Mariners Actually Trade at Deadline

For the first time in what seems like forever, the Mariners were buyers in what was a very busy day in baseball. Today’s deadline was a day that saw multiple blockbusters and Jon Lester, Yoenis Cespedes, and David Price all moved to new teams. It was no secret that the Mariners were in the market for a bat or two, and they managed to come out of the day with a revamped outfield and improved lineup. The M’s approached this deadline very well and have set themselves up for a good run at the playoffs. If they miss the cut no harm, no foul.

Kendrys Morales for Stephen Pryor

Although this was a week ago, this deal set the table for the rest of the deadline deals. Kendrys Morales is a hitter we’re all familiar with. As I’ve recently outlined, this was a great deal for Seattle. Kendrys is a hitter that has proven he can hit in Seattle, and Stephen Pryor is a recently injured reliever who may never be the flamethrower he once was. I won’t go far into it, as you could read my article and see how I feel about it. The deal did show that Seattle could spend a little more cash.

Verdict: I mean, we could have just signed him the first two times but this works. Giving up Pryor isn’t bad at all, given his injury. Although he’s been struggling pretty mightily, Kendrys should provide a steady, powerful bat.

Chris Denorfia for Abe Almonte and Stephen Kohlscheen

In what was the most “meh” trade out of the bunch, Seattle traded Abe Almonte and Stephen Kohlscheen for Chris Denorfia. Over his career, Denorfia has specialized in hitting the crap out of lefties (.301/.367/.443, .354 wOBA and 128 wRC+). Just last year, Denorfia slashed .284/.355/.479 against lefties with a wOBA of .363 and wRC+ of 136. He was worth 3.9 WAR, so if he could recreate his 2013 for the duration of this year he could be a great piece. Denorfia will play in right field, according to Lloyd McClendon, and he should offer solid defense. In Michael Saunders’ stead, Denorfia should see plenty of time in right field and will likely be used in a platoon upon Saunders’ return. Denorfia should provide an upgrade over Endy Chavez and will hopefully bring plus defense in the corners and a batter that can actually hit lefties. Denorfia was someone that the Mariners were reported to have liked for awhile now.

Abraham Almonte is a non-prospect center fielder that was acquired via trade in exchange for DFA’d reliever Shawn Kelley. Almonte was given an extended tryout out of spring training and during his stint Abe struck out too much (35.4% K%), didn’t walk enough (5.3% BB%), and looked bad in the field and on the basepaths. After a mere 27 games, he was sent to AAA Tacoma and has been there ever since. Almonte did look promising in 2013 and was just starting to heat up in AAA.

Stephen Kohlscheen is an imposing reliever standing at 6’6, 235 pounds. Kohlscheen isn’t a hard thrower, throwing a 89-92 mph fastball paired with a below average curveball and changeup. Despite his lack of overpowering stuff, Kohlscheen struck out 55 batters over his 56.2 innings in the minors, while only walking 10. He’s a downhill pitcher a la Chris Young and misses a lot of bats with his sinking fastball. With our bullpen, it shouldn’t be a loss that should be hard to stomach.

Verdict: Solid trade. Denorfia isn’t a world beater by any means but he is an upgrade and could be a great buy low, given his ability to play plus defense in the corners and hit lefty pitchers. His ability to play all three outfield positions is an asset with Michael Saunders being rather injury prone.

Austin Jackson for Nick Franklin

A former baseball and basketball commit at Georgia Tech, Austin Jackson is an all around reliable center fielder. He’s not a burner, he’s not an on-base machine, and he’s not Jose Abreu. However, Austin Jackson does just about everything well. He has the same amount of doubles as Kyle Seager and Robinson Cano thus far, and has also struck out and walked the same exact amount of times as Kyle Seager. (Weird.) Jackson owns a 7.2 career UZR in center field, and Lloyd McClendon called him one of the top three center fielders in all of baseball. That’s probably a little generous but defensively, yeah, he’s good. In a sense, Austin Jackson is what Lloyd McClendon hoped for James Jones and Abraham Almonte to become. For the first time in his major league career, Austin Jackson has been batting in the middle of the lineup and not just leadoff. This year he’s been underwhelming and below average against righties, but against lefties he’s slashed .320/.393/.433 with a wOBA of .365 and wRC+ of 131. His overall numbers are down due to a subpar May and June. However he’s gotten hot as of late. In July he owns a triple slash of .343/.386/.505 and has .388 wOBA and 147 wRC+.

In 2013, minor league specialist John Sickels ranked Nick Franklin the #5 prospect in the Mariners’ system over the likes of fellow shortstop Brad Miller. In his first major league stint with the Mariners, Franklin started off hot in May and June before tailing off sharply the rest of the year. In my opinion, there’s no way in hell Franklin can stick at shortstop. Franklin doesn’t have the arm or the range to be a competent fielder at short. At second, Franklin profiles much better to be a fringe average fielder. He never put it together in his two stints with the Mariners, but I think he is going to hit for decent power and become a doubles and on-base machine eventually. For the Mariners, this move had to be made. Chris Taylor and Brad Miller are both much more viable options at short, Cano is blocking him at second, and sticking him in the corners of the outfield would be a process while zapping his value. Out of all of the prospects we gave up, I wish Nick Franklin the best of luck with the Rays.

Verdict: The upside? One of the better center fielders in the game who provides a good bat and plus defense. At 27 years old, he’s about to enter his supposed prime of his career. The downside? Jackson is in the final two years of his contract, with next year being an arbitration-eligble year. He’ll become a free agent in 2016. Zduriencik did a great job with this trade. Pulling a good everyday center fielder in exchange for a blocked, unproven prospect is one of the better moves Z has made in the past couple years.

Assessment

I am very, very pleased with how Jack Zduriencik handled this deadline. He didn’t trade away our future to save his own ass, and the players he targeted were solid. Finding a center fielder for that cheap is extremely rare, and it is very valuable as well. Center field, shortstop, and catcher are three positions where you want to build your team around. The two things that would have made the deadline even more impressive would be acquiring Ben Zobrist from the Rays, and picking up a middle of the rotation pitcher. From the start, I think the Mariners were after Zobrist more so than David Price but the Rays are probably more culpable than Z is for failing to get a deal done. At one point, they were said to be closing in on a deal to send Zobrist to Seattle. It’s probably a blessing in disguise that David Price didn’t end up in Seattle.

As for a pitcher, I would have loved for the M’s to pick up Ian Kennedy, Bartolo Colon, or someone along those lines, but there can still be trading done in the next month via the waiver deadline until August 31st. For the time being, James Paxton will rejoin the rotation on Saturday against the Orioles and Taijuan Walker will continue to hone his skills in Tacoma. Eventually, Roenis Elias will need to be replaced, so a move of some sorts will have to be made. That could mean calling up Walker, moving Maurer or Wilhelmsen to the rotation, or calling up Erasmo Ramirez or Forrest Snow.

And now, we’ll begin our journey to make the playoffs for the first time since 2001.

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