Point #1: don't worry about Maikel Cleto, who's going to St. Louis. Cleto's only 21, and he has a big arm, but he's miles and miles away and his future - if he has one - almost certainly lies in the bullpen. This isn't a trade the are going to regret because of what they gave up.
Point #2: as many of you have already figured out, yes, Brendan Ryan starred in the best baseball commercial in baseball commercial history. While, by and large, mustache jokes aren't funny anymore due to overuse and limited creativity, the Ryan ad lives on as the pinnacle of the genre.
Point #3: the 28-year-old Ryan had a miserable 2010 season. He also has a career .658 OPS, while the league-average shortstop hovers around .700. Given Ryan's defensive expertise, it's fairly safe to say that he projects as league average for his position.
This last point is important. It would be easy to look at Ryan's 2010 numbers and conclude that the Mariners didn't actually get any better, but that would be inaccurate. At the same time, the fact that the Mariners just lost 101 games causes us to overreact to good news, and nothing about this trade is genius or brilliant. The Mariners gave up a long-shot prospect for a decent player thedidn't want. That's all. Brendan Ryan is a decent player, and everything that being a decent player involves.
The thing that stands out the most about Brendan Ryan is his defense. Not only is he capable of playing second, short, and third - he's regarded as one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball. I've little choice but to mention that he's reliably posted an excellent UZR, but for those of you who don't care for the metric, Ryan has also scored very well in the Fan Scouting Report, and real scouts - professional scouts - love him as well. Brendan Ryan's a very good defensive infielder. That isn't a controversial statement. He has good hands, instincts, and range, and he's the kind of defender you notice for all the right reasons.
But, okay - the Mariners traded for an awesome defensive shortstop from the NL Central before, and he's just been a pile of crap. Ryan, though, isn't Jack Wilson. At the time of the trade, Wilson was 31 going on 60. Ryan doesn't have Wilson's track record of lower body injuries. He's young, and while his style of play can cause him to get banged up, he doesn't have Wilson's potential to disappear for weeks or months at a time. This isn't the same kind of deal.
So Ryan's defense is great. His health isn't a real concern. He is, additionally, a fairly good baserunner, as you'd expect. What that leaves us with is his bat. A bat that has posted two season OPS figures in the mid-.700s, and two season OPS figures in the high-.500s. What should we expect?
As a number of people have pointed out, Ryan was bothered by his wrist during the 2010 season, but says now that his wrist feels terrific. It's easy to imagine how a sore wrist could be bad news for a hitter, and while Ryan was able to pull the ball just as often in 2010 as he did in 2009, his results were a lot worse, hinting at reduced bat speed or control. A healthy wrist should pull his numbers back up a fair bit.
But it's not like Ryan is another Ichiro waiting to blossom. He doesn't have any power, and might hit two or three home runs. He doesn't have exceptional discipline, and he doesn't have an exceptional ability to make contact. You look at his career batting line of .259/.314/.344 and that seems about right. He's a slap-hitting middle infielder. You can only ask for so much.
So Ryan's a low-ceiling guy at the plate and a high-ceiling guy in the field. What makes him rather handy is that he fills a need. He only turns 29 next March, and has three remaining years of team control. He's more reliable than Jack Wilson, he's a better defender than Josh Wilson, and he's more predictable than Luis Rodriguez. He makes for a great fit for this particular roster, because he can keep second base warm until Dustin Ackley's service time-related promotion delay is up, and then he can either become a super-sub or just flat out take over at short if Jack isn't getting the job done. He's like everything Josh Wilson is, only better, which makes him an improvement, which makes him neat.
That Ryan won't hit very much will keep him from being a star. People will like him, though, because he looks good in a uniform, and he's always moving at least 12 of his muscles, and he has a bit of personality. And, of course, he'll help a bit on the field. So this is an across-the-board good move. Many thanks to the St. Louis hustling white middle infielder factory for being willing to help us out.