What about Spencer Steer for the Mariners?
Potential trade targets pop up all the time during hot stove season. So, why not discuss one of them and how he could might help the Mariners?
Just to be clear, little time was spent discussing Petriello’s impromptu suggestion. It was just a passing comment made to co-host Matt Meyers as the duo discussed Cincinnati’s glut of infielders following the team signing free agent third baseman Jeimer Candelario last week.
Whether the Mariners or Reds would ever entertain a trade involving Steer is unclear. But the clubs do have a history of making impactful deals over the past few years. Then again, who cares?
It’s hot stove season. Talking about baseball is fun. Not only that, reflecting on Steer’s selling points and potential concerns might provide additional perspective on how the Mariners’ front office might approach the rest of this offseason.
Without further ado, let’s consider Spencer Steer.
Selling points: If Steer were a member of the Mariners this year, he would’ve ranked second on the team in doubles, AVG, and SLG behind Julio Rodríguez. Furthermore, J.P. Crawford was the lone Seattle hitter with a higher OBP than the former Oregon Duck. Only Crawford and Rodríguez posted a higher OPS+
On-base Plus Slugging Plus (OPS+) is a normalized version of OPS that adjusts for park and league conditions. OPS+ is scaled so 100 is always league-average. As a result, an OPS+ of 150 means a hitter was 50-percent more productive than the average player. An 80 OPS+ would be 20-percent below average.
We’ve discussed ad nauseam that strikeouts were a problem for the Mariners this year. Steer could be part of the solution. The right-handed hitter’s 20.9% strikeout rate was better than the MLB average. Moreover, his 10.2% walk rate fell within the top-30% of qualified hitters.
Success against breaking balls was another recognized challenge for Seattle hitters. Once again, Steer could potentially help. This year, his .273 AVG against breaking balls tied for 30th-highest among 195 hitters seeing at least 500 breaking pitches.
We know Steer plays his home games in hitter-friendly Great American Ball Park. But the Long Beach, California native produced an impressive .267 AVG/.348 OBP/.487 SLG slash-line with 23 doubles and 13 home runs in 342 plate appearances on the road.
Steer’s 28.4 ft/sec sprint speed was appreciably better than the MLB average (27 ft/sec). It’s worth noting only five Mariners were quicker than the 26-year-old this year - Rodríguez, Sam Haggerty, José Caballero, Cade Marlowe, and Teoscar Hernández.
Since debuting last season, Steer has made double-digit starts at first base, second base, third base, and left field. He’s also spent time in right field. This defensive malleability might prove useful to a Mariners club still attempting to reshape its infield and outfield.
In his first full big-league campaign, Steer’s outstanding performance prompted a sixth-place finish in NL Rookie of the Year voting. He was also named the Reds’ most valuable player. An impressive achievement for a rookie.
Potential concerns: Despite demonstrating the ability to play across the diamond, Baseball Savant’s outs above average (OAA) suggest Steer was a below-average defender at all of the positions previously mentioned.
As already noted, this year was Steer’s first full season. Therefore, it’s possible the third round pick of the Twins in 2019 regresses next season. Especially if he were to be traded to a team playing its home games in a ballpark known as one of the least hospitable to hitters.
Thoughts: While it appears the Reds have an infield windfall, the team could decide to retain all of its talent. After all, the combination of positional versatility and offensive productivity Steer possesses is hard to find. Cincinnati could also opt to transform him into a full-time outfielder.
Although the possibility of a step back next year was mentioned, I haven’t seen anything to suggest Steer is susceptible to a sophomore jinx. As for his defense, it’s possible the metrics would be more favorable if he settled into one position.
Financially speaking, Steer makes sense to the Reds, Mariners, or any MLB club. He’s relatively inexpensive and not arbitration-eligible for two more years and won’t be a free agent until after the 2028 campaign.
And there’s the rub for the Mariners and any club pursuing Steer. Why would the Reds part with such a talented, versatile, low-cost performer?
Projecting trade packages isn’t my thing. But I suspect landing Steer would require parting with significant value. That said, even this nerd has a decent idea of what the Reds would demand in return for the Millikan High School product - pitching.
And this is why Petriello connected the dots between the Mariners and Reds. Seattle is viewed as a club with a deep and talented pitching stable. Therefore, the organization is bound to be mentioned any time another team is reportedly looking for arms.
That said, I’ve already voiced my concerns regarding the idea of the Mariners trading starting pitchers. Then again, this may be the only way management can acquire necessary upgrades for its offense this offseason.
Having said that, I’m not going to change course midstream and suggest the Mariners should deal starting pitching to land a young, controllable hitter like Spencer Steer. But if Seattle did execute such a deal, I wouldn’t criticize the front office.
After all, the Mariners’ lineup must be more productive next year. Making an uncomfortable move, such as trading pitching for Steer or another impactful bat, may be the cost of doing business this offseason.
My Oh My…
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