In any given offseason there are big, sexy moves and there are moves you probably forget in three years. The premise of this article is that the Seattle Mariners should go ahead and make one of the latter, and sign Erick Aybar. I know that idea maybe tastes bad, especially if you just decided to check out his last season of work, but allow me to explain what Aybar could do for the M's roster.
The Jean Segura Era
As I'm sure you're aware, the night before Thanksgiving, Jerry Dipoto made the decision to acquire the 9th-best position player in the NL by fWAR who looks to be the Ketel Marte "We believe in you" replacement. Jean Segura, while having many question marks surrounding his astounding 5.0 fWAR 2016, is your starting shortstop whether you like that or not. In his second year of arbitration, Segura will command something like 7.5M in salary for 2017 and hopefully something like 3-4 fWAR, as well, but I digress. With Segura in Teal and Blue, the acquisition of Aybar might seem like a waste of money, I disagree.
The State of Things
The Seattle Mariners 2017 is starting to take shape as we head towards December. As of this moment, the 15 players who will be making above league-minimum command a salary of about $134M, so round that out with a theoretical 10 players at league-minimum and the '17 salary currently lies around $140M. That's $16M short of last season, to date. You may notice that isn't a ton of money to play with. With catcher seemingly sorted out in the FO's eyes by acquisition of Carlos Ruiz, and first base done and dusted with Danny Valencia, the attention now shifts from replacing Ketel Marte to finding some pitching. It isn't an intriguing market to buy in, as a pitcher like this guy may be commanding an AAV above $12M.
While I don't personally find Ruiz a firm insurance policy for if/when Mike Zunino collapses into himself, it is what it is. Danny Valencia is a bat that doesn't need platooning, and Jerry, at least outwardly, seems content with the outfield so here we are. Looking for pitching where there's none to be found and what is to be found is way over-priced. In my opinion, this is the perfect time to buy-low on an insurance policy of another kind: Erick Aybar.
The Utility Man
In 2016, the final year of his contract, Erick Aybar had the very worst season of his career. While splitting the season between Atlanta and Detroit, Aybar managed -1.2 fWAR. His K% more than doubled, his defensive metrics fell off a cliff, he managed a wRC+ of 65 in 460 PA's. It was, by all accounts, a disaster. Aybar turns 33 in two months, and it is hard for me to imagine any team offering him a role as a starting player, even the Padres. Well, maybe the Padres would. Aybar is at the very bottom of his value and should be looking for a chance to up his value for one, last contract before he hangs up the cleats. Enter the Seattle Mariners.
Before last season, Aybar's value rested heavily upon his plus-defense. His 2014 season which saw him reach 4.2 fWAR was propped up by a lowly 101 wRC+. He can, in his moment, play short, second, and third as a plus defender. If you can ignore last season, and that's admittedly difficult, his bat does more than enough to keep him useful and he's added positive BsR every season excepting 2016.
So why Erick Aybar? Well, it's relatively straight forward. Last season, Shawn O'Malley had 232 PA's for your Seattle Mariners. Add in the additional twenty four to Mike Freeman down the stretch and you've got a part time player that acquired a whopping 0.3 fWAR during a playoff hunt for the M's. I am on record as loving O'Malley for his ability to give you cover anywhere on the field, but having to turn to Shawn and Mike when the Mariners were trying to beat out three teams for a Wildcard spot wasn't ideal. Aybar gives you a proven asset who need to impress and gets a chance to be on a team looking to compete this season.
Seattle as an organization has more 4th outfielders than perhaps the entirety of AAA and no longer needs O'Malley to cover both outfield and infield while also replacing Marte down the stretch. If you see Valencia as a non-platoon option at first base, and I do, then you can carry two utility players, one who covers the infield (Aybar) and another who covers the outfield (take your pick). Aybar will cost you something but in a year where spending looks to be rising, if anything, he's the sort of player who provides potentially competent backup and injury insurance across the infield. While money absolutely needs to be directed towards finding reliable starting and relief pitching, Aybar is the sort of one year, buy-low option that could give this team a major boost when injuries start to accumulate in August. Maybe he's done, but maybe he just couldn't find a reason to care in Atlanta.
Sign Erick Aybar