It’s been a long time since we wrote anything on this blog, but I’ve wanted to bring it back for a while. I’m out of practice and have no idea if this will last, or if anyone will read it, but we’ll give it a shot. To any of you still subscribed to our posts or who stumble upon us, welcome back!
The Mariners conducted one of the wildest offseasons I’ve ever seen, as most probably know by now. While they certainly took a step back, the tone from spring training, and throughout a lot of the fan base, is pretty positive.
That comes largely from having new, young talent to follow. Youth is always invigorating. Unfortunately, youth doesn’t always turn into good players. I think this rebuild is worthwhile and unique, but whether it is successful or not will only be known for 2-4 years.
I’m hoping to put out a few posts to recap the offseason and put the rebuild into perspective before the season starts. Today is just a recap of all the moves they’ve made. I was going to rank them, but that got confusing, so I’ll just go in chronological order. I’m focusing mainly on the (many) trades. With all respect to Tim Beckham, Hunter Strickland, and the minor league contract guys, there’s not a lot of potential impact there. Strickland has a chance to be something again, but he’ll likely be traded if he reverts to being a solid closer or set up man.
Just a reminder, in case you’ve somehow missed it, the Mariners have stated their goal is to be competitive in 2020 or 2021. 2020 seems overly optimistic, but who knows. And as always with Jerry Dipoto, there will likely be a billion more moves in the next year or two, so this might all be irrelevant before long.
Mike Zunino for Mallex Smith
This trade started off the frenzy so long ago, I hardly remember it cost one of my favorite M’s to add Smith in center field. I’m as concerned about letting Zunino go as any other player this offseason. His upside is a perennial all star if his bat ever stabilizes at all, and even if it doesn’t, it’s hard to find a solid catcher. Still, it’s probably the right move at this point, given his ongoing offensive struggles. Mallex is a lightning bolt in the outfield and the kind of on-base and speed threat this team needs. The M’s also gave up Guillermo Heredia and young lefty Michael Plassmeyer, likely inconsequential losses, and got OF prospect Jake Fraley, who has turned heads this spring but is no sure bet.
The Paxton Trade
Entering the offseason, I expected a Paxton trade regardless of what else the team did. It never felt like Paxton would sign long term, or that he’d even be a guy the team would feel comfortable giving a big new deal. For all his talent, he never became the dominant, dependable ace that was expected. Nonetheless, he’s a huge loss and will be missed, for both his performance and personality. The return was LHP Justus Sheffield, RHP Erik Swanson, and OF Dom Thompson-Williams. Sheffield’s the prize, a guy with plenty of talent who could be a solid 2nd or 3rd starter, if he finds better command. He’s looked good this spring and should see Seattle this summer. Swanson has a lower ceiling but could be a dependable back-end starter or impact multi-inning reliever. He should also be in Seattle sometime this year. DTW is a lottery ticket, a great athlete without great results until this past year.
Colome for Narvaez (aka A New Catcher)
A somewhat forgotten move that could have as much impact as any. Alex Colome, while a big part of last year’s pen, was expendable. Omar Narvaez will be this year’s starting catcher. The polar opposite of Mike Zunino, Narvaez has great on base skills and a solid lefty bat. He’s okay controlling the running game, but is not the dominant receiver Zunino was. I could see him washing out if the bat regresses and his defense stagnates, but he also has a chance to become one of the better catchers in the league if he maintains his offense and improves a reasonable amount behind the plate.
Goodbye Cano and Diaz
For posterity, this move was Cano, Diaz and a lot of money to the Mets for OF Jarred Kelenic, RHP Justin Dunn, RH reliever Gerson Bautista, OF Jay Bruce, and RH reliever Anthony Swarzak. I’ll miss Cano, but moving that salary was a big deal. I’ll really miss Diaz, but trading him was an inevitability once they started down this road. Bruce and Swarzak are just veterans included to offset salaries, although they should play a role on this team and will hopefully bring in more prospects at midseason.
Thankfully, the rest of this trade is very fun. Kelenic has the highest ceiling of anyone they added. He’s an athletic center fielder with an advanced hitting approach for a teenager. The power’s not all the way there yet, but he’s the type of guy who usually adds it as he matures. He has all the tools and good personality, and if this offseason produces an eventual superstar, it’ll likely be him. Dunn is a former first rounder with lots of talent, but he hasn’t dominated yet. Some see a future as a dominating reliever, but he could be a middle of the rotation or better starter if he can put it together. Bautista is a flamethrowing reliever who hasn’t put it together yet, but should see Seattle this year. This is a good return, but they gave up a lot of talent to get it.
Segura for JP Crawford
This deal, which included Juan Nicasio and James Pazos going to the Phillies and Carlos Santana to Seattle, was the most puzzling of the offseason. It wasn’t a shock to see Segura go, but most expected a better return for an all star shortstop. Santana was largely a salary exchange (more on him in a minute), and Crawford was a prized shortstop prospect who underwhelmed in Philadelphia last year. There’s potential there for him to still become an above average starter, but there’s a greater likelihood that he never amounts to much. An interesting gamble, but one that shows Segura’s attitude issues may have sunk his value around the league much lower than fans could have imagined.
Santana for Edwin Encarnacion
This was a weird move that saw the Mariners exchanging expensive veteran 1B/DHs, and buying a draft pick in the process, if I remember right. I’m sure the Mariners thought they’d trade Encarnacion by now, but it looks like he’ll be on the team for a while, which isn’t a horrible thing. Hopefully he puts up a big first half and brings in a decent trade return.
Ben Gamel for Domingo Santana
An exchange of left fielders, this was the Mariners buying low on a guy with a ton of potential who had lost his spot with the Brewers. After a 30 homer season in 2017, Santana essentially got replaced by Christian Yelich and regressed last year. If he can rebound, he’ll be a huge steal. This is the kind of move that is either forgotten in two years, or is the foundation of a playoff contender. You have to get lucky at some point, and this seems a likely place for it to happen.
Hello Yusei Kikuchi!
This seems like the big win of the offseason. Kikuchi should be an immediate middle of the rotation starter, and could be more than that. The contract is favorable, with little risk for the M’s. He looks like a fan favorite and maybe the most likely addition to be a part of their next playoff team (if there ever is one).
Shed Long Becomes a Mariner (or Rainier)
This was a fairly minor move, but I’ll throw it on here because Shed has been one of the stars of training camp. The second baseman, who is also seeing time in the outfield and potentially third base, came from Cincinnati in what was essentially a three way deal, with the M’s sending OF prospect Josh Stowers to the Yankees. Stowers is an interesting prospect who could eventually make an impact, but Shed is closer to the majors, and the Mariners badly need infield depth. He has great offensive potential, especially for a second baseman, but his defense is still a work in progress. But the important thing here is that the Mariners now have a player named Shed.
So, there you go. Nothing like restarting a blog with 1500 words about guys who may never play for the terrible local baseball team. Go Mariners!