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Open Thread - Jesse Winker?

Do you want Jesse Winker?

MLB: Oakland Athletics at Seattle Mariners Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Today is not my day to write, so it’s the perfect chance to write about a potential move that doesn’t really require a full post, but I want to talk about anyway. When Teoscar Hernandez got traded, the obvious consequences were that they needed another outfielder. Thus, why I focused on Cardinals outfielders going to the Jays in return for the much needed catcher.

But that move has other consequences beyond that: the Mariners have too many outfielders. They have former top 5 prospect Jarred Kelenic, Rookie of the Year winner Julio Rodriguez, Hernandez, Taylor Trammel, Cooper Hummel, and Jesse Winker. Plus, there are reports that they want to bring back Mitch Haniger and Haniger wants to come back. A signing of Haniger would certainly require a trade.

And perhaps most importantly, they appear to want Jesse Winker out. Reporter Ryan Divish said teammates were tired of putting up with him and tired of him not putting in the work. He thinks the team just told him to go home because he wasn’t present during the playoffs, though the stated reason was recovering from injuries. Winker has also had multiple surgeries in the offseason and is coming off the worst offensive season of his career. He’s probably available. The Cardinals want a left-handed bat, he has a 126 career wRC+. He fits with the stated needs for sure.

What would the Cardinals need to give up to get Winker?

Well first things first, if your memory of Winker with the Reds is like mine, you probably assumed he was a lot better player than he actually is. Winker can hit, no question. What he can’t do is... every other part of playing baseball. He is a bad defensive player. That doesn’t quite capture his badness actually. He is Jose Martinez out there defensively. He has been a -10 defender in LF for his career. I think he’s probably a bad defensive outfielder anyway, but I also think he’s a lazy defender too and doesn’t care enough about defense.

He is a shockingly bad baserunner. He has cost his team 17.3 runs with his legs over his career according to BsR. I assumed it was because of double plays, at least a little, but I’m not sure 12 double plays per 600 PAs is really going to affect the numbers a bunch. He also has three stolen bases to three caught stealing in his entire career. I guess he’s just really bad about first to third and taking the extra base. He is also very slow, with his sprint speed of 25.4 feet per second. To give you some context, since 2018, Winker has cost his team the 11th most runs via his baserunning in baseball. Everyone in front of him either is a catcher or has at least 500 more plate appearances than he does.

Here’s the good news: a bat like his could not come cheaper. You simply aren’t going to find a cheaper option if your primary goal is to find a 120 wRC+ or better bat. He’s not a particularly good player, if you can believe that, with a 120 wRC+, so you trade him on the hope that he returns to his 140 wRC+ he had in 2020 and 2021. But this is as cheap as a 120 wRC+ bat will ever come.

Winker is projected for 1.3 fWAR in 452 PAs with a 124 wRC+ - like seriously he is that bad at every other part of baseball. He is worth $11.7 million on the open market with that projection and is getting paid $8.25 million. His surplus value is $3.5 million. This is nothing. BTV has him worth $2.1 million and given the chatter about why he’s getting traded, that’s probably accurate. He has almost no trade value. Again, he has a 124 wRC+ and deservedly has no trade value with a relatively low salary. That’s insane.

According to BTV, a fair deal would be Jesse Winker for Austin Love, a 23-year-old with not very good stats in High A last year.

It’s a good case study actually. Because the Cardinals’ offense will improve if they got Winker, I have little doubt. But a 120 wRC+ Winker... does not make the team better. He might actually make the team worse. Are we trying to improve the offense just for the sake of improving the offense? Because he’s an easy solution, but it’s not clear the Cardinals actually improve as a team, which is the ultimate goal.

Then there’s the whole clubhouse issues he’s had in Seattle. And the effort issues, which seem a lot more plausible when you look at how bad his defensive and baserunning numbers are. They should not be that bad! But again, elite bats don’t come cheap and here is a version that could become elite and if he can recapture what he did in 2021, they pay not a whole lot to improve the offense. I can see both sides.

Jesse Winker: avoid or take a chance?