On December 4th, the Mariners traded right-handed reliever Jose Ramirez to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for a player to be named later and/or cash considerations. Today, the player to be named later was revealed to be Ryne Harper.
Harper will be as bullpen depth for the team this year and will likely start the season in the minor leagues. Harper was drafted in the 37th round of the 2011 June Amateur Draft. Players taken in the 37th round are long shots to even make the Major Leagues. Harper has been pitching in the minor leagues since 2011 and hasn’t made it past AA yet. He’ll be 27 years old in 2016.
Despite his slow progress through the minors, Harper has impressive statistics. In five minor league seasons he has a 2.16 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. Most impressive is a 10.7 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9. Steamer projects Harper to have a 3.41 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and 9.2 K/9 should he get some major league playing time.
He’s no Ben Zobrist, but Ed Lucas comes about $55 million cheaper. Lucas will have an opportunity to be a backup at the infield positions for the Mariners, but Luis Sardinas and Chris Taylor are ahead of him on the depth chart. Lucas will be 34 years old next season. He’s spent parts of two seasons in the Major Leagues with the Miami Marlins and has a career batting line of .255/.302/.323. Yeah, that's not impressive. He is considered to be a good and versatile fielder, having played all four infield positions and even a few games in the outfield.
If you squint real hard and just look at what Lucas has done against left-handed pitchers, you find a career .330/.360/.469 hitter. Sample size issues abound, though. Lucas has hit well against lefties, but he’s only had 191 plate appearances against them in the big leagues. Still, three-fourths of the Mariners’ infielders hit from the left side (Lind, Cano, and Seager), so Lucas could be an adequate fill-in if he makes the big league roster.
The chart below shows the three utility infielder options for the Mariners. Lucas has the best track record as a hitter, while Chris Taylor has the best projection for 2016. Also, Taylor and Sardinas are both still young. Lucas is already 34. This could come down to a spring training competition, but I’d expect Chris Taylor to have the edge.