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This might be lowkey the most intriguing move the Mariners made all offseason. To be honest, going into this, I had no idea who Danny Valencia was or what he could bring to the table, other than being a platoon partner at first base, with the capability to play corner outfield. I honestly forgot he came up as a third baseman, and they see him as a guy who can give Kyle Seager a day off here and there if necessary. Other than that, there was just this overall aura of “Clubhouse Cancer” clouding my opinion of the man. I guess he got into a fight with Billy Butler last year in Oakland? And, I guess I took that to mean he was a problem everywhere he played? Truth be told, since coming up in 2010, he’s played for a whopping six franchises before landing in Seattle, which can’t bode well for your uninformed opinion on the man.
But, if you look at his numbers, we’re not talking about a superstar you build your team around. Valencia is a complementary player to fill out your roster with some depth and versatility. He’s had good years and bad years. He’s a right-handed bat who KILLS left-handed pitching. And, over the last couple years, he’s improved his production against same-handed pitching as well.
Also, not for nothing, but it kinda sounds like Billy Butler was acting like a total ass-bag in that clubhouse fight and deserved to be concussed. So, take that for what it’s worth.
Here’s the deal. We traded for Valencia, giving the A’s a minor league pitcher with not a ton of upside. He’s a free agent after this season, who is earning $5.5 million this year. He’s currently slotted to be a first base platoon partner with Dan Vogelbach. And, you figure, if he proves capable of doing some damage against righties, he’ll get some play in the outfield as well.
On the low-end of the scale, he’ll be a backup playing exclusively against lefties. On the high-end, he very well could force himself into an everyday position on this team, in sort of a Mark McLemore-type role on the team. He can play practically anywhere on the field, except probably catcher, short stop, and centerfield. He’s got a moderate amount of pop (35 homers total the last two years; 45 doubles in the same span), he’s played exclusively in the American League (so he knows the pitching), he hits for a pretty solid average (.280-.290 range or so), and he’s improved at getting on base. Considering he’s in a contract year, on a potential playoff team, you have to figure he’s going to be engaged and looking for his first real big payday in professional baseball.
Quite honestly, this has all the makings of a MAJOR breakout waiting to happen. I can’t think of a better guy to have in this role for us, at a better time. If he manages to do what I think he’ll do, then we’re talking about the Big Three, Jean Segura, Valencia, and one of our speedy outfielders (likely Jarrod Dyson, who I’ll write about in due time) comprising the top six spots in our lineup, which as we get closer to the regular season, is looking more and more formidable by the day. On top of that, you’ve got a guy in Zunino you don’t have to bat any higher than 7th?!?! That’s incredible! You keep him stashed in the bottom third, while still getting a good amount of power that you otherwise wouldn’t expect so low in the lineup.
The best part of having Valencia on the team is that we don’t have to go back to the Franklin Gutierrez well. As much as I love and appreciate the guy (who recently signed with the Dodgers) for what he was able to do, and his journey back to playing on a semi-regular basis, he’s getting up there in age, and his production last year was lacking considerably. Valencia is a step up in every way, plus I don’t have to worry about whether or not he’s going to be available to play. The same can be said for not going back to the Dae-ho Lee well. Again, LOVE the guy, really appreciate what he was able to do last year in his first (and probably only) season in the Major Leagues. It was a fun and worthy experiment, but he’s probably in a better place now, back in Korea making some serious dough. I can’t imagine – if we’d re-signed him – that he’d improve considerably from what he gave us last year (which, admittedly, started to decline the more he was forced into action due to Adam Lind’s mediocrity). And, let’s face it, his total and complete lack of speed on the basepaths was a huge liability compared to someone like Valencia.
Look, what I’m getting at here is, I’m very high on Danny Valencia. Put me all in on as much stock as I can buy on this guy, because I think he’s poised for a really special season. And look, I’m not saying he is some sort of clubhouse cancer or anything, but if he IS, this team is loaded with veterans in leadership positions that should keep him in line.