By Bob Dutton The News Tribune
CLEVELAND — The Seattle Mariners overhauled their outfield Thursday with a pair a deals prior to the non-waiver trade deadline, acquiring Austin Jackson from Detroit and Chris Denorfia from San Diego.
The result, they hope, will be a notable boost to their struggling attack.
“I feel good about them,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said. “You go back a week ago, we bring Kendrys (Morales) aboard, and now we’ve got two more guys who will help us. We were looking for right-handed bats.”
Jackson and Denorfia are expected to join the club prior to Friday’s series opener against the Orioles in Baltimore. The Mariners must make corresponding moves to clear space for both players on their 25-man roster.
Jackson, 27, arrived as part of a three-team deal that included the Mariners sending minor-league infielder Nick Franklin to Tampa Bay. Jackson is expected to become the club’s center fielder and leadoff hitter.
“Defensively, he’s probably one of the top three center fielders in all of baseball,” manager Lloyd McClendon said. “He gets those kinds of jumps, and he’s (been) in the biggest center field in all of baseball in Detroit.
“Offensively, if you look at his numbers, this guy is pretty accomplished.”
Jackson batted .270 with four homers and 32 RBI in 99 games for the Tigers while posting a .330 on-base percentage and a .397 slugging percentage.
The Mariners control Jackson through 2015. He is currently making $6 million and will be eligible after the season for arbitration.
“That was really important,” Zduriencik said. “In Denorfia’s case, he’s a free agent at the end of the year. You bite the bullet and do it. I don’t think we’d have done two of those.
“One of the things we set out to do was to try to get somebody back at least for a year (through 2015). More if we could.”
Denorfia is making $2.25 million. The Mariners, through the two deals, added roughly $2.75 million to their 2014 payroll. They added about $4.33 million last week in obtaining Morales from Minnesota.
Like Denorfia, Morales will be a free agent after the season.
“You need professional hitters,” McClendon said. “Your lineup has more balance, and it’s harder to just bring in a lefty (reliever) when you’re facing left/right, left/right.”
Zduriencik said the three-team deal started to come together about 72 hours prior to the trade but really “heated up” on Wednesday night.
Detroit also got former Cy Young winner David Price from the Rays, who received pitcher Drew Smyly and minor-league infielder Willy Adames from the Tigers.
That trade occurred roughly 30 minutes prior to the 1 p.m. Pacific time deadline and about 90 minutes after the Mariners obtained Denorfia, 34, from the Padres.
San Diego received two minor-league players: outfielder Abraham Almonte and right-handed reliever Stephen Kohlscheen.
McClendon said Denorfia is likely to draw regular duty in right field.
“He’s going to play,” McClendon said. “We need offense, and he’s a good hitter. My plan right now is to play him often. I’m not sure if it’s going to be a strict platoon. He’s pretty adept against right-handers as well.”
Denorfia is a .275 career hitter in nine seasons but is batting just .242 this season in 89 games. He is a .301 career hitter against left-handed pitchers with a .367 on-base percentage and a .443 slugging percentage.
“I’m looking forward to going up there and just being myself,” Denorfia said, “giving quality at-bats against left-handers, coming off the bench and just being a good teammate.”
Jackson is well-known to McClendon, who spent eight years as a coach in Detroit prior to becoming the Mariners’ manager.
“I think that’s huge,” McClendon said. “There’s no learning curve here. There’s a comfort curve. We know each other quite well. He knows what I expect out of him, and I know what he’s capable of doing.”
Franklin, 22, was the Mariners’ starting second baseman last season as a rookie but became expendable once the club signed free-agent Robinson Cano to a 10-year contract.
“I’ve enjoyed every part of my time with the M’s,” Franklin said through his twitter account. “The teammates I met &the relationships I’ve built. Excited 4 a new chapter.”
The Mariners moved Franklin, a switch-hitter, to other positions in an effort to build his versatility but he batted just .128 in 17 big-league games and has spent most of the season at Class AAA Tacoma.
Franklin batted .294 for the Rainiers in 75 games with nine homers and 47 RBI. He had a .392 on-base percentage with a .455 slugging percentage.
Almonte, 25, opened the season as the Mariners’ center fielder but was optioned May 5 to Class AAA Tacoma after batting just .198 in 27 games. He was batting .267 with six homers and 31 RBI in 72 games for the Rainiers.
Kohlscheen, 25, was a 45th-round pick in the 2010 draft. He opened this season at Class AA Jackson before shifting in mid-June to Tacoma. He is 3-1 with a 2.70 ERA overall in 38 relief appearances.