On Wednesday night before the Thanksgiving holiday, Seattle Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto pulled off yet another trade. This time with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The trade sent Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte to Arizona for Jean Segura, Zac Curtis, and Mitch Haniger. This is a win-now move with an eye on the future.
Walker was basically untouchable a few years ago, a future ace in the making. He has shown flashes of that talent here and there, but injuries have really held him back. He is currently recovering from surgery to remove a bone fragment in his ankle. He is expected to be fully healthy in 2017. The future is still bright for Walker as he possesses a mid-to-upper-90s fastball.
Marte burst onto the scene in 2015, slashing .283/.351/.402 in 57 games. He took a step back in 2016 (.259/.287/.323) but has the ability to turn into a solid shortstop down the road.
Both Walker and Marte have upside and in Walker’s case possibly huge upside, but the M’s are at a point right now where they need a proven commodity. The core four of Felix Hernandez, Nelson Cruz, Robinson Cano, and Kyle Seager are all in their prime or on the backside of their prime. With so much invested for many more years in those players (except Cruz), the Mariners window to win is now. They can’t wait for multiple guys to develop at the major-league level — they need results and quickly. They aren’t that far away from a postseason berth; the M’s were in the playoff hunt until being eliminated in game 161 last season.
The Mariners have been searching for a leadoff hitter since Ichiro Suzuki. They finally have their man in Segura. Coming off a career year in 2016 (.319/.368/.499), he was just who the M’s were looking for. Segura hit leadoff in 147 of his 153 games last season, scoring 99 runs and swiping 33 bases while batting leadoff. He showed impressive power with 20 home runs, seven triples and 41 doubles. The M’s need someone who can get on base ahead of Cano, Cruz, and Seager. If he can come anywhere close to his 2016 production, the Mariners are going to be a force at the plate.
The Mariners also were in need of a left-handed arm in the bullpen. Curtis could fill that need. In 21 games last season with Arizona, Curtis struggled, giving up 10 runs in his 13 innings of work. His command was off, walking 13 and striking out 10. Curtis started 2016 in Single-A before jumping to Double-A and then to the Diamondbacks. He was excellent in the minors with a 52-11 K:BB ratio in 30 innings between the two levels. He is only 24 years old and with valuable MLB experience in 2016 could be a factor for the Mariners bullpen in 2017.
Haniger is the final piece of the five-player trade. He tore the cover off the ball in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League in 2016, slashing .341/.426./.620 with 20 home runs. He played 34 games for Arizona last season, hitting .229 with five home runs. He will be in the mix with Ben Gamel and Guillermo Heredia for playing time in the M’s outfield next season.
The Mariners still have plenty of work to do this offseason, including finding another starting pitcher now that they only have five starters and only two of those have proven track records (Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma). It’ll be interesting to see if they make any other additions to the outfield as the biggest question marks left probably reside in the corner outfield spots.
With the Winter Meetings fast approaching, the M’s Hot Stove is rolling. Buckle up.