Clevenger is a left-handed hitting catcher who can also play first base, if needed. He’s 30 years old and has played in parts of five seasons in the major leagues. He has a lifetime batting line of .228/.280/.327 (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage), which is well below average. Last year was his best year at the plate. In 30 games, he hit .287/.314/.426. He’s projected by Steamer (at Fangraphs) to hit .260/.315/.366.
If Zunino starts next year in AAA, the Mariners will go with Clevenger as the left-handed side of a catcher platoon, with recently acquired Chris Iannetta forming the other side of that platoon. Steamer projects the combination of Iannetta and Clevenger to be worth roughly 2 WAR (Wins Above Replacement). That would put the Mariners’ catching tandem in the middle-of-the-pack among MLB teams and would provide four more wins than last year’s collection of woeful performers (-2 WAR last year for Mariners’ catchers).
Then came 2014, which was a disaster (.235/.293/.415, 14 HR in 362 PA). Trumbo didn’t hit and was typically awful in the field and was valued as a sub-replacement level player (-1.2 WAR). Last year he had a rebound season and finished the year with 1.1 WAR. He’s projected to provide similar value next year. If you want to be precise, Trumbo is projected for 1.3 WAR while playing in 148 games and getting 627 plate appearances (Steamer projections). The estimated going rate for free agents is about $8 million per 1.0 WAR, so Trumbo could be expected to be worth $10.4 million at a cost of around $9.1 million. There could be some excess value there.
That being said, the Mariners did not want to go into next year with Mark Trumbo on the roster. General Manager Jerry Dipoto took the job with the idea of reshaping the roster. One of his stated goals is to build a good defensive club that also gets on base. Mark Trumbo does not do either of those things well. There’s a chance the Mariners would have just non-tendered Trumbo if they hadn’t traded him. Instead, they found a team they could get something from. If Clevenger does nothing and Trumbo hits 30 home runs next year, it’s likely that fans of the Mariners will not be happy. Just remember that Trumbo’s home runs will cost the Orioles $9.1 million and they come with bad defense and a low on-base percentage.
Aoki’s defense has been a source of entertainment over the years. With the caveat that fielding statistics are not as reliable as hitting statistics, Aoki has rated slightly above average in left field and right field, but had a terrible rating for the 120 innings he played in centerfield with the 2012 Brewers. He also has a highlight reel of bizarre routes to fly balls, along with one incident when he took a fly ball right to the package. Presumably, the Mariners expect Aoki to be at least league average as a fielder or they wouldn’t have signed him.
Next year’s lineup is coming together, piece-by-piece. General Manager Jerry Dipoto has been busy, but he’s not done yet. Stay tuned.