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New Mariners’ general manager Jerry Dipoto was essentially tasked with making the Seattle Mariners relevant again. With a core consisting of Felix Hernandez, Robinson Cano, Kyle Seager and Nelson Cruz already in place, Dipoto had a solid base to build upon. However, in the past few weeks, the GM has significantly improved the Mariners’ roster with a trio of moves.
Seattle made the first significant trade of the offseason by dealing Danny Farquhar, Brad Miller and Logan Morrison to the Tampa Bay Rays for starting pitcher Nate Karns, outfielder Book Powell and reliever C.J. Riefenhauser.
It may seem like a lopsided deal to move three players who were major contributors for one proven big-league player and two prospects, but the Mariners made out like bandits in this one.
The team essentially dealt from unneeded surplus to improve the roster.
In terms of Seattle relievers, Carson Smith was the only reliever left on the roster who posted a WAR above 1.4 last season. After him there was/is a good deal of uncertainty and sub-par pitching. Farquhar’s WAR was a career-low -0.7. His ERA (5.12) and FIP (4.60) weren’t much better. Tampa Bay has a history of rehabbing struggling relievers, so perhaps this will happen to the now-former Mariner, but he likely wasn’t assured a job next season thanks to his numbers in 2015.
Tampa Bay now has the same dilemma at shortstop that Seattle faced a few years ago, start Miller or Nick Franklin? Granted, the Rays also have former first-overall draft pick Tim Beckham in the mix, but still—same dilemma.
Miller was expendable thanks to the presence of Ketel Marte. Marte posted a .283 batting average, a 2.3 WAR, 17 extra-base hits and 17 RBI in 57 games. At only 22-years-old, the former top prospect seems to have a stranglehold on the shortstop position. Miller played a number of positions as a Mariner, but didn’t profile as a quality defender at any of them. In other words, he wasn’t going to cut it as a utility player. His .258 batting average and 101 strikeouts didn’t exactly help his cause either.
Lastly there’s Morrison. The first baseman/corner outfielder/designated hitter managed only a .225 batting average and 54 RBI in 146 games. These numbers are significantly below LoMo’s career numbers. The stats not only made Morrison expandable, but also created a significant need at first base. Regardless of this deal, changes were bound to happen at first base. Including Morrison in this deal ensured that the team received value for him.
The gem of the trade for Seattle is Karns. The 27-year-old starting pitcher turned in a solid season in Tampa last year, posting a 7-5 record, a 3.67 ERA and 145 strikeouts in 147 innings. He also chipped in with a 2.2 WAR.
Karns has already proven his worth as a dependable starter. The fact that the M’s acquired him looks even better when you consider that the former Washington Nationals’ farmhand isn’t arbitration eligible until 2018. The earliest he can become a free agent is 2021.
In addition to the years of controllability, Karns provides the Mariners with a potential replacement for Hisashi Iwakuma. MLB.com’s Jason Beck reports that Tigers’ general manger disclosed that Iwakuma is a player Detroit has interest in. In addition to Detroit, a number of teams figure to be interested in ‘Kuma’ thanks to his track record. Karns provide an excellent replacement should Iwakuma leave town in the offseason.
If Iwakuma joins Karns in the rotation, it allows the Mariners to deal a rotation arm like James Paxton for a proven upgrade elsewhere on the roster. While moving Paxton seems unlikely given his age, controllability and upside, he was rumored to be discussed with the New York Yankees. That same report from The New York Post said the M’s have interest in Brett Gardner.
Can be Iwakuma insurance in case Iwakuma leaves. Also allows the team to shop someone like James Paxton or another pitcher if they feel so inclined (for upgrades elsewhere on the roster). Add link to Paxton/Brett Gardner link.
Powell and Riefenhauser are both inexperienced, but both come with upside. Powell was originally drafted by the Oakland Athletics, before being dealt along with Daniel Robertson and former Mariner John Jaso for Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar last offseason. The 22-year-old hit .295 with 28 extra-base hits (including nine triples), 40 RBI, 18 steals and 61 walks in 117 games between Double-A and Triple-A. His slugging numbers won’t earn him any accolades, but he did post a .385 OBP last season.
Riefenhauser does have a career 6.30 ERA and a 5.68 FIP in only 24 appearances in the majors. However, his minor-league stats reveal more promise. In six seasons in the Rays’ farm system, the pitcher owns a 2.77 ERA and 442 strikeouts over 480.1 innings pitched. Riefenhauser is also extremely versatile having started 42 games and finishing 56 contests in his career. In 2015, his ERA in 34.2 innings at the Triple-A level was 2.86.
With so many question marks in the bullpen, Dipoto made another trade. The new GM dealt for established reliever Joaquin Benoit.
Benoit has been excellent since 2010. Equally adept as a setup man or a closer, Benoit owns a 2.35 ERA and 422 strikeouts in 370 innings dating back to the 2010 season. His FIP also comes out at a favorable 3.15.
The Mariners surrendered two prospects, Enyel De Los Santos and Nelson Ward, to the San Diego Padres in the trade. De Los Santos is the only one of the two to make it onto MLB.com’s list of the top 30 Padres prospects.
Neither prospect has passed the Single-A level in the minors, and given Benoit’s track record, this trade could pay massive dividends for the Mariners.
Did I mention Joaquin Benoit has a 16.7 WAR since 2010?
With the Benoit, Smith and Charlie Furbush on the roster, Tom Wilhelmsen was likely out of a gig as a setup reliever. Dipoto capitalized on this brief surplus by flipping Wilhelmsen and centerfielder James Jones to the Texas Rangers for reliever Anthony Bass and centerfielder Leonys Martin. It may seem redundant to trade an outfielder and a reliever for an outfielder and a reliever, but what Dipoto has essentially done is turn the two prospects he sent to San Diego into upgrades in the bullpen and in center field.
Seattle comes away from the deal with a significant upgrade in the outfield. Like Jones, Martin brings a similar speed element to the game. However, unlike Jones, he’s shown the ability to be an above-average contributor at the dish.
In 2013 and 2014, Martin hit .268 while averaging eight home runs, six triples, 17 doubles, 34 stolen bases and 44 RBI. Over those two seasons, his WAR was a combined 8.1. Jones’ career WAR is -1.1.
The Wilhelmsen/Bass exchange may seem more titled in Texas’ favor, but when you consider the M’s already added Benoit, it makes the deal much easier to accept.
While Wilhelmsen’s track record is much better and more consistent than Bass’, the now-former Texas reliever isn’t just a throw in. Bass posted a respectable 3.73 FIP in Texas’ launch-pad-masquerading-as-a ballpark.
Put it this way, would you rather have Benoit, Martin and Bass or Wilhelmsen, Jones and two prospects? Easy choice right?
Since taking over, Jerry Dipoto is doing an excellent job at reshaping the Seattle Mariners. He’s already turned excess depth into upgrades. Should he continue to make more shrewd moves, he’ll be the architect of a potential playoff team.
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All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
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Another NBA Season Sans-Seattle
As October begins to wind down, the NBA will soon start up again. The National Basketball Association will raise the curtain on yet another season. For the seventh year, this curtain-raising will happen without Seattle.
It’s a sad fact to realize that the NBA has spent the better part of a decade without a franchise in the Pacific Northwest. Since the Sonics left, we’ve had two different presidents (and likely a third), two popes and even a Super Bowl title courtesy of the Seattle Seahawks.
As we’ve seen the NBA continue to prosper, we’ve also seen a number of other things happen while without a men’s professional basketball team.
- We’ve seen the number of former Sonics dwindle. Kevin Durant, Nick Collison, Reggie Evans and Jeff Green are some of the few that are left. Luke Ridnour was in that discussion, but he could retire soon.
- We’ve also seen potential options in terms of moving to Seattle come and go. The New Orleans Pelicans (then known as the Hornets), Sacramento Kings, Minnesota Timberwolves and Milwaukee Bucks were all linked with, or close to a move.
- The Seattle Storm have been to the playoffs five different times, including winning the WNBA title in 2010. At least the Storm are continuing to carry the torch for professional basketball in Seattle.
- The entire Hobbit franchise came and went
By “we,” I’m referring to the people of Washington State, and Seattle. Losing the Sonics was brutal, but the fact that it’s been so long since we’ve had a team is just as brutal.
For Sonics’ fans, the NBA has become a league of players. We obviously haven’t moved on to different teams, but we become fans of players. This isn’t to say we rush out and buy the jerseys, but we more appreciate the specific players’ skill. The NBA has also become out occasionally checking the standings and making sure that team from Oklahoma isn’t doing well. We have nothing against the players, it’s just, you know…
The NBA’s return date to Seattle is TBD, but it’s bound to happen eventually (hopefully soon). The Seattle area has a few exciting propositions on the table in both SoDo and Tukwila, so there’s hope. If all goes well, Seattle will have an NBA team soon. However, that’s obviously not going to happen this season. Thus begins another NBA season without Seattle.
The Seattle Mariners wrapped up a disappointing season on a positive note, claiming a 3-2 win over the Oakland Athletics. The attention now shifts to the offseason, where new general manager Jerry Dipoto will be tasked with turning the team around.
Dipoto has already made it clear that he’s keeping hold of, and building around, “core” players Kyle Seager, Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz and Felix Hernandez.
Thankfully, none of those four players will be leaving the Emerald City any time soon. If the M’s finished 76-86 with that quartet, who knows how they’d fair without the foursome? Odds are it wouldn’t be pretty.
Dipoto has his work cut out for him, but if he can creatively fill some of the team’s needs without losing much either in a trade or in salary, the M’s have a chance to contend next season.
Among the most prominent needs is at catcher. Per Baseball Reference, Seattle catchers collectively finished last season with the worst wins above average by any backstop grouping in the league. Mike Zunino and company were worth -3.9 wins below average. No other catching group was worse than -2.6.
The problem with the situation is that Zunino is only 24-years-old. The Mariners aren’t going to bail on the former third-overall pick that quickly, but he has to start improving offensively. Zunino has a career .193 batting average in 1055 plate appearances. This simply isn’t going to cut it. Adding another catcher to the roster in the same vein as the Wellington Castillo transaction.
In addition to a catcher, Seattle needs a leadoff hitter. Ketel Marte performed atop the order, hitting .283 and stealing eight bases in 57 games. However, the team may find easier to find an outfielder who hits atop the order. Mariners’ center and left fielders both were below league-average in terms of wins above average. Seattle left fielders were worth -0.2 wins below average while centerfielders were worth -1.3 wins below average. Only four teams had worse production from their centerfield groupings, so perhaps someone like Denard Span, Dexter Fowler, or even Rajai Davis, could make sense.
(RELATED: Analyzing Jerry Dipoto’s Top 14 Career Trades).
The M’s could use stand to score more runs. Only six teams scored fewer runs in the league. Another bat would certainly make sense. Mark Trumbo showed flashes of the talent he showed in Anaheim, but only managed to hit .248 against right-handed pitching. Logan Morrison was supposed to fill that role, but he hasn’t hit much either (.241 against righties, .190 against lefties). Justin Morneau could hit free agency and would be a fit. The former Minnesota Twin hit .316 with an .850 OPS in 184 games for the Rockies over the past two years. He’d be a great fit alongside Trumbo, especially considering he’s a career .297 hitter in over 4,000 (4,169) plate appearances against right handed pitching.
Last but not least, Dipoto must fix the bullpen. Generally a strength for Seattle, this year’s bullpen was often an eye soar.
Going back to the “Wins Above Average by Position” leaderboards, the M’s relievers finished fourth-worst in the league. The relievers were worth -3.4 wins below average. The group may get better simply by subtraction. Fernando Rodney has already departed while a number of ineffective relievers could, and should, be jettisoned.
A number of quality relievers (Tyler Clippard, Joakim Soria and Darren O’Day, just to name a few) could hit the free agent market, so Seattle will have its pick should the team chose to spend. Additionally, effective relief pitchers are found on the waiver wire every month, so there’s plenty of options for Dipoto to fix the bullpen.
New M’s general manager Jerry Dipoto has his work cut out for him, but he’s shown he can make shrewd trades. Seattle has a number of issues, but if Dipoto can fix them, the team has a chance.