The Mariners are more than a little interested in Drew Stubbs. The former 8th overall pick saw his career in flux after two disappointing seasons in Cleveland, but then headed west where hitting careers are revitalized. Stubbs is having a resurgent year, much like other hitters have after heading to Colorado over the years, including teammate Justin Morneau. Last week, the Mariners went further than expressing interest and submitted a formal offer.
Stubbs is still the same kind of hitter he's always been, striking out an alarming 30.4%, except this year he's only walking 6.1%, the lowest of his career. Stubbs hasn't been a high average guy in several years, relying on speed and defense for his value (1.7 fWAR combined 2012-2013), but this year he's hitting .300 with an .854 OPS, still good for a 122 wRC+ with Colorado's heavy park factor.
It's been advised in the past that looking at Coors Field splits isn't always so simple, and last year Dave Cameron wrote about how breaking pitches don't move nearly as well in the thin Denver air. That's straight cash money for a player like Stubbs, who has been eaten alive by pitches diving off the plate his entire career. He's absolutely feasted in Coors Field, carrying a .441 wOBA (1.035 OPS) that's fueled by a whopping .421 BABIP. His K rate, perhaps thanks to some flat sliders, is only 25% on the road compared to 37% away.
The red flags stack up once Stubbs is removed from Coors Field. .226/.281/.340, good for just a 73 wRC+. Outside of Colorado, Stubbs has essentially been the same weak, whifftastic hitter he was in Cleveland.
The Mariners are interested in Stubbs presumably because he's right-handed, and his raw stats look pretty good. He can also do a bit of defending, and would easily be an upgrade over James Jones in center field, as Stubbs has graded out slightly below average at the position for his career, and even though his metrics this year are sub-par in the corners, that's probably just some noise. Given how terrible James Jones has been, Stubbs would be an upgrade to the Mariners outfield, even if he hit as poorly as he did as a member of the Cleveland Indians.
Stubbs is hitting left-handed pitching this year, but most of that is Coors Field-aided. He's got a .482 BABIP against lefties, posting about the same OPS (1.032) as his home splits. In 2013, Stubbs hit .266/.361/.357 against lefties and while 2012 was better at .283/.324/.464, Stubbs has been far from a lefty-masher for a number of years, this year excluded.
Stubbs is in his second year of arbitration, and if the Rockies choose to trade him away, the receiving team will control him through 2015. Given what's already happened this year, he's likely to get a nice bump from his current $4.1 million. Stubbs wouldn't be such a bad idea if he wasn't valued at what he's done in Coors Field, but that's almost certainly the case. The Rockies don't seem likely to just give him away, and he's been a quality player for them. If the Mariners have to pay Coors Field value for Stubbs before putting him in a park that's a nightmare match for his skillset, then it's a mistake. Projecting what exactly Colorado would ask for is an exercise in futility. There's little track record for Stubbs, and there's such disparity between his value to Colorado and other teams.
Pass. Stubbs has been worth 2.0 fWAR and while that's been park-adjusted, we know that projecting true value away from Coors is difficult, and some carry such massive splits that the park adjustment doesn't reflect what's really going on. Some players bottom out and regress straight to the road splits after their Coors Field departures, and others don't. Dexter Fowler is just fine in Houston, but we never saw him outside of Coors Field before he left. We've seen what Drew Stubbs has been outside of Coors, and it's fairly unremarkable. Defense, speed, strikeouts, and a lot of busted potential.
Stubbs was once a nice, underrated player with Cincinnati, but those years are too far in the rear-view mirror. If Stubbs were hanging out on the waiver wire, he would be a great pickup. But unless the Mariners pay pennies on the dollar for taking on Stubbs' offensive asterisks, they can use their assets in a wiser way.