On Wednesday evening, Oakland, Seattle, & Washington came together for a three-way trade that seems like it could be a win for all parties involved. That’s perhaps intentionally misleading – the Mariners are getting killed on this trade, and rightfully so – but this is RotoGraphs, and so we need to look at this deal with an eye on fantasy. Seen in that light, all of the moving pieces here leave us with a few players who might get a slight boost in their fantasy value.
Let’s start with the aforementioned Mariners, who swap out catcher John Jaso for 1B/OF/DH Michael Morse. If “1B/OF/DH” being in the same sentence as “Seattle” sounds familiar, it’s because just a few weeks ago I was in this space trying to figure out how they’d sort through the giant logjam they already had – you can’t possibly have a roster that has Jesus Montero and Justin Smoak and Kendrys Morales and Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay and Casper Wells and Mike Carp and Eric Thames. Clearly, not all of those guys are going to make it to Opening Day, but it’s even more complicated now that they’ve added Morse, who may see time at first, left, and designated hitter.
Despite the logjam, this move actually helps Morse, and yes, I know how odd it sounds to say that a power hitter leaving a stacked lineup in the easier league and headed to the canyons of Safeco Field might actually be better off for it. The reasoning here is simple: the Mariners didn’t acquire him to have him sit on the bench, so he’ll be in the lineup every day, when healthy. That wasn’t going to be the case in Washington, where the acquisition of Denard Span and the return of Adam LaRoche had pushed Morse into a bench role, so the move back to Seattle gives him a guaranteed starting job and the associated value that comes with it.
Of course, Morse will suffer somewhat from leaving the almost completely neutral Nationals Park to go to one of the most difficult places to hit in the majors. That said, it’s difficult to say how much Safeco will impact him, simply because we don’t yet know exactly how the new dimensions in Seattle will play in 2013 — obviously, a few balls that would have been outs in the past might now be homers, but that comes with the flip side of defenders having less ground to cover. Mike Podhorzer took a crack at this yesterday and settled on the idea that “the changes to the fence distances will bring it closer to neutral, but it will probably still play as a pitcher’s park”, which I agree with.
So if we can split hairs here, Morse is likely to be less valuable than he was in 2012 in fantasy terms, but more so than it looked like he was a week ago. For now, you can say the same for Montero, who is probably in line to get additional time behind the plate with Jaso gone, at least if Seattle doesn’t rush Mike Zunino up on Opening Day.
Jaso moves on to Oakland, where he is lucky enough to get out of Safeco, but Name-of-the-Week Field isn’t really any friendlier in terms of power for lefty hitters, so he’s not going to get a boost there. Working in his favor is the fact that he’s going to an organization most likely to appreciate his skills, so while he was almost certainly not going to be the regular catcher in Seattle – note that he received only 361 PA last year despite being far and away the club’s best hitter – the A’s are unlikely to bury him similarly. That might result in a slight downgrade for incumbent Derek Norris, who may lose some playing time with Jaso around, but it’s worthwhile since Jaso’s an obvious upgrade over George Kottaras.
The immediate impact of all this is much less pronounced in Washington, of course, since A.J. Cole & Blake Treinen are not close to being big league ready. If anything, this gives Davey Johnson one less reason to rest LaRoche & Bryce Harper against tough lefties, but that’s probably not enough of an impact to fundamentally change their outlook in either direction.
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