The Padres-Mariners trade sending Seth Smith to Seattle for Brandon Maurer might seem like an easy enough win-win swap where everyone gets what they want. The Mariners get a platoon hitter to complement Justin Ruggiano in right field to give Lloyd McClendon's lineup some help, and the Padres get a young pitcher with upside, dealing mid-90s heat and with past prospect touts to his credit. But is it that simple?
Certainly you have to credit the Mariners and GM Jack Zduriencik for getting the (more) sure thing. Smith has long track record for providing decent power from the left side of the plate, with a .481 SLG career vs. righties. More significantly, he slugged .441 for a .178 ISO against RHPs over the last three years when he didn't get to call Coors Field home, and instead had to hit in tougher parks such as Oakland's Coliseum and Petco Park. Moving to Safeco Field won't do him many favors, but it's still an easier place for a lefty to pop for power than Oakland, but especially for a platoon guy Smith does a good job of lining balls to all fields instead of simply living or dying on what he drives to right field. So while he got some headlines for his 10 first-half homers, that's not really his game, and I suspect he'll fit better in Seattle as a result. Paired up with the right-handed Ruggiano, he ought to be a good short-term patch in one outfield corner.
The question is whether Smith's going to be good for that kind of production over the life of his contract, because thanks to last year's in-season extension he signed with the Padres' outbound management team, he's locked up through 2016 for $13 million with a 2017 club option for another $7 million (with a cheap $250,000 buyout). In an offense-starved offseason market, that's a reflection of how expensive it is to add established offensive talent, because Smith's a decent spear carrier, but that's a hefty chunk of change for a simply useful part-time corner outfielder. Good on him for getting it, of course, and clearly that's the cost of doing business these days.
However, that isn't all the Mariners had to spend to get Smith, although new Padres GM A.J. Preller probably doesn't mind getting that paycheck off his ledger. They also had to surrender Maurer, who was ranked as high as the Mariners' sixth-best prospect by Baseball America before the 2013 season. It's easy to understand why: Then as now, he has a fastball that sits in the mid-90s, a hard slider (albeit one that may lack a big break), and a circle change.
Good stuff aside, Maurer's performance as a 22-year-old rookie in 2013 wasn't good, in that he looked as if he'd been called up too soon and was lit up as a starter. Last year, he didn't another shot at a rotation slot after getting knocked around pretty badly in May, but after he was bumped back to the bullpen, though, he posted a 5:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
If you look at the stuff and his age, as old pal Kevin Goldstein might say, there's plenty to dream on. In the annals of prospectdom, he wasn't Taijuan Walker or James Paxton, the presence of whom is probably part of the reason why the Mariners could afford to part with him. But given his youth, assortment, his arrival in the DH-free league into Bud Black's care, and this is the sort of change-of-scenery swap that has served many prospects well, not least new teammates Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross. Add in that he's Padres property for five years, and this could end up as a buy-low/sell-high exercise to Preller's credit in very short order, an addition that could be almost as big a coup as getting Ross from the A's two years ago was.
Christina Kahrl writes about MLB for ESPN. You can follow her on Twitter.