And now, based on a recent announcement, Dipoto has added a much-needed center fielder to the team. The Mariners traded relief pitcher Tom Wilhelmsen, outfielder James Jones, and a player to be named later to the Texas Rangers for outfielder Leonys Martin and right-handed pitcher Anthony Bass. The crux of this deal is Martin for Wilhelmsen.
Martin gives the Mariners a legitimate center fielder, which they sorely needed. He’s always been good with the glove, even as his bat has been below average. He was particularly bad last season but is expected to bounce back, as he’s only 28 years old. If he plays a full season, he should be worth around 3 WAR, with much of that value being on defense.
There are concerns, though. Martin is a left-handed hitter who has not fared well against left-handed pitchers. His career batting line against lefties is .233/.274/.298. That’s a 53 wRC+, meaning he is well below average (100 would be average). Against right-handed pitchers, Martin has hit a much more respectable .263/.317/.386 (89 wRC+). Martin has also benefited from hitting in Texas in a more hitter-friendly ballpark than Safeco Field. In his career, Martin has hit .271/.318/.378 (81 wRC+) at home and .238/.292/.344 (77 wRC+) on the road.
So, while the Mariners now have a solid almost-everyday center fielder, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to find someone who can effectively back him up defensively and who can hit left-handed pitching.
Wilhelmsen is a much better reliever than Anthony Bass, but relievers only pitch around 60 innings per year, so it’s hard for them to have the value of an everyday center fielder, which is what Martin should be. Wilhelmsen can still be a positive contributor to the Rangers’ bullpen, but this shouldn’t be a big loss for the Mariners, although I’m sure they will miss his amazing dance moves.
This deal really comes down to Wilhelmsen for Martin. Jones and Bass are throw-ins who are unlikely to provide much value to their new teams. Wilhelmsen is under team control for two more years; Martin has three years left before free agency. Martin is the more expensive player. He made $4.75 million last year and will be eligible for arbitration before the 2016 season. Even as his salary goes up over the next few years, he should be a net positive if his defense holds and he can rebound from last year’s ugly season on offense.
Wilhelmsen made $1.4 million last year and is also eligible for arbitration. He’s cheap enough to provide value to the Rangers if he has a good year, but at 32 years old he could just as easily wash out and be worth very little.
Overall, I think this is a good move for the Mariners. Martin could use a sometimes platoon partner in center for games against tough lefties, but his defense is good enough that he’ll be valuable.