Seattle Mariners – MLB Trade Rumors 2020-06-05T23:25:42Z https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/feed/atom WordPress Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Mariners Release Manny Banuelos]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=198230 2020-06-01T21:13:39Z 2020-06-01T21:13:39Z The Mariners recently released left-hander Manny Banuelos, according to the Pacific Coast League transactions page. Banuelos only spent a few months with the Mariners, who signed him to a minors pact near the beginning of February.

Now 29 years old, Banuelos ranked as one of the sport’s premier pitching prospects while part of the Yankees’ farm system. Banuelos topped out as Baseball America’s 29th-best farmhand in 2012, though injuries – including Tommy John surgery – have played a part in preventing him from realizing his potential.

Although his career hasn’t turned out as hoped so far, Banuelos is at least coming off a year in which he racked up a solid amount of innings as a member of the White Sox. He totaled 50 2/3 frames over 16 appearances (eight starts), though Banuelos could only notch a 6.93 ERA/6.57 FIP with 7.82 K/9 and 5.86 BB/9. It was his first major league action since a 26 1/3-inning run with the Braves in 2015, when he pitched to a 5.13 ERA. But Banuelos has been far better in Triple-A, as his 3.98 ERA with 8.4 K/9 against 4.4 BB/9 over 396 frames demonstrates.

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TC Zencka <![CDATA[Three Teams Played Musical Chairs With First Basemen…And Five Teams Came Away Winners]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=198112 2020-05-30T17:46:00Z 2020-05-30T15:57:21Z Last week, I looked at Cole Sulser’s prospects of making an impact in the Baltimore Orioles bullpen. Sulser found his way to Baltimore via Tampa Bay after being included in a three-way swap of more prominent players. Today, let’s take a look at those players. 

To review: in December of 2018, the Indians, Mariners, and Rays engaged in a three-way deal that shuffled around their first basemen. In this rare three-way challenge trade, each team came away with (at least one) major-league first baseman. The Rays got Yandy Diaz, the Mariners Edwin Encarnacion, while the Indians snagged a pair of first basemen in the deal: Jake Bauers and Carlos Santana

There were auxiliary pieces that fit less cleanly into our first basemen carousel. The Rays picked up Sulser from Cleveland, while Tampa also sent $5MM to the Mariners. Seattle paid that money forward, sending a total of $6MM to the Indians. Coming back to Seattle was the Indians’ Round B selection in the draft. The Mariners ended up selecting right-handed pitcher Isaiah Campbell out of Arkansas with the #76 pick in the draft. Those pieces aside, let’s check in on how each team is feeling about their end of this whirlwind deal one season after the fact.

Indians

This move – and much of their offseason last winter – was largely about shuffling money around – but not wholly so. The Indians took back Santana, who had only recently been sent to Seattle after playing one season in Philadelphia. Santana made $20.3MM in 2019, but his contract was offset by sending out Encarnacion, who was owed $21.7MM in 2019 with a $5MM buyout for 2020. The difference in their salaries, plus the money acquired from Seattle netted the Indians close to $7.5MM in 2019, though they took on more long-term money in Santana.

On the field, this deal basically amounts to two exchanges for the Indians: Santana over Encarnacion in terms of big-money players, and Bauers over Diaz for cost-controlled assets. As for the first exchange, the Indians have to count this as a win. After one so-so year with the Phillies, Santana returned to form in a big way with the Indians. All aspects of Santana’s game came together in 2019. He hit .281/.397/.515 on the year with 34 home runs and 110 RBIs. He turned in his typically strong BB-K numbers, posting identical walk and strikeout rates of 15.7% (slight improvements on his career norms in both departments). His isolated power (.234 ISO) was the second-highest mark of his career, while the .397 OBP was a new career-high for a full season. Santana’s season totaled 4.6rWAR/4.4 fWAR, good for 135 wRC+, and he’ll be back in their lineup for 2020.

Bauers, on the other hand, is a work in progress. He brings an added level of versatility, appearing in 31 games at first and 53 games in left, but he’ll need to improve at the plate to put that value to work. Bauers hit just .226/.312/.371 across 423 plate appearances in his first season with the Indians. His walk rate dropped to 10.6% and with a power mark of just .145 ISO. That’s not enough pop from a first baseman/left fielder. He finished with below-average marks of 78 wRC+ and -0.4 fWAR. Still, all hope is not lost for Bauers. A career-low .290 BABIP might point to some positive regression in the future, and he doesn’t even turn 25-years-old until October.

Mariners

The Mariners’ biggest get here was the draft pick. GM Jerry Dipoto continued his rebuild, and ultimately, the swap of sluggers was an avenue to add another draft pick. After taking on Santana a week prior, the Mariners shed long-term money by swapping in Encarnacion, whom they eventually flipped to the Yankees.

While with the Mariners, Encarnacion was about as good as expected, slashing .241/.356/.531 with 21 home runs in 65 games. With the rebuild in full swing, EE was never expected to spend a full season in Seattle. Given his start to the year, the Mariners’ return for the DH was a little underwhelming, but the market for teams in need of a designated hitter was limited. Still, Trader Jerry added right-hander Juan Then from the Yankees. Fangraphs ranks Then as the Mariners’ #13-ranked prospect after finishing the season in A-ball. Campbell, selected with the acquired draft choice, comes in at #16.

The Yankees and Mariners essentially split the remaining money owed Encarnacion at the time, so the M’s did see some financial benefit as well. It’s often difficult to track the wheeling and dealing done by Dipoto, but we can give it a go here. To do so, we have to go back to the deal that sent Santana from the Phillies to Seattle. Dipoto sent Jean Segura, Juan Nicasio, and James Pazos to Philly for Santana and J.P. Crawford. In sum, he started with Segura, Nicasio, and Pazos, and the Mariners ended up with Crawford, Then, and Campbell, along with some financial saving both in the short-and-long-term.

Rays

It was surprising to see the Rays move Jake Bauers at the time of this deal, but they’re no stranger to dealing from a young core. The Rays picked up Sulser and Diaz for Bauers in this trade, while also sending $5MM to the Mariners. Considering Sulser was eventually lost on waivers to the Orioles (though he did give them 7 scoreless innings in 2019), the move essentially amounts to the Rays paying $5MM to swap in Diaz for Bauers. At the time of the deal, Bauers was seen as an up-and-comer, while Diaz was a little-known 27-year-old utility player with little-to-no boom in his boomstick. As has often been the case of late with Rays’ trades, at a cursory glance, the Rays were trading away controllable youth for a role player.

But where the Rays are concerned, it’s often worth delving a little further. Diaz quickly became known for his above-average exit velocities. And while Diaz was a little older and without the prospect pedigree of Bauers, he came with similar team control, more versatility given his ability to line up at the hot corner, and his biceps have a cult following all their own.

Injuries unfortunately limited Diaz’s production in 2019, but when he was on the field, he was dynamite. While posting a line of .267/.340/.476 across 79 games, Diaz was coming into his own as a hitter with a 116 wRC+. Diaz’s minor league career to this point was a testament to his ability to get on base, limit strikeouts, and make hard contact, but a groundball-heavy approach limited his power.

But it was a different story in Tampa. Diaz produced a career-best .208 ISO to go with a 91.7 mph exit velocity that put him in the top 8% of the league, per Statcast. His hard-hit percentage continues to be well above average, and a small improvement in launch angle and a large jump in barrels led to Diaz smashing 14 home runs in 79 games after hitting just 1 in 88 big league games with the Indians.

Not only that, but Diaz returned from the injured list in time for the playoffs, leading off the wild card game with a solo shot off Sean Manaea. Diaz went deep his second time up as well, at which point the Rays had more than enough to get past the A’s. It was a monster performance from Diaz in the biggest game of the year up to that point. (Things didn’t go quite so well for Diaz in Houston, as he went 0 for 9 with four strikeouts in the ALDS.) The Rays have to feel pretty good about where they stand with Diaz moving forward, as he should continue to be a cheap source of offense for the next couple of seasons.

For that matter, all three teams have to feel pretty good about this deal, as they each accomplished their goal. If Bauers has a better showing in 2020 and the Mariners’ prospects come to fruition, there will ultimately be very little not to like about this three-way deal. Include the Orioles for nabbing Sulser and the Yankees for getting a half a season of Encarnacion, and it could be argued that five teams actually came away winners from this three-way swap of first baseman.

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Steve Adams <![CDATA[Mariners Release More Than 50 Minor Leaguers]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=198023 2020-05-29T13:30:51Z 2020-05-29T13:20:32Z May 29: Heyman now tweets that Gonzalez is not among the Mariners players who have been released. The Score’s Robert Murray adds, though, that the Seattle organization has released more than 50 minor league players.

May 28: The Mariners have released veteran outfielder Carlos Gonzalez, MLB Network’s Jon Heyman tweets. As a reminder, Major League transactions are still frozen, although we recently verified that minor league cuts are still permissible. Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times had previously reported that the Mariners were releasing more than 30 minor league players. Divish adds that minor leaguers who remain with the Mariners will continue to receive the current $400 weekly stipend through the end of the 2020 season. Teams had previously only agreed to pay minor leaguers through May, and some have already cut their pay entirely or extended the stipend but only through the end of June.

Teams didn’t make many of their usual cuts late in Spring Training, so several of today’s releases might’ve already been cut lose already under normal circumstances anyhow. That’s certainly the case for the veteran Gonzalez, who was unlikely to make the club and had an April 1 opt-out date in his minor league deal. As Divish further points out, large-scale minor league releases are common prior to the amateur draft. This year’s five-round draft is vastly shorter than a standard 40-round draft, but other clubs (Orioles, White Sox) have begun to make similar waves of releases. With minor league contraction potentially on the horizon and uncertainty surrounding a minor league season being played at all in 2020, additional cuts seem likely throughout the league.

Turning to Gonzalez, the lone name known at this point, he was always a bit of a tough fit on a rebuilding Mariners club that was trying to give as many plate appearances as possible to young talent. Back in Spring Training, Divish suggested that the CarGo signing was something of a courtesy to a respected veteran — offering him a chance to pick up some spring at-bats. Surely in the event of multiple injuries, the depth would’ve become more useful for the M’s, but the April 1 opt-out in his deal was present to allow him to seek other opportunities if and when he found himself a ways down the depth chart.

Gonzalez, 34, went 6-for-22 with a double, three walks and five strikeouts in 25 spring plate appearances with Seattle. The three-time All-Star and two-time Silver Slugger is coming off a brutal season split between the Indians and the Cubs — one in which he mustered only a .200/.289/.283 batting line in 166 plate appearances. He posted a respectable .276/.329/.467 slash (99 OPS+, 97 wRC+) with the Rockies a year prior, but CarGo hasn’t been a decidedly above-average hitter since 2016, when he batted .298/.350/.505 with Colorado.

While he’s no longer in the prime of his career, Gonzalez isn’t so far past that point that a resurgence is unforeseeable. And with the likely advent of the universal designated hitter for at least the 2020 season, perhaps some NL clubs with lackluster options will have interest in taking a flier on a player who batted .296/.353/.535 with an average of 26 homers per season during his peak from 2010-16.

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Steve Adams <![CDATA[Denard Span On His Future]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=197786 2020-05-25T19:09:24Z 2020-05-25T19:08:14Z It’s been nearly 20 months since Denard Span suited up in a big league game, and the former Twins, Nationals, Giants, Rays and Mariners outfielder suggests in an interview with Patrick Reusse of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that he may not do so again. Span reveals that he received offers in the 2018-19 offseason, although they clearly weren’t compelling enough to leave his young family. Span adds that he worked out this winter with an eye toward a 2020 return and received “two or three” minor league offers — but they came from clubs without much of a path to the Majors even in the event that he played well in Triple-A.

“I haven’t announced it, officially, but maybe this is it,” Span said when asked about retirement. “…I still would have the ability to help a team. But 36-year-old outfielders who haven’t played in two years … not happening. I’m very satisfied pouring my life into our family, to Anne, a wonderful person, and our two boys.”

Denard Span | Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

If this is indeed it for the amiable Span, it’s been quite a strong career. A first-round pick out of high school by the Twins back in 2002, Span took nearly six years to ascend to the big leagues, but he made an immediate impact upon arrival. Twenty-four years old at the time, Span finished sixth in AL Rookie of the Year voting in 2008 and hit .294/.387/.432 (122 OPS+ and wRC+ alike) through 487 plate appearances, helping push the Twins to a dramatic Game 163 showdown with the White Sox. Minnesota fell in a crushing 1-0 loss to the South Siders, but Span had announced his presence in the big leagues and would never look back.

Over the next four seasons, Span was the consummate leadoff man in Minnesota, hitting a combined .283/.351/.381 with a nine percent walk rate and just an 11.5 percent strikeout rate. In addition to a knack for working counts and putting the ball in play, Span showed off well above-average baserunning skills and the ability to play plus defense wherever he was slotted into the outfield (center field, more often than not). Heading into the 2010 campaign, Span signed a five-year, $16.5MM contract extension that contained an option for an additional $9MM.

Span provided excellent value over the course of that contract, but he only spent half of it in a Twins uniform. As the Twins fell from their status as a perennial AL Central contender and moved into a rebuild, Span had two guaranteed years and the club option remaining on that highly appealing deal. Minnesota flipped him to the Nationals in a straight-up swap for then-vaunted pitching prospect Alex Meyer — a deal that proved regrettable for Minnesota after repeated shoulder injuries torpedoed Meyer’s career.

The Nats had no complaints, though, and that may have been the case even if Meyer had eventually developed into a quality big leaguer. Span hit .292/.345/.404 in three seasons with Washington, continuing to add value on the bases and in the field along the way. By the time he reached free agency, Span was solidified enough to command a three-year, $31MM contract from the Giants. Even as his glovework deteriorated — San Francisco didn’t help matters by continuing to play him in center for lack of a better option — Span remained solid at the plate. However, he played out the final year of that deal between his hometown Rays and the Mariners after the Giants sent him to Tampa Bay in the Evan Longoria trade.

All told, Span has logged 11 seasons in the Major Leagues and batted a combined .281/.347/.398 with 71 home runs, 265 doubles, 72 triples, 185 stolen bases (in 244 tries — 76 percent), 773 runs scored and 490 RBIs. He was never an All-Star despite a strong career that checked in at 28 wins above replacement per both FanGraphs and Baseball Reference — a likely result of the understated manner in which he brought value to his teams (on-base percentage, baserunning, defense).

Clubs clearly saw the value in Span, though, as he was a regular from the moment he debuted up through the end of the 2018 season, and he inked a pair of multi-year deals that helped propel his career earnings north of $58MM (including his draft bonus). Best wishes to Span moving forward, whatever the future holds.

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Jeff Todd <![CDATA[The Mariners’ Future Payroll Promises]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=197644 2020-05-23T02:05:52Z 2020-05-22T20:13:29Z 2020 salary terms are set to be hammered out in the coming days. But what about what’s owed to players beyond that point? The near-term economic picture remains questionable at best. That’ll make teams all the more cautious with guaranteed future salaries.

Every organization has some amount of future cash committed to players, all of it done before the coronavirus pandemic swept the globe. There are several different ways to look at salaries; for instance, for purposes of calculating the luxury tax, the average annual value is the touchstone, with up-front bonuses spread over the life of the deal. For this exercise, we’ll focus on actual cash outlays that still have yet to be paid.

We’ll run through every team, with a big assist from the Cot’s Baseball Contracts database. Next up is the Mariners:

(click to expand/view detail list)

Mariners Total Future Cash Obligation: $115.45MM

*includes Yusei Kikuchi 2022 player option

*includes buyouts of club options

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Tim Dierkes <![CDATA[Which 15 Players Should The Mariners Protect In An Expansion Draft?]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=197549 2020-05-21T15:22:25Z 2020-05-21T15:22:25Z In a few weeks, we’ll be running a two-team mock expansion draft here at MLBTR.  Currently, we’re creating 15-player protected lists for each of the existing 30 teams.  You can catch up on the rules for player eligibility here.

So far, we’ve done the AthleticsAngelsAstrosTwinsRoyalsTigersIndiansWhite SoxRaysYankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Orioles.  The Mariners are next.

First, we’ll remove free agents Dee Gordon, Taijuan Walker, and Yoshihisa Hirano from consideration.  I’ve decided to lock down these 11 players out of the gate:

Mitch Haniger
Marco Gonzales
Evan White
Logan Gilbert
Justus Sheffield
Justin Dunn
Kyle Lewis
J.P. Crawford
Shed Long
Jake Fraley
Tom Murphy

That leaves four spots for the following 25 players:

Austin Adams
Dan Altavilla
Gerson Bautista
Braden Bishop
Brandon Brennan
Nestor Cortes
Carl Edwards Jr.
Kendall Graveman
Zac Grotz
Taylor Guilbeau
Sam Haggerty
Yusei Kikuchi
Tim Lopes
Matt Magill
Nick Margevicius
Dylan Moore
Austin Nola
Kyle Seager
Mallex Smith
Erik Swanson
Daniel Vogelbach
Donovan Walton
Art Warren
Taylor Williams
Patrick Wisdom

With that, we turn it over to the MLBTR readership! In the poll below (direct link here), select exactly four players you think the Mariners should protect in our upcoming mock expansion draft. Click here to view the results.

Create your own user feedback survey

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Connor Byrne <![CDATA[How Seattle Acquired One Of Its Best Players]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=197535 2020-05-21T10:20:02Z 2020-05-21T07:00:17Z While last season was an injury-shortened wreck for the Mariners’ Mitch Haniger, you can’t dispute that he’s a highly valuable outfielder when he’s able to take the field. Haniger came into his own during his first extensive action in 2017, and he was a deserving All-Star during the next season, in which he hit .285/.366/.493 (137 wRC+) with 26 home runs and 4.5 fWAR. With three years of control left, Haniger could either continue to serve as a key Mariner or re-emerge as a desirable trade chip, leaving the M’s in a good spot in both cases.

As for how Haniger became a Mariner, we can start by revisiting the 2011-12 offseason. Prolific slugger Prince Fielder, a Brewer from 2005-11, reached the open market after the last of those seasons. He was a Type A free agent, which is a concept that’s now extinct in the majors, but losing Fielder entitled the Brewers to a compensatory pick in the 2012 draft. They did indeed see Fielder depart, as he went to the Tigers on a nine-year, $214MM contract. That left the Brewers with the 38th overall pick, which they used on Haniger.

While Haniger was a decent minor league hitter at the lower levels in the Milwaukee organization, he never played in the majors with the Brewers. They instead traded Haniger and left-hander Anthony Banda (now a Ray) to the Diamondbacks at the July 2014 deadline for outfielder Gerardo Parra. The Brewers didn’t make the playoffs that year or the next one – Parra was on their roster both seasons – and they traded him to the Orioles for righty Zach Davies at the 2015 deadline. Davies was effective as a Brewer from 2015-19, though they dealt him to the Padres in a four-player swap that delivered infielder Luis Urias and lefty Eric Lauer to Milwaukee over the offseason.

So, in the wake of the Parra trade, how did Haniger end up in Seattle? Let’s go back to November 2016, when the D-backs sent him, infielder Jean Segura and righty Zac Curtis to the Mariners in a blockbuster trade for infielder/outfielder Ketel Marte and righty Taijuan Walker. Segura’s now a member of the Phillies, who acquired him from the M’s in a December 2018 that brought shortstop J.P. Crawford and some guy named Carlos Santana to Seattle (though Santana never played for the club). Marte has turned into a superstar in Arizona, meanwhile, Walker’s now back in Seattle after a couple injury-ruined years in the desert, and Curtis is out of baseball.

This goes to show how much one team’s decision – in this case, the Brewers letting Fielder go in free agency – can affect the league. Had the Brewers simply re-signed Fielder, which was out of the question for the low-budget team, you never know what would have happened to any of the aforementioned clubs or players. Milwaukee’s inability to keep Fielder did lead Haniger to Seattle, which is no doubt pleased to have him in the fold for at least the next few seasons, but it did lose Marte when it acquired him.

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Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Remembering A Dodgers Heist]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=197490 2020-05-20T06:05:59Z 2020-05-20T06:05:59Z As a versatile defender and a capable offensive player, Chris Taylor has been one of many eminently useful members of the Dodgers’ roster since 2017. But Taylor’s career did not begin in ideal fashion. A fifth-round pick of the Mariners in 2012, Taylor peaked as Baseball America’s ninth-ranked M’s prospect in 2014, and though he reached the majors for the first time that year, it took him a few years to come into his own.

Taylor showed off almost zero pop early in his big league career, evidenced by his one home run and .076 isolated power number across 318 plate appearances through 2016. Taylor had plenty of high moments in the Mariners’ minor league system, where he hit .314/.401/.455 in 1,856 PA, but could only muster a measly line of .240/296/.296 (71 wRC+) in the majors. Consequently, general manager Jerry Dipoto – who did not draft Taylor – gave him up in June 2016, sending him to the Dodgers for right-hander Zach Lee.

At the time of the Seattle-LA deal, MLBTR’s Mark Polishuk wrote, “Given Taylor’s impressive minor league numbers, it’s not out of the question that he could unlock some of that hitting prowess in the bigs.”

Mark couldn’t have been more right. Taylor saw little time with the Dodgers in his first year with the organization (just 62 PA), but he became a regular for the club the next season and has been an integral part of the perennial contenders’ roster since then. Going back to 2017, Taylor has slashed .268/.340/.468 (116 wRC+) with 50 homers and 9.6 fWAR, all while making relatively minimal salaries. Taylor’s still under affordable control through 2021, so as someone who can hit and play just about every position (he has lined up at second, third, short and all three outfield spots in LA), it should be a no-brainer for the Dodgers to keep him in the fold for at least the next couple years.

While the Dodgers struck gold on Taylor, the Mariners got nothing out of this swap. Lee entered the pro ranks as the 28th overall pick of the Dodgers in 2010, deciding to try for a baseball career instead of playing football at LSU. Signing the former quarterback cost the Dodgers a franchise-record bonus of $5.25MM, and Lee lived up to the hype for a little while. He was among Baseball America’s top 100 prospects three times (2011, ’12 and ’14), but Lee had an up-and-down minor league run as a Dodger and made just one appearance with the big club. In a 15-2 loss to the Mets in July 2015, Lee yielded seven earned runs on 11 hits in 4 2/3 innings. That was the only time he took the mound as a Dodger.

So what has become of Lee since the Mariners acquired him? Well, he had a fleeting run in the Seattle org, which lost him on waivers to San Diego in December 2016. Lee has since been with three other franchises – the Rays, Mets and Athletics (the A’s signed him to a minors pact this past offseason). He’s still just 28, and as a former high-end prospect, it may be too soon to give up on Lee. However, as the owner of a 5.41 ERA over 625 1/3 innings in Triple-A ball, it seems unlikely he’ll amount to much in the majors. Considering how Lee’s pro career has gone thus far, the Dodgers have to be thrilled with the return they got for him.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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Steve Adams <![CDATA[An Unpopular Trade Paying Off In Seattle]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=197198 2020-05-26T15:47:25Z 2020-05-20T00:45:52Z The Mariners’ rebuild began in earnest following a disappointing finish to the 2018 season, when GM Jerry Dipoto first began talk of re-imagining his roster. The M’s have added a bevy of prospects since that time, highlighted by Jarred Kelenic and Justus Sheffield, but one of their most important long-term pieces was acquired on July 21 in 2017, when the club was still aiming for immediate contention.

That day saw Seattle trade slugging minor league outfielder Tyler O’Neill to the Cardinals in exchange for left-hander Marco Gonzales. The now-28-year-old Gonzales has become a fixture in the rotation, but the trade wasn’t exactly well-received among M’s fans at the time. The club was below .500 but just 1.5 games back from a Wild Card spot at the time of the swap. Dipoto had been trying to acquire young pitching, hoping to add to his core while also remaining competitive in a top-heavy American League. (The 85-win Twins claimed the league’s second Wild Card position that year.)

Marco Gonzales | Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

The consensus among Mariners fans at the time of the swap was, essentially, “Why would they do this?” Social media reactions to the deal weren’t favorable, and looking through the comments on the trade’s writeup at MLBTR, FanGraphs or most other sites reveals a similarly perplexed set of replies. O’Neill had entered that year as one of the game’s 100 best prospects and the second-best in the Mariners organization, while Gonzales had made just one appearance in the Majors since returning from 2016 Tommy John surgery. He was having a nice season in Triple-A, but most scouting reports on him pegged Gonzales as a mid-rotation arm, at best. In addition to that Tommy John surgery, he battled shoulder troubles in 2015.

Injury risk or not, Dipoto was undeterred. The Mariners’ GM spoke the day before the trade about only being willing to deal from his premium prospects if it meant acquiring a long-term rotation piece, and days after the swap he called Gonzales “about as big-league-ready as a Triple-A pitcher could be.” Sure enough, Gonzales was in the big leagues less than three weeks later.

The initial results did little to assuage the concerns of Seattle fans. Gonzales pitched just 36 2/3 innings of 5.40 ERA ball down the stretch as the Mariners again fell shy of the postseason. O’Neill hit .253/.304/.548 with a dozen homers in 37 Triple-A games following the trade that year. On-base questions notwithstanding, the power was still impressive and Mariners fans were skeptical of the lefty for whom O’Neill had been shipped out.

Despite that lackluster showing, Gonzales opened the 2018 season in the Seattle starting five. His early work didn’t inspire much confidence, but after four shaky starts, Gonzales settled into a groove and pitched to a 3.60 ERA over his final 150 innings, averaging 7.6 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9 along the way. In 2019, Gonzales posted a 3.99 ERA that was nearly identical to his 4.00 ERA from 2018 — but he did it in a larger sample of 203 frames.

Setting aside his rocky debut in 2018, Gonzales has given the Mariners 369 2/3 frames of 3.99 ERA ball with an even better 3.83 FIP, 7.1 K/9, 2.1 BB/9, 0.97 HR/9 and a 42.5 percent ground-ball rate. From 2018-19, he was worth 6.0 bWAR and 7.1 fWAR. The rebuilding Mariners made clear that they view Gonzales as a core piece back in February, signing the southpaw to a four-year, $30MM contract extension (2021-24) that also contains a $15MM club option for the 2025 season.

The trade would likely look like a solid one for the Mariners even if O’Neill had blossomed into an everyday corner outfielder. That hasn’t happened yet, however. While Gonzales was solidifying himself in the Mariners’ rotation, O’Neill was bouncing back and forth between Triple-A and St. Louis, hitting a combined .258/.307/.454 with 14 home runs in 293 plate appearances. The power has been good but not elite, and O’Neill’s contact struggles have indeed been magnified against MLB pitching; he’s punched out 110 times in those 293 plate appearances (37.5 percent).

To be fair to O’Neill, he hasn’t exactly been given a real opportunity to win an everyday job. Just months after he was traded to St. Louis, the Cardinals went out and acquired two years of control over Marcell Ozuna in a trade that sent Sandy Alcantara, Zac Gallen and Magneuris Sierra to the Marlins. With Ozuna, Dexter Fowler, Tommy Pham (in 2018) and Harrison Bader all logging considerable time in the St. Louis outfield, opportunities for O’Neill have been sparse. But the very fact that the Cards felt it necessary to pursue a Giancarlo Stanton acquisition and then pull off a deal for Ozuna speaks to some level of question in O’Neill’s readiness.

The Cards didn’t add a left fielder to replace the departing Ozuna this winter, but they also have uber-prospect Dylan Carlson nearing the Majors. Even if Carlson seizes an outfield spot, the likely implementation of the universal DH will give O’Neill some additional opportunities to get into the lineup, so perhaps he’ll finally get the chance to justify the deal from the St. Louis end. The Cards haven’t exactly been hurting for pitching even without Gonzales in the fold, but there’s no denying he’s been the more valuable piece of the straight-up swap to this point.

The Gonzales/O’Neill trade won’t be looked back upon as any time of blockbuster, but it offers some reminders when judging future trades:

  • Prospect rankings are useful and entertaining, but it’s easy to overemphasize them. Prospect values are in a constant state of flux. Even a few weeks and certainly a couple months can change the opinion on a prospect. Whether it’s adding a new pitch, adding/losing velocity, outgrowing a position, altering mechanics at the plate or any number of other changes a player can exhibit, a prospect’s value can alter in a hurry.
  • It’s too easy to write off post-hype prospects. Gonzales himself was a first-round pick and top-100 prospect prior to injury troubles. At the time of the O’Neill trade, he was less than two years removed from ranking as the game’s No. 50 prospect, per Baseball America. A recent top prospect with some big league experience and four to five years of control is generally still a valuable piece even if he’s not a star. MLBTR’s Connor Byrne recently looked at another player fitting this mold: Pittsburgh’s Joe Musgrove.
  • Position scarcity matters. We’ve seen corner outfielders and first baseman go for smaller returns on the trade market and in free agency in recent seasons. Part of the Mariners’ calculus was surely that a corner outfielder with some on-base questions was easier to come by than an affordable mid-rotation starter, even if the latter carried considerably more risk.

In some regards, the end result of this trade is common. “Team gets one of its best pitchers by trading away key prospect” is hardly a unique storyline in baseball, but the manner in which the Mariners went about this particular instance of that narrative isn’t typical. The result speaks for itself right now, though. And while O’Neill can still change how we look at the deal in the long run, it’s worked out about as well as the Mariners could’ve hoped.

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Jeff Todd <![CDATA[MLB Teams Preparing Employment Reductions Beginning In June]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=197063 2020-05-13T18:00:18Z 2020-05-13T18:00:18Z Major League Baseball teams are preparing for major changes to their operations beginning at the start of June. Most had previously committed to paying employees in full through the end of May.

The Marlins are preparing to furlough approximately two of every five members of their operations department, per Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (Twitter links). It’s not clear precisely which employees will be impacted. The Marlins are still committing to continuing health benefits through October.

Per Rosenthal, quite a few other teams around the game are also preparing for modifications at the start of the new month. Every organization is free to handle its own internal staffing decisions as it sees fit. Commissioner Rob Manfred previously gave authorization to suspend the basic agreements of salaried employees.

The Mariners are also planning cuts, but will be taking a different approach. Per The Athletic’s Corey Brock, the Seattle organization is planning a twenty percent paycut for employees whose salaries check in at or above the $60K level. The hope there is to avoid taking anyone off the books entirely.

Even as MLB negotiates player salaries and other matters in advance of a hopeful resumption of play in 2020, all involved understand that revenue will fall well shy of original expectations. There’s no real hope of playing before spectators this year and it still remains to be seen just what’ll be possible even for television-only games.

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Connor Byrne <![CDATA[A Seattle Signing That Didn’t Work Out In 2019]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=196955 2020-05-12T06:15:01Z 2020-05-12T05:05:30Z Japanese left-hander Yusei Kikuchi entered the majors with quite a bit of fanfare heading into the 2019 season. At that point, Kikuchi was coming off a terrific eight-year tenure as a member of Nippon Professional Baseball’s Seibu Lions, with whom he posted a 2.77 ERA and put up 8.0 K/9 against 3.3 BB/9 across 1,010 2/3 innings. Kikuchi parlayed that run into a high-paying contract with the Mariners, who signed him to a four-year, $56MM guarantee. It’s an unusual deal – one that could keep him in Seattle for as few as three years and as many as seven, as MLBTR’s Jeff Todd and Steve Adams explained at the time.

For now, the Mariners may be disappointed in their investment. Kikuchi struggled mightily during his first major league season, and there don’t seem to be many clear reasons to expect a turnaround. Starting with some optimism, it’s nice that Kikuchi amassed 161 2/3 innings, approaching the career-high 163 2/3 he accrued during an NPB season. But while Kikuchi ranked a respectable 59th in innings last year, he wasn’t very productive otherwise.

Among 70 pitchers who threw at least 150 frames, Kikuchi ranked last in FIP (5.71) and home runs per nine (2.00), second from the bottom in ERA (5.46) and 10th last in K/BB ratio (2.32; 6.46 K/9 against 2.78 BB/9). And the 28-year-old wasn’t effective against either lefties or righties. Same-handed hitters recorded a .340 weighted on-base average against him, meaning Kikuchi essentially turned lefties into the 2019 version of Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager. Righties, meanwhile, averaged a lofty .374 mark – the same number Astros second baseman Jose Altuve registered during the season.

So why was Year 1 such a disaster for Kikuchi? Well, as you’d expect, none of his pitches graded out well. According to Statcast, Kikuchi mostly relied on a four-seam fastball (49 percent), a slider (28 percent) and a curveball (15 percent). FanGraphs ranked all of those offerings among the worst of their kind, making it no surprise that so many hitters teed off on him. With that in mind, it’s hardly a shock that Kikuchi ranked toward the basement of the majors in a slew of important Statcast categories, finishing in the league’s 35th percentile or worse in exit velocity, hard-hit rate, expected ERA and expected wOBA, to name a few.

Had Kikuchi gotten off to a slow start and then made a late charge, it would be easier to have some hope going into this season. It was essentially the opposite, though, as Kikuchi owned a passable 4.37 ERA/4.51 FIP through April and then went in the tank from there. His monthly FIP only dipped below 5.00 once after the season’s first month, and it exceeded the 6.00 mark overall after the All-Star break.

In terms of performance from a hyped pitcher, it’s tough to make a much worse first impression than Kikuchi’s from 2019. That doesn’t mean he’ll never amount to anything in the majors – you have to sympathize with someone trying to adjust to a new country and the best baseball league in the world, after all. However, it’s not easy to find encouraging signs from Kikuchi’s first year in the majors, which is not what the rebuilding, long-suffering Mariners had in mind when they took a gamble on him in free agency.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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Steve Adams <![CDATA[Servais: Mariners Encouraged By Progress Of Young Arms This Spring]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=196711 2020-05-07T19:41:21Z 2020-05-07T19:40:42Z
  • While Spring Training impressions were limited due to the mid-March shutdown, the Mariners were still encouraged by the progress demonstrated by some expected key players, manager Scott Servais said this week on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (Twitter link, with audio). In particular, lefty Justus Sheffield and righties Justin Dunn and Logan Gilbert looked to have taken notable strides. Sheffield, the centerpiece of the Mariners’ James Paxton return, allowed two runs on five hits and no walks with 12 punchouts in eight spring innings. Dunn, acquired alongside Jarred Kelenic in the Robinson Cano/Edwin Diaz blockbuster, whiffed 10 hitters in six innings while holding opponents to two runs in 6 2/3 frames. Gilbert, Seattle’s first-rounder in 2018, pitched four shutout innings with four strikeouts, no walks and one hit. The M’s are hopeful that this trio can soon ascend to the big league rotation alongside Marco Gonzales as the organization emerges from an accelerated rebuilding process. There’s clearly more to the belief that strides were made than those surface-level stats, but the trio’s showing nevertheless was heartening for Mariners fans.
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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[Has Seattle Found Its Solution At Short?]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=196563 2020-05-05T06:41:58Z 2020-05-05T06:41:58Z He’s still only 25, but if you go back to his days as a prospect, Mariners shortstop J.P. Crawford was seen as an elite young talent. Crawford was the 16th overall pick of the Phillies in 2013, and Baseball America ranked him as the sixth-best farmhand in the sport after the 2015 season.

    “At his best, he has a future as an all-star shortstop who can play above-average defense and hit for power,” BA wrote.

    Crawford, however, hasn’t realized that vast potential with either organization he has played for to this point. Injuries did play a part in derailing Crawford’s tenure with the Phillies, but even when he was healthy enough to take a major league field from 2017-18, he put together an unspectacular line of .214/.333/.358 with three home runs in 225 plate appearances. Having seen enough, the Phillies dealt Crawford to the Mariners in December 2018 in what was a rather noteworthy trade. The retooling Mariners gave up infielder Jean Segura and relievers Juan Nicasio and James Pazos in order to acquire Crawford and first baseman Carlos Santana.

    There’s no more Santana in Seattle – the team flipped him to Cleveland before he ever donned an M’s uniform – so the deal was largely about finding a long-term answer at shortstop. For at least some portion of last season, it looked as the Mariners were on to something. Crawford came flying out of the gates after debuting with the Mariners in the first half of last May, but his production plummeted after June.

    In each of July, August and September, Crawford posted a wRC+ of less than 65. With an overall mark of 63 in the second half of the season, he was the third-worst offensive player in baseball, logging a .188/.288/.299 line in 229 trips to the plate. Crawford did draw walks (11.8 percent) and limit strikeouts (18.8) better than the average hitter then, though a .224 batting average on balls in play down the stretch didn’t help his cause. However, Crawford largely brought the low BABIP on himself with a lack of meaningful contact. According to FanGraphs, Crawford finished with the majors’ second-highest soft-contact rate (26 percent) and its third-worst hard-contact percentage (24.1). Statcast wasn’t impressed, either, as it placed Crawford in the basement of the league in important offensive categories such as average exit velocity, expected weighted on-base average and barrel percentage, to name a few.

    The biggest roadblock the left-handed Crawford faced in 2019 was his inability to do anything against same-handed hurlers, who turned him into one of the worst hitters in the league. He batted an awful .160/.268/.179 with a stunningly low .019 ISO against them, but a much more palatable .255/.333/.456 with a .201 ISO versus righties. Unfortunately, it wasn’t the first time Crawford has run into that type of trouble, evidenced in part by the fact that he has never hit a single homer off a lefty during 144 tries in his career, and he’s a lifetime .144/.272/.171 batter against them. To state the obvious, that’s not going to cut it.

    Crawford’s going to have to major strides against southpaws in order to amount to anything more than a platoon player in the majors. And it’s not as if he has shown he’s a defensive wizard whose work at short will cover for his flaws at the plate. Through almost 1,100 innings (including 806 a season ago), he has put up minus-9 Defensive Runs Saved and a minus-1.7 Ultimate Zone Rating.

    The good news is that there’s still time for Crawford to figure it out. He’s controllable for five more years, and the Mariners don’t look as if they’ll contend for at least the next season or two, so they can afford to be patient with Crawford. So far, though, Crawford hasn’t shown many signs that he’ll live up to the hype he garnered as a prospect.

    Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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    TC Zencka <![CDATA[Offseason In Review: Seattle Mariners]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=194160 2020-04-28T14:13:20Z 2020-04-25T16:00:38Z After 89 wins in 2018 didn’t sniff the postseason, the Mariners willfully took a step back in 2019. A fifth-place finish and 94 losses later, the Mariners have another development year on the horizon when/if the 2020 season gets underway. Even so, General Manager Jerry Dipoto isn’t one to sit quietly on the sidelines, and he found ways to keep himself busy this winter.

    Guaranteed Contracts

    Trades and Claims

    Extensions

    • Signed LHP Marco Gonzalez to four-year, $30MM extension (from 2021-2024), $5MM in 2021, $5.5MM in 2022, $6.5MM in 2023, $12MM in 2024, plus $1MM signing bonus and $15MM team option for 2025
    • Signed 1B Evan White to six-year, $24MM ($1.3MM in 2020 and 2021, $1.4MM in 2022, $3MM in 2023, $7MM in 2024, $8MM in 2025, $10MM team option in 2026 plus two more club options in 2027 and 2028 for a combined $21.5MM).

    Notable Minor League Signings

    Notable Losses

    First and foremost, let’s pour one out for King Felix. Now 34-years-old, Felix Hernandez joined the Braves as a non-roster invitee this spring, officially ending his 15-year tenure with the Mariners. Granted, we haven’t seen vintage King Felix since…maybe 2015? Regardless: 15 years, 418 starts, 6 All-Star appearances, a Cy Young award, 169 wins, 8 200-inning seasons, 25 complete games, 11 shutouts, 1 relief appearance, and tragically, zero postseason appearances. The Mariners fielded some competitive rosters over the years (85-89 wins five times from 2005 to 2019), but whenever the Mariners end their playoff drought, they’ll do so without King Felix. Still, he goes down as a Seattle great: a career 3.42 ERA/3.52 FIP, good for 50.3 bWAR/54 fWAR.

    Beyond Felix, the Mariners didn’t lose anyone of terrible consequence this winter. Healy, Beckham, Milone, Tuivailala and Santana had their moments, while Vizcaino, Siri, and Anderson never appeared in a regular season game for Seattle. None should be missed long-term as the Mariners continue to set their sights on 2021 and beyond.

    Meanwhile, they brought back a familiar face in Taijuan Walker. If healthy, Walker has a good chance of making the rotation. For $2MM (plus incentives), it’s a safe gamble for the M’s, and at 27-years-old, there’s still some upside if he can return to form. The M’s ought to have enough leash to give him that opportunity.

    Elsewhere in the rotation, the Gonzalez extension keeps the former Cardinal at the front of the rotation for the next four seasons (maybe five) at a good rate. The 28-year-old is coming off solid back-to-back 3+ fWAR seasons, eclipsing the 200-inning mark while going 16-13 with a 3.99 ERA/4.15 FIP in 2019. He’s not the type to front a rotation, but he’s a solid arm who should continue to be an asset throughout the length of his new extension.

    The rest of the rotation – and most of the roster – is a series of auditions. The M’s have a lot of interesting young players in the clubhouse, and before Trader Jerry gets set to make another push for the postseason, he’s got to sort the real McCoys from the small-sample hucksters.

    In the rotation, there are two types of tryout candidates: prospects and retreads. Walker has the familiarity with the Seattle base, but Kendall Graveman may also get a chance to earn a rotation spot after spending last season rehabbing with the Cubs. Graveman knows the division well having put up a little more than two full seasons worth of solid back-end rotation work for the A’s from 2015 to 2018.

    In the prospects camp, Justus Sheffield is facing a make-or-break campaign after seven so-so starts with the big league club last year. Justin Dunn also got a taste last year, and though the former Mets farmhand may not start the year in the majors, he should be a prime understudy after putting together a solid season in Double-A.

    Waiver claim Nick Margevicius falls somewhere between the two camps. He struggled in the bigs last year with the Padres, posting a 6.79 ERA/5.64 FIP, but he made the jump from Double-A, and he’s still just 23-years-old. His typically pristine control slipped just enough to hurt upon reaching the big leagues, while his home-run-to-fly-ball ratio skyrocketed. He wasn’t exactly pitching in a bandbox in San Diego, but if he can limit the long ball and get his walks-per-nine back under 2 where it lived for most of his minor league career, the Mariners might have another lefty for the rotation.

    Along with Yusei Kikuchi, that’s at least seven semi-interesting arms to look at, which might be more than enough in a short season (though there’s obviously a ton of uncertainty there). The other notable additions this winter were in the bullpen, where new Yoshihisa Hirano, Carl Edwards Jr., Nestor Cortes Jr. and Rule 5 pick Yohan Ramirez all have a chance to make the Opening Day roster.

    Hirano struggles somewhat for the Diamondbacks in his second season stateside, but he also bumped his strikeout rate from 8.0 K/9 to 10.4 K/9 – with a lesser jump in walk rate (3.1 BB/9 to 3.7 BB/9). He could end up being a big piece of the bullpen. CJ Edwards, meanwhile, was one of the more inexplicable flameouts in 2019: 8.47 ERA/5.74 FIP across 22 appearances for the Cubs and Padres. Considering the 3+ seasons with a 3.06 ERA/3.12 FIP that Edwards put together for the Cubs from 2015 to 2018, and he makes for an intriguing flyer who is still just 28-years-old.

    On the offensive end, Dipoto made two big moves. The first was trading starting catcher Omar Narvaez to the Brewers for a Competitive Round Draft Pick and 6’6″ right-hander Adam Hill. Narvaez had a good season last year (.278/.353/.460 with 22 home runs, 199 wRC+), but his other half Tom Murphy looked good too (just ask MLBTR’s own Anthony Franco). Hill has a big arm, but has to get his control under wraps. He was the Brewers #24 prospect per MLB.com at the time of the deal. The Brewers had him for just half a season after he joined the organization from the Mets in January as part of the Keon Broxton deal.

    Dipoto took the opportunity to add youth, so they’ll turn over the backstop duties to Murphy and Aaron Nola’s big brother Austin. Murphy posted good numbers on both sides of the ball, and he’ll get the starting nod, but Nola figures to get plenty of playing time as well. Nola is an infield convert who plans to make catching his full-time gig in 2020. If he can stick it defensively, he seems to have enough bat for the position (.269/.342/.454 in 267 plate appearances last year). Assuming good health, the Murphy/Nola combo ought to be sufficient in 2020 while Cal Raleigh continues to work his way towards the bigs.

    Dipoto’s other significant decision was giving first baseman Evan White a six-year, $24MM deal after he played the 2019 season for the Arkansas Travelers in Double-A. White, 24 on Sunday, certainly looks worth the money if he continues to perform as he did for the Travelers. White hit .293/.350/.488 with 18 home runs across 400 plate appearances in 2019. He’s the Mariners’ 4th-ranked prospect per Fangraphs, and he profiles as a complete player with plus power, speed, and defense that should help him claim (and keep) first base for the next half decade.

    Granted, it’s risky to hand $24MM to a kid who’s totaled 4 games above Double-A, but Dipoto secured significant upside with this deal, which includes three option years for an additional $31.5MM. If White turns into the player Dipoto suspects, they’ll have him for the next 9 seasons at an AAV of $6.17MM. Also, they can now start White on the major league roster without manipulating his service clock (if they deem him ready). First base certainly isn’t thought of as a core position these days, but core players  routinely make their homes there (Freddie Freeman, Anthony Rizzo, Paul Goldschmidt, etc.), and while White has a lot to prove before qualifying to break bread with that trio, the Mariner brass saw enough to write his name on the lineup card in pen.

    If there was a surprise this winter from Trader Jerry, it’s that he didn’t find a way to move more of his remaining veterans. Kyle Seager and Dee Gordon would figure to be the first to move in 2020 if they can establish any value. Unfortunately, Gordon doesn’t have any at present (nor much of a path to establishing some), and Seager’s price tag all but nullifies any value he might have accrued during a bounce-back .239/.321/.468, 110 wRC+ 2019 season. The eldest Seager bounced around the trade papers this winter in regards to hot corner openings in the NL East, but he’s owed $19.5MM in 2020, $18.5MM in 2021, and if he were dealt, a $15MM club option for 2022 becomes a player option. The option clause makes Seager difficult to deal, and the Mariners like his makeup, so it seems as likely as anything that he’ll play out the remainder of his deal in T-Mobile Park.

    Other veterans like Mallex Smith and Daniel Vogelbach are young enough to be a part of the next Seattle contender, but more than that, they don’t carry much trade value at present. Vogelbach, 27, finished last season with 30 home runs and a palatable 111 wRC+. But he’s not a fielder, and he’s not a runner, and even though he’s not even arb eligible until 2022, there’s not a lot of need for his skill set around the league. Smith, 27 in May, has shown promise at times in his career, but as MLBTR’s own Connor Byrne wrote about in a recent post entitled “Seattle’s Struggling Center Fielder“…well, the title pretty much tells the tale (and if not, Connor can take you the rest of the way).

    Mitch Haniger is the guy toeing the line here, as the Mariners’ have long-lauded his character and the total package he brings to the table, but as a 29-year-old corner outfielder, it’s fair to wonder if his contributions would better serve a contender. A slew of injuries has kept that question on the back-burner, however, as there’s no timetable for his return after undergoing a pair of offseason surgeries.

    Finding core players to play alongside White will be priority number one for Scott Servais and company whenever play resumes. Julio Rodriguez and Jarred Kelenic are two big-time prospects  atop the M’s vision board, but they’re both probably a year or maybe more away. In the meantime, Servais and Dipoto will keep a daily eye on a whole host of young position players who may or may not become crucial parts of their future. Among those looking to secure their long-term place: Shed Long, Jake Fraley, J.P. Crawford, Kyle Lewis, Braden Bishop, and to a lesser extend, guys like Tim Lopes and Donovan Walton. Some vets were brought in to compete – CarGo, Cody Anderson, Wei-Yin Chen, among others – but it’s looking increasingly likely that the Mariners will ride the youth wave in 2020.

    2020 Outlook

    If a couple from the Long/Fraley/Crawford/Lewis bucket can establish themselves – along with Sheffield and/or Dunn in the rotation – then the Mariners will count 2020 as a success. They could even set themselves up as a real team of interest heading into 2021. Conditions for development aren’t ideal, but the biggest question facing the M’s might be how much they can learn about their young players in a potentially shortened season. Speculation on that front will have to wait until we know more. For now, we’ll have to settle for grading the Mariners’ winter work.

    How would you grade the Mariners’ offseason moves?  (Link for app users.)

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    Connor Byrne <![CDATA[A Mariners-Yankees Blockbuster That Busted]]> https://www.mlbtraderumors.com/?p=195737 2020-04-22T05:45:43Z 2020-04-22T05:45:43Z If we go back eight years to January 2012, we’ll find a huge trade centering on two players who looked to be among the premier young building blocks in Major League Baseball at the time. The Mariners sent right-hander Michael Pineda and fellow righty Vicente Campos to the Yankees for catcher Jesus Montero and RHP Hector Noesi. As it turned out, though, the swap didn’t go according to plan for either side.

    Pineda was the most proven major leaguer in the trade when it happened, and that hasn’t changed. Then 22 years old, he debuted in the majors in 2011 and fired 171 innings of 3.74 ERA/3.42 FIP ball with 9.11 K/9 and 2.89 BB/9 to serve as one of the majors’ top rookies. But that All-Star season wasn’t enough for the Mariners to keep Pineda. Instead, desperate for a big hitter to build around, they shipped Pineda to New York in an attempt to bolster their offense.

    It was easy to dream on Montero when the trade occurred. He was a 22-year-old who was once grouped with the likes of Mike Trout and Bryce Harper and considered among the top-notch prospects in baseball. And Montero terrorized opposing pitchers during his first major league stint late in the 2011 season, hitting .328/.406/.590 with four home runs in 69 plate appearances (perhaps you remember the first two homers of his career). Expectations then mounted that Montero would hold his own in the majors, whether with the Yankees or someone else, but that didn’t happen.

    Instead, as a member of the Mariners from 2012-15, Montero stumbled to an overall .247/.285/.383 line with 24 homers in 796 plate appearances. The big-bodied Montero was never an ideal fit for the catcher position, where he logged just 735 innings as a Mariner and accounted for minus-20 Defensive Runs Saved. Clearly not the savior they thought he’d be, the Mariners cut ties with Montero heading into the 2016 season. Montero has since spent time in the Blue Jays’ and Orioles’ system, not to mention stints in Mexico and Venezuela, but he has not appeared in the majors since his Seattle tenure concluded.

    It’s still hard to believe Montero flamed out so quickly. After all, at the time of the trade, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman compared Montero to two of the greatest players of the past few decades, saying: “To me, Montero is Mike Piazza. He’s Miguel Cabrera.”

    Not so much. New York didn’t lose out on another Piazza or Cabrera, and it did come out on the better side of the trade, but that’s not really saying a lot. Pineda missed what would have been his first season with the Yankees as a result of the April 2012 right labrum surgery he underwent. He also sat out the next season, but he did pitch to a solid 4.16 ERA/3.65 FIP with 9.09 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 across 509 innings and 89 starts in pinstripes from 2014-17. Not bad at all, but Pineda underwent yet another surgery – Tommy John – in the last of those seasons and never took the hill for the Yankees again. His career’s still going, though, as he performed well enough for the Twins in 2019 to convince them to re-sign him to a two-year, $20MM guarantee last offeason.

    Almost a decade after the fact, Pineda’s the lone quality big leaguer left from this trade. Noesi hasn’t amounted to much in the majors so far – he even spent time in Korea – and settled for a minors deal with the Pirates last December. But at least Noesi has actually pitched in MLB on a fairly consistent basis. The same can’t be said for Campos, a once-impressive prospect whom injuries have helped ruin. Now 27, Campos is a free agent who most recently pitched in the Mexican League last season. He totaled 5 2/3 frames as a Diamondback in 2016, but that’s the extent of his big league work.

    On one hand, credit goes to the Yankees for getting more out of this trade than the Mariners. On the other, it’s fair to call it a disappointment for the two clubs, both of which thought they were getting at least one long-term cornerstone apiece. The Montero and Noesi tenures in Seattle didn’t work out at all. Pineda had his moments as a Yankee, but they were too few in number, and Campos didn’t come close to realizing his potential. In light of Pineda’s decent contributions as a Yankee, you can’t call this trade a complete disaster, but it certainly didn’t live up to the hype.

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