- The Mariners were talking with Jason Hammel before acquiring Yovani Gallardo and Drew Smyly in separate trades with the Orioles and Rays, respectively. Seattle doesn’t seem like a great fit for Hammel following those two additions, and what many expected to be a robust market for his services has proven to be tepid at best. Hammel switched agents late last month (after those talks took place) and is now represented by ACES.
We’ll track the day’s minor moves in this post:
- The Mariners have added righty Josh Judy on a minors deal, per Robert Murray of Fan Rag (via Twitter). Soon to turn 31, Judy will return to a MLB organization after two years playing elsewhere — first, in the indy ranks and then in the Mexican League. Judy climbed the ladder quickly as a 34th-round pick, posting intriguing strikeout tallies and briefly reaching the majors back in 2011 with the Indians. But he struggled there and never regained his footing. Last year, though, he provided Mexico’s Tigres de Quintana Roo with 52 2/3 innings of 1.20 ERA ball, allowing only 35 hits and a single home run while posting 7.9 K/9 against just 1.4 BB/9.
- With Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto saying that his team’s major offseason moves are complete, Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune looks how Seattle’s 25-man roster could break down, with relatively few spots still available to be decided in Spring Training battles.
- The Mariners have announced that they’ve outrighted righty Cody Martin to Triple-A Tacoma. They had designated him for assignment when they acquired Mallex Smith and Shae Simmons from the Braves last week. The 27-year-old Martin made nine appearances, including two starts, for the Mariners last year and posted a 3.86 ERA, but with a modest 5.3 K/9 and 3.2 BB/9. He fared well in 114 1/3 innings with Tacoma, with a 3.62 ERA, 9.0 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9, and has generally been successful at the Triple-A level in his career.
- The Mariners announced that they’ve avoided arb with all eight of their eligible players, which includes Jean Segura (reported last night), Danny Valencia, Jarrod Dyson, Leonys Martin, Drew Smyly, James Paxton, Evan Scribner, Nick Vincent. Numbers aren’t all in yet, but Valencia took home $5.55MM, per FanRag’s Robert Murray (on Twitter). Martin will earn $4.85MM, per Heyman. They were projected at $5.3MM and $6.3MM, respectively. Meanwhile, Dyson gets $2.8MM, Heyman tweets, which lands just over his $2.5MM projection. Smyly will receive $6.85MM — right at his $6.9MM projection — while Scribner gets $907,500, per MLB.com’s Greg Johns (via Twitter). Meanwhile, Paxton will land at $2.35MM and Vincent will receive $1.325MM, per Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune (via Twitter), both of which fall shy of their respective projections ($2.7MM and $1.5MM).
The Mariners have agreed to a $6.2MM salary to avoid arbitration with newly acquired shortstop Jean Segura, according to Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter). On the heels of his big 2016 season, Segura will earn $6.2MM.
That’s a healthy payday for the 26-year-old, who Seattle acquired in a significant trade earlier this winter. But it falls well shy of the $7.3MM projected by MLBTR’s arbitration model. Segura earned $2.6MM in 2016, his first year of arb eligibility.
Matt Swartz, who developed that model, had broken down Segura’s case before the news of the agreement came through (and before we had a chance to publish that analysis). It was difficult to value the infielder precisely, he notes, due to a lack of reasonably comparable players, though Segura’s projected salary seemed a bit lofty.
Arbitration pays best for counting statistics, and Segura fared quite well in that regard in 2016. He not only took 694 trips to the plate, but swatted twenty home runs and swiped 39 stolen bases in that span, while posting a .319 batting average and driving in 64 runs.
Recent middle-infield comps, such as Daniel Murphy and Ian Desmond, weren’t nearly as productive, so their respective ~$2.7MM raises seemed like floors. The most direct comp, perhaps, came from center fielder Lorenzo Cain, whose salary jumped by $3.78MM after he posted a .307 batting average with 16 home runs and 28 stolen bases in 2015. Swartz viewed that figure as something of a low-end estimate for Segura, given his bigger numbers.
As it turns out, though, Segura will fall just shy of Cain with a $3.6MM raise. Of course, negotiation and risk tolerance play a major role in the arbitration process, and it’s difficult to judge the matter without full knowledge of all the considerations.
Regardless, Seattle will be pleased to have Segura at this general price point. The team gave up two talented young players in Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte to add his two years of control (along with Mitch Haniger and Zac Curtis), so the team surely has high expectations as the 2017 season draws near.
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- The Mariners tried to acquire Mallex Smith from the Braves on multiple occasions this offseason and had talks with Atlanta about him as recently as last Friday. However, Seattle GM Jerry Dipoto swung a deal for Jarrod Dyson, instead. Dipoto and the Mariners still saw value in Smith and knew the Rays had interest in him as a potential component in a Drew Smyly trade, so Dipoto circled back with Atlanta counterpart John Coppolella over the weekend to get talks rolling once again. (As an aside, Rosenthal counts a staggering 35 trades for Dipoto since taking over as Seattle’s GM in Sept. 2015. Thanks for always keeping us busy, Jerry.)
- In a separate column, Rosenthal writes that while he received some negative feedback from scouts on the Mariners’ decision to move left-handed pitching prospect Luiz Gohara in yesterday’s trades with the Braves (and then the Rays), Seattle may have been more willing to part with the 20-year-old due to medical concerns. The would-be Zack Cozart trade from this past trade deadline fell apart due to the Reds’ concerns over Gohara’s shoulder, Rosenthal hears. Certainly, Atlanta is comfortable enough with Gohara’s shoulder, and GM John Coppolella suggested to Rosenthal that he’s not afraid to move on from a trade due to medical reasons. “We have had to walk away from two trades this offseason because of failed medicals,” said Coppolella. “We feel good about the health of [Gohara and left-hander Thomas Burrows].”
The Mariners have struck yet another two-deal day, as Seattle has announced the acquisition of lefty Drew Smyly from the Rays. Tampa Bay will pick up center fielder Mallex Smith — who was just added by Seattle in a trade with the Braves — along with minor league infielder Carlos Vargas and minor league lefty Ryan Yarbrough.
This move represents a continuation of an immensely active offseason for the Jerry Dipoto-led Mariners front office. The club will surely install Smyly in its rotation, hoping that the 27-year-old southpaw can regain the form that he showed prior to a disappointing 2016 campaign. He’ll slot in alongside fellow newcomer Yovani Gallardo — acquired last week in a straight-up swap that sent Seth Smith to Baltimore — and holdovers Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton.
Despite carrying an ugly 4.88 ERA in 2016, Smyly did post career highs in both starts (30) and innings (175 1/3). And he managed to post a solid 8.6 K/9 against 2.5 BB/9, though his groundball rate sat at just 31.3% and he allowed 1.6 home runs per nine innings. If he can tamp down the long balls and remain healthy, perhaps there’s reason to think that Smyly will return to being a solid mid-rotation piece for Seattle, particularly given the excellent defensive trio that figures to roam the outfield at Safeco Field. Leonys Martin will return in center field and be flanked by trade acquisitions Jarrod Dyson and Mitch Haniger to to provide a strong defensive unit. Another pair of strong defenders, Ben Gamel and Guillermo Heredia, are also present beyond that presumptive starting trio.
The M’s will only control Smyly for two years, as the second-time arb-eligible hurler is set to reach the open market after the 2018 campaign. MLBTR and contributor Matt Swartz project him to earn $6.9MM via arbitration for the coming season — his second trip through the arb process as a Super Two player.
Dipoto tells Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times (Twitter link) that he “probably spent more time through the course of the offseason trying to acquire Drew Smyly than any other player.” Clearly, then, the M’s had targeted the lefty all along, though it took another deal to get the assets needed to make it happen.
When Seattle picked up Smith earlier today (along with Shae Simmons) in a trade that cost the team prospects Luiz Gohara and Thomas Burrows, it obviously did so with intentions to flip Smith. He was evidently targeted by the Rays, despite the continued presence of Kevin Kiermaier in center and the recent signing of Colby Rasmus.
It’s certainly plausible to imagine those players co-existing on the MLB roster, though the presence of Steven Souza, Corey Dickerson, and others could complicate maters. Alternatively, Smith might simply start the year in Triple-A, unless the Rays find yet another deal that shifts some assets.
Smith is primarily valued for his defense and baserunning, though he has put up strong numbers at the plate during much of his minor-league career. He’s most valuable playing up the middle but could also presumably function in a corner spot while occasionally spelling Kiermaier in center. Though Smith is generally regarded as a strong defender, Kiermaier is one of the game’s premier defenders in center field and doesn’t figure to be displaced anytime soon.
In making this deal, Tampa Bay is acquiring at least five years of Smith’s services. The 23-year-old (24 in May) logged exactly one year of service time in the Majors last year. Another full year would put him on track to be arbitration-eligible following the 2019 season and eligible for free agency following the completion of the 2021 campaign, although if he spends even three to four weeks in the minors to open the season, Tampa Bay would gain another year of club control (while also putting Smith on track for Super Two status).
Smith’s big league debut last year was born out of necessity, as he was called up to the Majors when Ender Inciarte hit the disabled list early in the year. Smith didn’t hit much early on, but the Braves liked his speed and glovework enough to keep him around even when Inciarte returned. A fractured thumb would ultimately cost Smith roughly three months of the season. He batted a lackluster .238/.316/.365 in 215 plate appearances on the season as a whole, though he’d rebounded from a poor start to hit .272/.338/.440 in 43 games from late April until the time of his injury in mid-June. Paired with his 80-grade speed, that type of production would likely elate the Rays, though his defensive prowess would allow Smith to deliver value even if he can’t replicate that output over the course of a full season.
Yarbrough, who turned 25 on New Year’s Eve, rated as the Mariners’ No. 11 prospect per MLB.com, and Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper tweets that he’d have placed 12th on BA’s soon-to-be-released list of the Mariners’ top 30 prospects. Per Jonathan Mayo and Jim Callis of MLB.com, Yarbrough’s fastball sits 91-93 mph and scrapes the mid-90s at times, and he also has an above-average changeup. The MLB.com duo praises Yarbrough’s “oustanding” command and strong ground-ball tendencies, adding that improvement on his breaking ball could ultimately make him a mid-rotation starter. If not, he projects as a quality lefty relief piece due to his fastball, slider and command.
Vargas is still just 17 years of age — he’ll turn 18 in March — and ranked as one of the top available international prospects on the market a couple of years ago. Cooper tweets that he was set to rank 26th on Seattle’s forthcoming top 30 prospect list, and there’s reason to believe he could carry even more upside than that most ranking would suggest. Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen, for instance, tweets that there’s “sneaky” value in Vargas, whom he tabs as eventual third baseman with “big pull power projection” and a good approach.
In writing about Vargas last spring, BA’s Ben Badler noted that he has too many moving parts in his swing but has displayed a strong baseball IQ and an impressive ability to make adjustments at the behest of the Mariners’ staff. Badler also credited Vargas with above-average raw power, an ability to hit the ball the opposite way, and an above-average arm with a quick release. In 62 games/256 plate appearances in the Dominican Summer League last year, Vargas batted .242/.344/.391 with seven homers, 11 doubles and nearly as many walks (32) as strikeouts (35).
2:47pm: Smith “appears bound for Tampa,” Crasnick adds on Twitter.
2:11pm: The Rays are a possible landing spot for Smith, per Crasnick, who tweets that the teams have held trade talks. That connection opens up all kinds of intriguing theoretical possibilities. Tampa Bay already employs top-notch defender Kevin Kiermaier in center — a reported target of other organizations — and just signed another left-handed hitter capable of playing up the middle in Colby Rasmus. The team has also reportedly dangled a variety of its starters in trade talks, some of whom might well interest the Mariners (as well as other teams). It’s certainly impossible to guess what might be in the works, but any move on Smith could conceivably come with a corresponding swap from the Rays’ perspective.
2:00pm: The Mariners just added outfielder Mallex Smith and righty Shae Simmons in a swap with the Braves, but may not be done with their work for the day, according to ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick (via Twitter). Seattle could flip Smith to another organization, Crasnick suggests.
That does make some sense at first glance, as Smith joins a long list of center-field-capable players on the Seattle roster. The club just dealt for Jarrod Dyson, who joins Leonys Martin, Mitch Haniger, Guillermo Heredia, and Ben Gamel in a highly athletic outfield mix.
It’s not immediately clear what organization might constitute a trade partner, or what Seattle might be pursuing in return, if it is indeed Smith who’s back on the block. Teams like the Tigers, White Sox, and perhaps the Indians could all conceivably make some degree of sense as teams that might utilize Smith in their respective center field mixes in the near term.
The Braves and Mariners have announced a trade involving younger assets. Atlanta will receive lefties Luiz Gohara and Thomas Burrows, while Seattle will pick up outfielder Mallex Smith and righty Shae Simmons. Seattle has designated righty Cody Martin to clear roster space.
The 20-year-old Gohara has only reached the Class A level, but is considered a high-quality pitching prospect. He worked to a 1.81 ERA over 69 2/3 total minor league frames in 2016, with 10.5 K/9 against 3.0 BB/9. MLB.com rated him Seattle’s fifth-best prospect, while Baseball America placed him third among the organization’s pre-MLB assets.
A rare Brazilian pitching prospect, Gohara impresses with a mid-nineties heater, promising slider, and still-developing change that give him the promise of a useful three-pitch mix that could work in a starting role at the game’s highest level.
Burrows also checked in on MLB.com’s ranking of the M’s prospects, placing 25th. The collegiate closer is a two-pitch hurler who was taken in the fourth round of the 2016 draft. He showed well at the low-A level in his first taste of professional ball, allowing just seven earned runs with 37 strikeouts against 11 walks over his 24 2/3 innings. The 22-year-old figures to move rather quickly through the system given his collegiate pedigree.
For the Mariners, Smith represents yet another fleet-footed outfielder. He’s still optionable, and may not have much daylight to crack the MLB roster to start the 2016 season, but could figure as a near-term piece who also comes with five full seasons of control. Smith had been viewed as a key prospect for the Braves, but was somewhat expendable with the team locking up Ender Inciarte for the foreseeable future and fellow youngster Dustin Peterson also rising through the system.
Smith, 23, missed time last year with a thumb injury, but got his first taste of the big leagues in a fairly extended stretch. Over 215 plate appearances, he slashed .238/.316/.365 and swiped 16 bases while drawing strong defensive ratings. He has long been a major stolen-base threat in the minors, and could yet turn into a semi-regular major leaguer if he’s able to drive up his batting average. Smith posted a roughly average .302 BABIP last year, but has traditionally carried much higher marks in the minors thanks to his speed.
The 26-year-old Simmons, meanwhile, comes with four years of remaining control. He has thrown 28 1/3 total major league innings, wrapped around a Tommy John procedure, with a 2.54 ERA and 8.3 K/9 against 3.5 BB/9. The high-octane reliever also showed well at Triple-A in 2016 and has a history of lofty strikeout totals in the minors, though he has also struggled at times with command.
Adding two 40-man players led to the move to bump Martin, a 27-year-old who has seen action in each of the past two major league seasons with three organizations (including the Braves, Athletics, and Mariners). He was hit hard in his first go-round, but posted a 3.86 ERA over 25 2/3 innings last year. Still, Martin managed only 15 strikeouts to go with nine walks while surrendering five long balls in that stretch. He was much better at Triple-A, where he worked mostly as a starter. At the highest level of the minors in 2016, Martin posted a 3.62 ERA with 9.0 K/9 and 2.6 BB/9 across 114 1/3 frames.
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