If you followed us during the SoDo days, you’ll know that I’ve been banging the table for the Mariners to acquire former Reds outfielder Phillip Ervin. We included him in our offseason plan last winter because the fit made – and still makes – so much sense for both parties.
When Cincinnati signed Shogo Akiyama and Nicholas Castellanos in the offseason, it seemed like only a matter of time before Ervin would find his way elsewhere. However, it wouldn’t be the lack of roster space that would finally push him off the Reds’ roster, but rather his play. Across 19 games this year, Ervin logged just three hits in 42 plate appearances.
While that’s not really a large sample size, 19 games equates to a little under a third of this weird, dumb season. That isn’t to say that’s the only reason for the quick trigger on cutting ties with Ervin, though, as he’s out of minor league options.
In Ervin, the Mariners are getting the perfect fourth outfielder for a rebuilding team. Ervin is 28-years-old and club controlled through the 2024 season. Last year was his first full season at the MLB level and he put up solid numbers at the plate, slashing .271/.331/.466 with seven home runs and 23 RBIs. He’s been really good against left-handed pitchers in his career, hitting .290/.356/.490 with 22 extra-base hits and a 120 wRC+.
With a BABIP of .111, Ervin has run into a bit of bad luck this year. But he’s also not hitting the ball as hard as someone with his power should be, ranking 319th out of 371 qualified hitters in average exit velocity at 85.4. One noteworthy positive is that he’s already walked six times to just eight strikeouts in his limited at-bats, though he currently holds just a career 7.8% walk rate.
Ervin’s a pretty athletic player overall. At one point, his speed was graded at a 60 on the 20-80 scale and he currently ranks in the 75th percentile amongst all Major Leaguers in 2020. That speed, however, hasn’t amounted to many stolen bases or anything of note defensively. Despite logging 30+ steals three times in the minors, Ervin has swiped just 15 bags in 219 MLB games. In the outfield, Ervin has graded average to slightly below-average at all three spots.
It would seem likely that Ervin – who’s best suited for right field with a solid arm and has the aforementioned history of success versus LHPs – will platoon with Jake Fraley at the 9 spot. Braden Bishop had been (frustratingly) assuming a similar role before Ervin’s acquisition. This would also seem to, at least, slightly lessen the chances of a potential September call-up for Jarred Kelenic or Taylor Trammell, but ultimately, the Mariners can promote either one whenever they want and no player – especially Ervin – will dictate that.
Ervin’s struggles this year shouldn’t reflect who he can be. Again, it’s been just 19 games. In all likelihood, the Mariners just acquired themselves a legit platoon bat who can help in the interim and garner trade interest this winter or sometime next season.