After a recent report from Joel Sherman that the Seattle Mariners have talked about adding a left-handed bat to their lineup this winter. With endless possibilities, here are a few names to keep an eye on.
The left-handed bat the Mariners will bring in is highly unlikely to cause much celebration from the fan base desperate for any sign of a playoff push. Of course, those signs are all around them if they’d only look, but that is a different topic for a different time. But either way, this isn’t the list for big time lefty bats like Joey Gallo or Francisco Lindor. Instead, you’ll find mostly short-term fixes that can play the outfield or multiple positions. With that in mind, let’s dive on in.
Tommy La Stella– La Stella has quietly been one of the better pure hitters in the league the past two seasons. In his last 135 games, La Stella is hitting .289/.356/.471 with 21 home runs and 22 doubles. Perhaps most impressive is La Stella’s unwillingness to strikeout. He posted a microscopic 5.3% strikeout rate, best in baseball. He also ranks in the 99th percentile in whiff rate. He doesn’t swing an miss, or at least he hasn’t the past two years. La Stella is primarily a second baseman, though he does have some time at third base under his belt. He’s never played in the outfield, but with Dylan Moore‘s ability to handle shortstop, La Stella could fit as the primary utility player.
Kole Calhoun– As it turns out, Cowboy Kole may still have some pop left in his bat. The longtime Los Angeles Angel and Jerry Dipoto favorite had a solid year for the Diamondbacks in 2020, ranking in the 87th percentile in xwOBA, 87th in xSLG, and 79th percentile in Barrel percent. Calhoun smashed 16 home runs along with a .226/.338/.526 slash line in 228 plate appearances. He can handle both corner spots and provides depth in the case of a Mitch Haniger injury or general need. You’ll need to trade for Calhoun but he won’t cost much as the Diamondbacks are likely looking at a rebuild.
Kyle Schwarber– Perhaps the biggest name we’ll discuss today, Kyle Schwarber is one of several trade candidates for a Chicago Cubs team that is looking to restock. With one year left on his contract and an $8 million salary, this could be the right time to get something done. Schwarber would provide a tremendous offensive upgrade, despite his bad 2020 season, and certainly has the “control the zone” mentality. Schwarber is a poor defender and should really be a full-time DH. That lack of versatility might be too much of a roadblock, but Schwarber COULD be a long-term option thanks to his age and bat.
Robbie Grossman– He’s not exciting but he does provide some serious on-base skills and in 2020, he added power. He’s also a solid outfielder, ranking in the 94th percentile in outs above average and in the 70th percentile in outfield jumps. The A’s deployed him as a pure platoon bat, a role that fits him well. Against right-handed pitching he hit .260/.357/.521. 2020 was a career year for Grossman, but expecting a Seth Smith style player isn’t out of the realm of possibility.
Joc Pederson– Joc is probably going to get better offers than to be the 4th outfielder for a mediocre team as early as May. Pederson can play all 3 outfield spots and has a knack for hitting the ball hard. He’s a strong platoon option and is just 29-years-old. Pederson would start the year in left field, then likely rotate between the corner spots and DH for the remainder of the season. Getting him his 400 PAs shouldn’t be a problem, but again, a contender can probably make Pederson a better offer. Still, he’d be a great addition for Seattle.
Nick Markakis– How about some of that good ole’ fashioned veteran presence? Nick Markakis is still a useable player at 36-years-old, but he too may be more interested in playing for a contender if he is allowed that opportunity. He can still hit for average and hits plenty of doubles. He’s a solid enough defender at his age and can be a decent addition for many teams.
Adam Eaton– Another veteran outfielder here. Eaton was awful in 2020, but from 2014-2019 he hit .289/.367/.423 with solid defense in the corners. He’s still a good base-runner as well, so there is a decent chance he can return to form at 32-years-old.
There are literally dozens of more options we can discuss and we’ll be back with another list some time soon. But the idea of adding another bat is a solid idea, especially with so many questions in the current outfield.