Yesterday afternoon, the Mariners officially announced the trading of LHP Vidal Nuno to the Los Angeles Dodgers for C Carlos Ruiz. There are no take-backsies:
The #Mariners have acquired catcher Carlos Ruiz from Los Angeles-NL in exchange for left-handed pitcher Vidal Nuño.— MarinersPR (@MarinersPR) November 7, 2016
The trade works out for both teams. The Mariners land themselves a backup catcher/Zunino insurance without having to pay much at all ($4.5m, which sounds better than having to surrender significant prospects) while the Dodgers pick up a versatile presence for their bullpen.
We’ll go a little more in depth on Ruiz later this week, but here’s a quick look at what the Mariners are both gaining and losing in this trade:
What they gained
After a miserable 2015 (60 wRC+, -0.4 fWAR) seemingly left Ruiz at the end of his career, he managed to put together a strong 2016, lifting his wRC+ (99) back up to a respectable level while reestablishing himself as a solid defender behind the plate (as long as you pay zero attention to his framing numbers).
Despite the bounce back last year, Ruiz is likely in the last couple years of his career. He is 38-years-old and has only appeared in at least 100 games once in the last four seasons. However, if he can put up a slash line anything like his .264/.365/.348 mark in 2016, he will be a valuable piece for the Mariners. In an article published by Ryan Divish this afternoon, Dipoto was quoted as saying Zunino and Ruiz would have a “normal 65 percent to 35 percent split” in playing time in an ideal scenario.
In the same article, Dipoto mentioned that former Mariner Chris Iannetta was still in the mix to be the backup catcher if they weren’t content with the available alternatives.
What they lost
The Mariners surrender Vidal Nuno in the trade. Nuno is one of those pieces you enjoy having on your team because he is capable of filling so many roles: LOOGY, setup man, long relief, spot starter, and so on. He’s also very good at consistently pounding the strike zone, issuing just 1.69 BB/9 in 2016.
That being said, he’s very expendable. Despite his Swiss Army Knife-like approach, he posted a 4.12 xFIP and a 0.0 fWAR out of the bullpen in ‘16. And as some relievers go, he was wildly inconsistent, following up impressive months with miserable months and vice versa. Replacing Nuno’s production out of the ‘pen is a much easier task than scraping together a tolerable backup catcher. Would I have preferred the Mariners have traded Caminero or Venditte or some other pitcher worse than Nuno? Of course, but that isn’t how trades work.
It’ll also be interesting to see what this move means for current backup catcher Jesus Sucre. Sucre earned even more admiration from Mariners fans when he hit .480/.552/.680 in 29 plate appearances late last year, but relying on him to be a season-long backup is a dangerous game. Yes, the Mariners are working to turn him into a MLB-caliber hitter, but being a MLB-caliber hitter is really freaking hard and Sucre just posted a 69 wRC+ over a larger sample in Triple-A Tacoma last year. This move resulting in them losing Sucre would be a bummer because Sucre’s defense is so good, but Carlos Ruiz is a better player than Jesus Sucre. This much I am sure of.