Back when the Major League Baseball season was ending in late September, I penned a column advocating for the Seattle Mariners to tear everything down and start anew. My argument was that the team was old and in decline, the farm system was barren, and the only way to avoid another decade of playoff-less baseball was to tear it down in an effort to build a base for what could be a contending team in five years time.
I’m sure Seattle general manager Jerry Dipoto isn’t taking any pointers from me. But it sure appears we were thinking on the same wavelength.
Over the course of the past month the Mariners have executed a sweeping series of trades in which they’ve exchanged a big chunk of their veteran core for prospects who should elevate Seattle’s farm system well above it’s last-place standing from 2018. Let’s list them:
- Catcher Mike Zunino, oufielder Guillermo Heredia and prospect pitcher Michael Plassmeyer were traded to Tampa Bay for center fielder Mallex Smith and prospect outfielder Jake Fraley.
- Starting pitcher James Paxton was flipped to the New York Yankees for prospect pitchers Justus Sheffield and Erik Swanson and prospect outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams.
- Reliever Alex Colome was sent to the Chicago White Sox for catcher Omar Narvaez.
- In a deal expected to be completed Monday, closer Edwin Diaz and second baseman Robinson Cano are being traded to the New York Mets for outfielder Jay Bruce, reliever Anthony Swarzak, prospect outfielder Jarred Kelenic and prospect pitchers Justin Dunn and Gerson Bautista.
- Rumors suggest the next deal will see shortstop Jean Segura traded to Philadelphia in exchange for first baseman Carlos Santana and shortstop J.P. Crawford, with other moving parts possibly involved.
If all that comes to pass, that’s a big part of the team that won 89 games in 2018 gone. According to FanGraphs.com, Zunino, Paxton, Diaz, Cano and Segura were all among Seattle’s 11 most valuable players lat season.
In return the Mariners received — or are theoretically receiving — a few players who could help in 2019 (Smith, Narvaez, Crawford), a handful of salary-dump veterans who are just as likely to get traded again as to ever play a game in a Mariners uniform (Bruce, Swarzak, Santana), and several prospects who will replenish Seattle’s farm system (Fraley, Sheffield, Swanson, Thompson-Williams, Kelenic, Dunn, Bautista).
The prospects are the truly valuable chips Seattle received in return. The 22-year-old Sheffield was the Yankees’ top-rated prospect and ranked No. 31 on MLB.com’s year-end top-100 prospects list. The 19-year-old Kelenic, the sixth-overall pick in the 2018 draft, is ranked 62nd and is considered a potential five-tool player. the 23-year-old Dunn was a first-round pick in 2016 who’s had some success in double-A and is ranked No. 89. For context, the Mariners had no top-100 players prior to their arrival. In addition, Swanson and Thompson-Williams have already claimed spots among Seattle’s top 14.
And who knows who gets dealt next. Is this the end of the teardown, or are the likes of Mitch Haniger and Marco Gonzales up next?
Regardless, this is major upheaval, and in the short term it’s going to hurt. Seattle is going to lose big in 2019, but the hope is this begins a process similar to the one the Houston Astros underwent to build their current championship-caliber roster.
So what do you think? Is this the right move for the Mariners, and have they received enough value in return for their veterans? Voice your opinion here: