his career, but he's never put up offensive numbers like Hart or Morrison.

More moves are likely to come, now that Smoak and second baseman Franklin appear to have been replaced.

Corey Hart has been passable in his career as a right fielder. Not a great defender by any means, but passable. The problem is his knees. Both of them were peeled open last year and he didn't end up play a single game in 2013. The original injury was to his right knee, leading to arthroscopic surgery in January. While rehabbing from that injury -- in an effort to return for the Brewers last season, he injured his left knee, forcing him to go under the knife again in July -- maybe he had a coupon...

His agent, Jeff Barry, says his client is completely healthy and ready to start the 2014 campaign as he usually would, but there is some concern that his already limited outfield range could be further diminished after the operations -- leading to speculation that he's destined to play first or DH for Seattle.

Hart has posted a .357 wOBA (weighted on-base average) since 2007, a very respectable figure -- better than free agent alternatives Nelson Cruz (.356) and Kendry[s] Morales (.354). To compare his overall offensive contribution to the rest of the league it might be useful to check out his wRC+ (weighted runs created) over the last few years. From 2010 to 2012 -- remember, he didn't play in 2013, Hart was tied for 18th in the majors in wRC+ with a marker of 130 (meaning he was 30% better than the average player). It's unclear how his new knees will aid or hamper him in his efforts to continue down the admirable path he was on earlier in his career.

Logan Morrison will almost certainly have to play first base or DH -- unless the Mariners don't care at all about his shortcomings in the outfield -- which is a possibility if you listen to Tony Blengino. In over 2,000 career innings in left field for the Marlins, Morrison didn't commit a towering number of errors, and his 14 outfield assists during that time were useful, but his range was atrocious (career -15.6 UZR/150). He actually managed to put up -26 DRS (defensive runs saved) in 1021.1 innings during the 2011 season. The fact that he was allowed to play that many innings while being that repulsive defensively borders on satire. He needs the comfort blanket of playing first, if only to allow Seattle to avoid the negative impact of his glove in the outfield.

So, that gives them two new first base/DH-types who probably shouldn't see the outfield again in their careers. Hart and Morrison could take turns manning the positions, but what about Justin Smoak? There's no guarantee that the Mariners will trade him, but it's probably the best scenario since it would free up his position, allowing them to keep both of their new bats away from corner outfield spots that no longer suit them.

But Seattle went after these guys for their bats. So enough about their defense.

Morrison has put up meritable isolated power numbers (ISO, slugging minus batting average) with a career figure of .178. From the left side of the plate, Morrison could team up nicely with Corey Hart behind Cano.


Source: FanGraphs

Then, of course, there's the freshly bearded Robinson Cano. He's clearly locked in at second, where he will continue to play the position as if he's just woken up from a nap. The thing is, he's actually pretty good defensively, even if it doesn't look like he's trying all that hard. That's just the way he plays the game. If you haven't seen his defensive style much, picture the way Dustin Pedroia plays second base...pretty much the exact opposite of that. Cano isn't as good as Pedroia defensively, but playing the position has made him the commodity that he has very apparently become. $240 million is almost exactly as much as the Mariners spent on the entire roster in the last three years combined.

All three of the Mariners new acquisitions play very well into general manger Jack Zduriencik's longball fetish. SAFECO, a well-known pitcher's park, could cut into these players' power putout to some extent, but the team is certainly in a better position in terms of gross slugging potential than they were last week. The concern is whether or not the team will take shape in a way that maximizes the value of their new players.

If the M's are done, they'll be sitting on some pretty valuable assets that could be put to better use for a team that has invested heavily in competing immediately.

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