You know what Jerry Dipoto loves? A former first-round pick. This time it’s 28-year-old outfielder Phil Ervin, claimed off waivers from the Reds. Ervin, a first-round pick back in 2013, is out of options, and the Reds are out of roster space, and the Mariners—as we expect to see them do over the next few months—made themselves the beneficiaries of that.
Ervin was batting a mere .086 when he was DFA’d, but he’d been a productive hitter in the minors throughout his Reds career and performed...average, if not particularly well, over about 500 PAs in the bigs scattered between 2018 and 2019. The Reds envisioned Ervin as a platoon bat with Jesse Winker against lefties, as he’s a career .290 hitter against them, but that hasn’t worked out so well in 2020, and the win-now Reds don’t have time to be giving at-bats to someone with a wRC+ of 3. The not-win-now Mariners have their own DH/OF platoon with lefty Jose Marmolejos and can afford to kick the tires on Ervin.
Ervin is an all-around-fine player rather than a one-loud-tool player. His above-average tool is speed—he’s in the 75th percentile in Sprint Speed per Statcast—and while he runs the bases well, that hasn’t translated into him stealing a ton of bags in the majors yet (15 in over 200 games played), and at 28 years old, his speed will only decline, although maybe he’ll swipe more with the run-happy Mariners. On balance, he’s average-to-above-average in the outfield with an arm that plays well in center or left and plus speed that helped him rack up +4 Outs Above Average last season. At the plate, Ervin is an average hitter who might scrape double-digit home runs with regular playing time, but his exit velocities are about three mph lower than the MLB average; he had more barrels than Mallex Smith last year, but then again, so did I. If Ervin can shake off the cobwebs of 2020 and return to his identity as an average hitter, he’s a solid fourth outfielder to platoon with Marmolejos. At the very least, Ervin, Taylor Trammell, and Shed Long can form Reds West.
In addition to announcing the Ervin claim, the Mariners also announced RHP Walker Lockett has been added to the active roster.