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M’s Snag 1B/DH Garko

Seattle Mariners signed 1B/DH Ryan Garko to a one-year, $550,000 contract with $525,000 in possible incentives.

Garko, 29, was non-tendered by the Giants earlier this off-season. So, to recap, San Francisco jettisons Garko (whom they acquired from Cleveland last summer for lefty pitching prospect Scott Barnes) to sign a more expensive, likely inferior first baseman in Aubrey Huff. Huh?

While Garko’s pact with the M’s is a one-year deal, the club retains his rights through the 2012 season, as he’s arbitration-eligible in 2011 and ’12 as well.

The righty batter has a career .279/.351/.441 triple-slash, with a 113 wRC+ and a .162 Isolated Power figure. In a 2009 season split between the Indians and Giants, Garko had a 107 wRC+.

Garko is presumably being brought in to thump lefty pitching, getting some time at first base in place of Casey Kotchman and at DH when either Milton Bradley or Griffey Jr.’s ghost aren’t occupying the spot.

Here are Garko’s splits during the course of his big league career, viewed through the scope of sOPS+. The Baseball-Reference stat compares a hitter’s performance in a given split to the league average. One-hundred is average, while anything above 100 is above-average for batters.

Garko’s splits, 2006-2009

Sure, Garko has been better vs. southpaws, but it’s not as though he’s totally helpless against same-side pitching.

Of course, first base and DH types are supposed to mash, not merely hold their own: the offensive bar at those spots is extremely high. By comparison, Garko comes up a bit short as an everyday option. CHONE projects a .268/.343/.438 line in 2010, with a 110 wRC+.

For reference, the overall MLB line at first base last year was .277/.362/.483, while the overall DH triple-slash was .264/.347/.447. Also, keep in mind that hitters may lose some effectiveness while DHing. In The Book, Tom Tango found that batters perform about 4-5 runs worse per 600 PA at DH, compared to when they play a position on the field.

Garko doesn’t figure to hold significant fantasy value, given his part-time status and good, not great bat at the low end of the defensive spectrum.