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Mariners

Churchill: M’s Do Well With Jackson, Denorfia

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Austin Jackson (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Austin Jackson (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Jason A. Churchill, 1090 The Fan Jason A. Churchill
Jason joined 1090 The Fan after 4 1/2 years at ESPN Insider, covering...
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After already having added veteran Kendrys Morales earlier this month, Seattle Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik made two more deals on Thursday, one just before time expired. The Morales deal is likable, albeit not lovable, and the club has announced the acquisition of outfielder Chris Denorfia from the San Diego Padres and Austin Jackson from the Detroit Tigers.

Seattle sent outfielder Abraham Almonte and right-handed reliever Stephen Kohlscheen to the Padres to net Denorfia, a solid-average defensive corner outfielder who has a track record of producing versus left-handed pitching. He’s had a down year in 2014 and is 34-years-old, but still provides an upgrade to what the M’s were rolling out there, namely Endy Chavez and James Jones.

Denorfia is due just under $2 million for the remainder of this season then will hit the free agent market.

Almonte, who started the year as the Mariners’ centerfielder and leadoff hitter, will give the Padres a player still with some development in front of him, but most likely is a fourth or fifth outfielder. He’s a switch hitter with gap power and above-average speed. Almonte is a fringe-average defender in center but could end up average or better and has an above-average arm.

Kohlscheen, 45th-round pick in 2010, is a reliever only and not likely to end up more than a sixth or seventh inning arm. He sits 89-93 mph with a sinking fastball, touching 94-95 here and there, but his breaking ball is below average, but has improved since last year. He’s 25 and split time this season between Double-A Jackson and Triple-A Tacoma.

Denorfia is likely to see most of his time in right field with Seattle having acquired Jackson to play center. Dustin Ackley’s recent surge likely means he’s the regular left fielder, though Denorfia is very well versed on that side of the diamond and could spell Ackley on occasion. Denorfia is best used versus left-handed pitching, but still is a better option versus righties than is Chavez or Jones. He can draw a walk, hit the gaps and put up professional at-bats. Even if he’s the everyday guy until Michael Saunders returns, the Mariners upgraded one of their outfield spots with Denorfia, and like the deal for Morales that cost them $4.5 million in salary and right-hander Stephen Pryor, they did it for absolutely nothing they will miss anytime sooner or later.

Jackson is the prize of the day for Seattle, however, considering he’s a legitimate regular center fielder. As is Denorfia, Jackson’s a right-handed batter (shocker, I know) with above-average raw power and the tendency to strike out more than what is ideal, but he’s a league-average bat at a defensive position and is under club control through next season. The M’s will pay him about $2.5 million for the rest of 2014 and his projected salary for 2015 could reach or even exceed $10 million, a number that will prompt the club to explore a multi-year solution once this season is complete.

Jackson can run but doesn’t attempt a lot of stolen bases, but that may change under skipper Lloyd McClendon, who knows Jackson well having coached him the last several years in Motown.

To land Jackson, the M’s shipped middle infielder Nick Franklin to Tampa Bay in the three-team deal that sent lefty David Price to the Tigers. Detroit also sent a minor league shortstop and lefty Drew Smyly to the Rays. Franklin struggled in short stints in the majors this year but his skills remains; he has plus power from the left side, has improved as a right-handed batter and can manage defensively at shortstop. He’s ideally a second baseman, but his calling card is his bat speed and extra-base power coming from a middle-infield spot.

The Rays will control Franklin for five more years and the chance his best baseball is in front of him is darn near 100 percent. Tampa now possesses three middle-infield options for 2015 and beyond in Franklin, Wily Adames (acquired from Detroit) and Hak-Ju Lee. Franklin gives them another option once Yunel Escobar’s contract expires and Ben Zobrist either hits free agency or is traded over the winter.

Jackson, 27, will man center field for Seattle and could bat anywhere from No. 1 in the order to No. 6 or 7, perhaps depending on the matchup. He began Thursday batting .270/.330/.397 overall but .320/.393/.433 versus lefties, suggesting he could be inserted ahead of Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager and Morales when a southpaw starts the game, if not regularly.

Oh, and he’s a better glove than either Jones or Chavez, too, and hits fastballs to the tune of a .281 average and .447 slugging percentage.

It’s worth noting that Jackson’s career numbers at Safeco mean nothing. Too small of a sample and Safeco will suppress the numbers of any right-handed hitter. He hits line drives and ground balls mostly, and though his fly ball percentage is up, that has replaced some infield pop ups.

The Mariners did very well Thursday despite not adding the flashy name, and essentially all this month in acquiring offensive help. There were exactly zero big-name, impact hitters to acquire and in getting the three they did gave up not one player or prospect that is likely to serve a role they don’t have covered by multiple others both in the big leagues and in the minors.

They didn’t move Carson Smith, their best relief prospect, they didn’t move James Paxton or Taijuan Walker and they didn’t send out any of their outfield prospects or their future first baseman, D.J. Peterson.

They took on $8.5-9 million total salary for 2014, which is exactly the manner in which they should have attacked mid-season additions. The M’s still may not be the favorites to win a Wild Card spot, but they have given themselves a better chance and without selling a drop of the future to do it.

Kudos to all involved, from Zduriencik to his assistants and the many scouts that pour their hearts into these kinds of moves, and also to ownership for being good with adding payroll.

The M’s sit behind the New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays in the race for the No. 2 Wild Card berth, but the Jays did very little this month — did not add any pitching via trade. The Yankees did add Brandon McCarthy earlier and Thursday acquired Stephen Drew and Martin Prado. For me, the Yankees are best positioned to win the race, but Seattle is No. 2 in that sprint, and with Paxton returning anything can happen. And probably will.

Trade Notes
The Mariners now have made 21 trades with the San Diego Padres, the last before Thursday coming nearly four years ago when they sent catcher Rob Johnson to their spring training mates in exchange for cash … the club now has made 18 deals with the Detroit Tigers, including sending minor league catcher Manny Pina to their AL Central rivals back in June. The most famous deals between the two teams include the one made July 30, 2011 when Seattle sent right-handers Doug Fister and David Pauley to the Tigers for lefty Charlie Furbush and minor leaguers Francisco Martinez, Casper Wells and Chance Ruffin.

- Jason A. Churchill, 1090 The Fan

(TM and © Copyright 2014 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2014 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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