On Monday night, the Seattle Mariners traded former first-round pick Alex Jackson to the Atlanta Braves for pitching prospects Robert Whalen and Max Povse. Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto may take a vacation during the Winter Meetings this year. It would probably be much-needed, as busy as he has been so far this offseason.
So why did the Mariners decide now was the time to trade the former sixth-overall pick in the 2014 MLB draft? Because they needed some starting pitching depth that is close to MLB ready, and several outfielders in the M’s organization are way ahead of the soon-to-be 21-year-old.
Jackson struggled with injuries and performance during his three-year career with the M’s. Last year in Low-A, he hit .243 with 103 strikeouts in 92 games. Dipoto was on 710 ESPN Radio in Seattle on Tuesday morning and said that Jackson would’ve likely been penciled in for another year at Low-A next season. Dipoto talked at length about several young outfielders who will be fighting for playing time on the MLB club this season, including newly acquired Mitch Haniger.
You can listen to the Dipoto interview on the Brock and Salk show here.
Several mid-twenties or younger outfielders being ahead of Jackson in the M’s organization was a major factor in cutting ties with yet another Jack Zduriencik draft pick. Here is the list:
Haniger will be given a shot to contribute to the big-league club this season. Dipoto mentioned his name as the key piece in the trade with the Arizona Diamondbacks along with Jean Segura. Most people are looking at that trade as Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte for Jean Segura. Listening to Dipoto talk, Haniger was a huge part of that deal. He loves his athleticism and thinks he could be a major factor in 2017.
Heredia saw a lot of action in Seattle last year, appearing in 45 games and slashing .250/.349/.315. He was a defensive replacement down the stretch and right now is behind Gamel on the depth chart.
Gamel is a piece the M’s acquired from the New York Yankees last season, and they are going to be leaning on him heavily to man one of the corner outfield spots for them.
Lewis and O’Neill are the top two prospects in the Mariners organization according to Baseball America. O’Neill appeared in the All-Star Futures Game in 2016 and played well in the Arizona Fall League. If he can cut down on the strikeouts, he has the power to be a middle-of-the-order bat for the M’s, possibly in another year or two. Lewis was the Mariners’ first-round draft pick in 2016. He hit .299/.385/.530 with 16 extra base hits in 30 games last season in Short-Season Everett. His season ended early after tearing up his knee sliding into home. He is currently rehabbing in Arizona.
With so many young outfielders set to help out the Mariners sooner rather than later, it’s a lot easier to digest the thought of trading a former first-round pick for two pitching prospects. Jackson could turn out to be a very good player, but it likely won’t be for at least two or three more years. The Mariners are building depth in their minor-league system through Dipoto but can’t wait and hope every highly regarded prospect pans out.