The Indians announced this morning that they’ve traded first baseman/outfielder Jake Bauers to the Mariners in exchange for a player to be named later. Cleveland designated Bauers for assignment over the weekend, clearing an avenue for Bobby Bradley to get an opportunity at first base. The Mariners designated infielder Jack Mayfield for assignment in order to open a roster spot for Bauers, according to a press release of their own.
Bauers, 25, has spent parts of three seasons at the MLB level but has yet to produce much in the big leagues. He was ranked as one of the game’s top 75 or so prospects prior to both the 2017 and 2018 seasons at Baseball America, FanGraphs and MLB.com, but the above-average raw power and hit tool that contributed to those rankings has yet to really manifest. He’s logged 924 plate appearances between the Indians and the Rays but managed only a tepid .211/.309/.365 slash. Bauers does walk at a hearty 12 percent clip and can be deployed at any of first base, left field or right field.
It probably feels to many like Bauers should be older than 25, given the fact that his MLB debut came at the age of 22. But he’s still a relatively youthful option for the Mariners to try to catch some lightning in a bottle. He’s out of minor league options, so he’ll need to stick on the Major League roster or else be once again designated for assignment. However, with the mounting injuries the Mariners are facing at first base and in the outfield, it’s not a surprise to see them bring in another option.
The Mariners are without center fielder Kyle Lewis indefinitely after the 2020 Rookie of the Year sustained another knee injury late last month. First baseman Evan White struggled again to begin the season and has now spent nearly a month on the IL with a strained hip flexor. Infield/outfield options Sam Haggerty (shoulder inflammation) and Dylan Moore (calf strain) are both on the shelf at the moment as well, with Haggerty in particular out of the picture after being shifted to the 60-day IL. Meanwhile, uber-prospect Jarred Kelenic fell into a nightmarish slump after cracking a couple of early homers to begin his MLB career. Seattle optioned him back to Triple-A Tacoma this week.
This is the third trade and fourth organization for Bauers, a 2013 seventh-round pick who has the distinction of having been involved in a pair of notable three-team swaps. He went from the Padres to the Rays in the 2014 Wil Myers/Trea Turner deal. After debuting in the Majors with the Rays in 2018, he was flipped to Cleveland in the trade in a trade that, coincidentally enough, also involved the Mariners. That deal sent Edwin Encarnacion and a Competitive Balance draft pick from Cleveland to Seattle, with the Indians netting Carlos Santana and trading Yandy Diaz and Cole Sulser to Tampa Bay.
As for the 30-year-old Mayfield, he’s now been designated for assignment by a trio of AL West teams in the past year. The Astros, who signed Mayfield as an undrafted free agent in 2013, placed him on waivers last November, and he’s since bounced to the Braves, then the Angels and then the Mariners.
Mayfield is the quintessential light-hitting utility infielder. He’s a more-than-capable defender at any of shortstop, second base or third base but has struggled considerably to handle big league pitching. He’s had 150 turns at the plate in the past three seasons combined but put together a dismal .168/.195/.259 output in that time. Mayfield does carry a much more impressive .269/.325/.475 batting line in parts of five Triple-A seasons, however, and he can be optioned both this year and next. The Mariners will have a week to trade him or attempt to pass him through outright waivers.