ESPN is reporting that the M’s are on the verge of obtaining Kotchman from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for a minor league prospect. The Red Sox no longer have any use for the first baseman with yesterday’s free agent signing of third baseman Adrian Beltre, who will shift infielder Kevin Youkilis across the diamond and into a regular role at the one bag.
Depending on who the minor leaguer is that the Mariners plan to part ways with, this could end up being a good deal for Seattle. However, the problem comes in penciling in Kotchman as the starter. There is no way that Casey Kotchman should be starting for a playoff-caliber team. Absolutely no way.
Kotchman, 26, came up through the Anaheim Angels’ farm system earlier this decade. He was rated as one of the organization’s top prospects, but never really panned out at the big league level. After parts of five seasons with the Angels (2004-2008), the left-handed hitting Kotchman was traded in July of ’08 to Atlanta in exchange for Mark Teixeira. Almost one year to the day later, he was sent to Boston for Adam LaRoche.
The best way to describe Casey Kotchman is as a poor man’s John Olerud.
Olerud was a career .295 hitter who averaged 18 home runs a season. Kotchman, by comparison, is a career .269 hitter who has averaged just 12 homers a year. Like Olerud, Kotchman is labeled as a gap-hitter who can get on base and rarely strikes out. Unlike Olerud, Kotchman hasn’t done enough yet to actually earn that label.
One area where the two compare very favorably is in the fielding department. Olerud, a three-time Gold Glove winner, boasted a career .995 fielding percentage. Kotchman, in turn, has done even better, recording an impressive .998 fielding percentage.
The problem with Casey Kotchman as a first baseman is that he brings zero power to the table at a position that demands it. He won’t hit 20 home runs (his career high is 14, set in 2008), and he’ll be lucky to drive in 80 runs (career-high of 74, also set in ’08). As a gap hitter, he’ll fit in nicely to Safeco Field, but don’t we say that about every future Mariner who can’t hit home runs?
So where do the Mariners plan on getting power from? Right now, the only position of power on the entire team is second base, in the form of Jose Lopez, which is just so, so wrong. Lopez can probably hit 20 dingers and drive in 100, but who plans on protecting him in the lineup? The M’s feature a batting order full of question marks and singles hitters, and adding Kotchman to the mix doesn’t seem to make much sense.
Some people out there will hail this move as another Jack Zduriencik gem, which it might very well be, but I don’t see it. Not because I’m trying to rain on the parade, but quite simply because Kotchman doesn’t help the lineup in the way we need him to. The Mariners need a power bat at a position that demands power bats. Casey Kotchman is not that guy. Sorry, M’s fans.