The Seattle Mariners, in their offseason-long quest to add more thump to their lineup, acquired Mike Morse from the Washington Nationals on Wednesday afternoon. Morse has the potential to be a hitter of substantial quality in 2013, but he lacks any sort of defensive value. He’s one of three players — AT LEAST three players — that will be in their everyday lineup that shouldn’t venture past first base while wearing a glove, and are probably best suited for the DH role.
Assuming Kendrys Morales locks down the first base position defensively, Jesus Montero and Morse would be left to duke it out for DH duties. The Mariners may not yet be ready to give up on Montero as a catcher, but he certainly can’t catch every day, and probably shouldn’t even catch most days. So, in order to keep all of their bats in the lineup, the Mariners will likely end up having Morse pretend to play the outfield for a not insignificant number of games. With left-handed hitting Michael Saunders and the newly acquired Raul Ibanez likely getting the bulk of the starts against right handed pitching, I’d have to assume that Seattle will try to slide the right-handed hitting Morse out there against lefties more often than not. And they just signed the veteran Jason Bay to do much the same thing (if not play even more often than that). All this to say that Casper Wells — the former Detroit Tiger who was previously their right-handed hitting platoon outfielder — doesn’t appear to have an automatic role with the club anymore.
We’ve talked about Wells on these electronic pages already this offseason. John tagged him as a target in December when Seattle was reportedly showing interest in Breanan Boesch, and I called him the perfect candidate to serve as Andy Dirks‘ platoon partner.
I’ll admit that in Wells’ case I’m likely being swayed in part by some small sample size statistics, but even so, he’s given no indication that he wouldn’t be the ideal player the Tigers are looking for. For his major league career he holds a .752 OPS — not overly impressive — but he’s displayed a rather large platoon split in the process. Against left-handed pitching he’s produced a .263/.349/.489 slash line. It’s only 300 some plate appearances, so the exact numbers tell us very little, but even if we regressed his numbers to assume he was only an average hitter with average platoon splits, he’d still be the right man for the job.
With Casper Wells, his value isn’t entirely wrapped up in hitting. He’s not a speedster like Quintin Berry or Austin Jackson, but he has the ability to play all three outfield positions and, unlike Berry, has the ability top play them all at an above average level. He wouldn’t hit a ton if he had to play everyday, but he would serve as a better second option in center field than Berry.
And we don’t really need to guess at his value all that much. He’s spent parts of the last four seasons in the big leagues and has — according to both FanGraphs and Baseball Reference — provided 4.1 wins above replacement. That’s in a total of 224 games and 656 plate appearances. If he were given, say, 50 games in a strict platoon role it wouldn’t take a wild imagination to see him produce a full WAR. I figured Scott Hairston to be worse than that.
It’s hard to tell what the Mariners would want in return. Dave Cameron at USS Mariner implies they’d be looking for even fringy-type starting pitching (makes you wish Adam Wilk was still around) and perhaps some manner of utility player. If Wells (who’s out of minor league options) is really out of Seattle’s plans then they’d probably be willing to move him for any sort of quasi-useful return. This might be the rare case where a couple of Quad-A players — provided they play the right position — could fetch the Tigers a useful MLB piece.