Yesterday afternoon was a whole lot of fun for nothing happening. Shortly after rumors about Wil Myers being sent to the Padres starting flying around, there was a tweet that sent Mariners Twittersphere into a giant frenzy. The afternoon came and went, Wil Myers remained a Ray for the time being, and the rumor was later squashed by Ryan Divish, and later on Churchill recanted. The idea of nabbing Wil Myers in exchange for Taijuan Walker is a crazy one that I was ready to write about, but now that it lost legs it's probably worth tabling, even though there are still talks other teams may be involved. If they're not, the Padres might be going hard after Myers because their trade for Matt Kemp could possibly be falling apart thanks to a failed physical. Remember all those Kemp red flags we wrote about? Yeah.
The reason the Myers rumors got so insane so quickly was because Jerry Crasnick tweeted this shortly before.
Hearing rumblings that the #mariners are closing in on a trade for a hitter.— Jerry Crasnick (@jcrasnick) December 16, 2014
Others opined that a trade is expected to come in the next two to three days, and they were right.
Confirmed: #Mariners get OF Justin Ruggiano from Cubs for minor-league pitcher Matt Brazis. Designate RHP Logan Bawcom for assignment.— Bob Dutton (@TNT_Mariners) December 17, 2014
It's hardly the blockbuster fantasy that spun around last night, so some might view it as a letdown. From a deeper look, it's excellent news. Now that the Mariners haven't landed any of the splashy RF they've been in on, a platoon is looking like a viable fallback plan, and Ruggiano is an ideal platoon partner who has only cost them minor league reliever Matt Brazis.
Brazis is an excellent relief prospect in his own right, but he's yet to advance past AA, is already 25, and comes from a position of tremendous depth. Brazis has demonstrated solid control as well as the ability to miss bats, and was successful in High Desert, which is saying something on its own. The other loss here is Logan Bawcom, though after his miserable 2014 it wouldn't be surprising to see him clear waivers.
Ruggiano is 32, and has played for three teams in the last four years. He best year came in 2012, posting a whopping 142 wRC+ with the Marlins while heavily platooned, a number that dropped to 92 once he was forced into a more everyday role in 2013. Even during Ruggiano's poor 2013, in which he was still worth 0.9 WAR, he had a 130 wRC+ against LHP. Returning to his usual platoon role in 2014 with the Cubs, he continued that success with a 129 wRC+, though he was far better against righties -- his overall line sat at 113 wRC+ in 250 PA.
Acquiring Ruggiano doesn't prevent the Mariners from still adding a bigger or better bat, as he's capable of playing every outfield position. While it's less than ideal to start him in center field, he does sport a -2.6 UZR/150 there, and had generally been a positive defender in the corners before a small and highly inconclusive -14.3 UZR/150 sample killed him in RF last year. It's just about everything you'd want in a 4th outfielder besides blazing speed, but Ruggiano has also been a capable base stealer throughout his career.
Either you stick Ruggiano in RF platoon (with Brad Miller, perhaps?) or you sit him on the bench and use him to fill spots here and there against LHP or to pinch hit. He's rarely been a regular player and he's changed teams quite a bit, so he'll have no problem joining in a bench role. He's done a lot of pinch-hitting in the NL, so that wouldn't be a weird transition either.
Ruggiano isn't the huge splash some have been looking for, but at this stage in the offseason he's pretty perfect. It helps a paper-thin outfield, provides more lineup balance, solves one half of a RF platoon, and he fills the 4th outfielder role better than James Jones would. With two years of club control remaining and a relatively cheap salary (estimated around $2.5 million in his second year of arbitration), Ruggiano would give the Mariners depth they desperately need, along with a impact bat against lefties. This is like a thousand times better than Dayan Viciedo.
This doesn't mean the Mariners are done. It doesn't even remotely indicate that. Even if you can pencil Ruggiano and another LH bat into right field now, the Mariners still hold every single one of their trade bullets. They can continue searching for the right deal, and if the cost on Justin Upton falls without any more suitors left, this won't stop them from splashing again. As the other half of a platoon, Seth Smith would now fit in nicely.
Well played, M's.