The Seattle Mariners are known around the baseball world primarily for two things: mediocrity and a crazy frequency in trades. For the first denoted team identity, a long-running history of plain incompetence and underperformance is at fault. For the second one, general manager Jerry Dipoto is to blame (or credit, if you like crazy trades like I do).
Dipoto’s trade history borders on maniacal. Since taking over the Mariners front office in September 2015, Dipoto has executed over 100 swaps, some out of necessity and some that just boggle the mind.
The best and worst trade since 2010 falls on the hands of the man known as “Trader Jerry.” Over the next several weeks Baseball Essential will be doing a series on the best and worst trade every team in Major League Baseball has made over the last decade. Here is the best and worst trade the Seattle Mariners have made since 2010.
The Best Trade the Seattle Mariners Have Made Since 2010: Seattle Acquires Jarred Kelenic, Justin Dunn, Gerson Bautista, Anthony Swarzak, and Jay Bruce From the New York Mets for Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz (December 3, 2018)
Trading away a fan favorite position player with an outside chance at eventual Hall 0f Fame immortality and a 57-save closer with an ERA under two the previous season is a horrible move on paper. Who would even think to do such a thing? Jerry Dipoto would.
Cano was coming off a season cut in half by a suspension for use of performance enhancing drugs but still proved he can hit and field consistently; the eight-time All-Star hit .303 with an .845 OPS in the back half of the 2018 season.
However, the generally durable and reliable Cano struggled to stay on the field and played fewer games in a non-suspension year in 2019. In 107 contests the 36-year-old slashed .256/.307/.428 with 13 home runs and 39 RBIs over 423 plate appearances, failing to help their contending lineup.
Cano is under contract until the 2023 season, and while the Mariners are paying off $20 million of the remaining $120 million price tag, the Mets are on the hook for a declining, overpriced infielder with some frustrating injury concern.
Diaz followed up one of the best seasons ever by a closer with one of the most underwhelming in 2019. Though he wasn’t all bad, as his peripheral stats will show you, the right-hander was nothing like the 2018 version of himself who received an eighth-place finish in the American League Cy Young Award voting.
Diaz posted a 2-7 record, a 5.59 ERA, seven blown saves (26-of-33), 15 home runs allowed in just 58 innings, and a 1.379 WHIP. His inability to command his high-90s fastball and the flattening of his otherwise godly slider led to his demise and the boos of the home Citi Field fans.
Kelenic quickly became the top prospect in Seattle’s system and is currently ranked 11th in all of baseball by MLB Pipeline. The left-handed outfielder grades out as above average in all five tools and finished with a .543 slugging percentage, 23 home runs, and 20 steals across three minor-league levels last season.
Dunn looks to be a future long-term anchor in Seattle’s rotation with his mid-90s fastball and plus slider, and the Mariners have full confidence in his ability to stay there. In 6.2 innings of big-league work last season, the 24-year-old posted a 2.97 ERA.
While the veterans Swarzak and Bruce are out of Seattle’s rebuilding plans and already shipped out, and Bautista (11.48 ERA in MLB) has not exactly shown that he can be a future star, this trade will end up with a thumbs up from all of Seattle even if just Kelenic and Dunn eventually contribute at a high level.
Diaz and Cano have shown an inability to become their old selves again, and Seattle was smart to sell high on both of them, absorbing potentially elite prospects in the process.
The Worst Trade the Seattle Mariners Have Made Since 2010: Seattle Acquires Jean Segura, Mitch Haniger, and Zac Curtis From the Arizona Diamondbacks for Ketel Marte and Taijuan Walker (November 23, 2016)
I first have to mention that this trade is not all bad for the Mariners. When consistently healthy, Mitch Haniger is an All-Star level player who received MVP votes in 2018. But sometimes the only way to evaluate trades is a simple system: whoever got the single best player won the deal.
Ketel Marte, though it took some time, is far and away the most productive player involved in this blockbuster.
After slashing a puny .259/.287/.323 in his final season in the Emerald City, Marte was shipped off to the D-Backs, an up-and-down team willing to take a chance on a guy with loads of potential and little consistency. In every way, Marte delivered in a career 2019 season.
Marte slashed .329/.389/.592 with 32 home runs, 92 runs batted in, 10 steals, 53 walks, 337 total bases, 7.2 Baseball-Reference, and a 149 OPS+. Earning a fourth-place finish in the National League MVP voting and an All-Star Game appearance for the first time, Marte also dazzled on defense, posting six defensive runs saved in the outfield and two DRS at second base.
He was at first considered the B-side of the deal. Taijuan Walker had shown high-end starter potential with the Mariners since his MLB debut in 2013, and Arizona had targeted front-line rotation pieces for some time. Walker, unfortunately, flamed out fast due to injuries, Tommy John surgery, and struggles to adjust even when health was no issue.
Walker only pitched 171.1 innings in three seasons with the Diamondbacks, the bulk of which came in his 9-9, 3.49 ERA 2017 season. This could have been a disaster of a trade in hindsight for the Diamondbacks, especially since the 27-year-old Walker has returned to Seattle on a one-year free agency deal.
Jean Segura was a valued trade piece from Seattle to the Philadelphia Phillies after his All-Star 2018 season, a trade that got Seattle the services of young shortstop J.P. Crawford, but neither have come close to replicating Marte’s insane 2019 season.
Even if the Mariners weren’t actively trying to win right now, how incredible would it be to have Marte as a trade chip for contending teams? Imagine the haul you could grab, and restock your farm system with, for a .981 OPS superstar. The trade was not a total wash for Seattle, but with Marte’s emergence, a regrettable one indeed.
Stay tuned to Baseball Essential over the next few weeks for more on the best and worst trades made by all 30 MLB clubs over the past 10 years.