It’s been said for years and years that the Seattle Mariners would like to acquire an outfielder. This year it’s no different – the M’s are short on outfield talent, and so it’s been said that they want to go get an outfielder. Jerry Dipoto has made it clear that he has no attachment to the bullpen he inhereted, and today we again saw him send out a relief arm in exchange for something he likes a little better.
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The Mariners and the Texas Rangers have reportedly struck a deal – Tom Wilhelmsen, James Jones, and a PTBNL in exchange for center fielder Leonys Martin and right-handed reliever Anthony Bass. First impression: the AL West of the last five-ish years has made a huge amount of intra-division trades. Second impression: none of these players are all that interesting.
Let’s start with the guy some of us might actually miss: The Bartender has long been a fan favorite, and last season he even went as far as to reclaim a long lost job as the team’s closer. He was the best M’s reliever not named Carson Smith (or Mark Lowe) a year ago, and now he plays for a division rival. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, even if he is “just” a reliever.
The primary piece Seattle is getting here is Martin, who was the Rangers’ starting center fielder from 2013 until midway through the 2015 season, when breakout rule 5 wonder Delino DeShields Jr. stole the job out from under him. Martin never got the gig back, and yet now he’s presumably slated to start in center for the Mariners. This should be the first big sign that this isn’t exactly a thrilling trade.
Leonys Martin’s 2015 batting line: .219/.264/.313. That’s a 50 wRC+, which is incredible in that it’s so, so bad. Mike Zunino‘s 2015 wRC+ was 47. Leonys Martin just hit like Mike Zunino just hit. You hate this.
He’s not going to turn a corner, either. In the years he spent as Texas’s regular center fielder, he posted wRC+ figures of 87 and 89. That’s the bounceback the Mariners are hoping for, and it very well might be his ceiling. He’ll play the 2016 season at 28 years of age – right in his prime. Which was more or less where he was when he was hitting worse than almost everyone in the league and losing his job.
Of course, the point of Martin isn’t his bat – he’s a glove guy. In 2013 Martin was worth 2.9 WAR, and in 2014 it was 3.5. He was the best non-Adrian Beltre 2014 Ranger, which is impressive if you ignore that those Rangers lost 95 games. When he hits ten percent worse than the league, his glove is enough to make him a starter. When he hits fifty percent worse than the league, he’s a late innings defensive replacement.
The other piece the Mariners are picking up is Anthony Bass, a 28-year-old reliever who’s spent time with the Padres, Rangers, and Astros. He’s never been any good, and has the crappy ERAs and strikeout rates to show for it. He hasn’t gotten strikeouts in the minors, either, and I’m honestly not sure what Dipoto is up to here. Bass isn’t good, and doesn’t seem to be on the verge of being good. He was worth 0.3 WAR last year, and had an FIP of 3.73. His ERA was 4.50. Yeah, I don’t know you guys.
The M’s also shipped out James Jones, who sucks, and a player to be named later who is probably going to be someone the Rangers would have otherwise wanted to take in the rule 5 draft. This as-yet-unnamed player is probably going to be a mid-level non-prospect, but the Rangers have got to be feeling at least a little cocky after the way their last selection worked out for them.
This trade comes down to one thing: Martin’s ability to fully recover from an awful 2015. If he gets his offense back to where it was in 2013/2014, then the Mariners came up on a useful piece. If he doesn’t, then Wilhelmsen is probably the best player in the trade. Worst case scenario involves Jones pinch running in the playoffs as Wilhelmsen racks up important late inning outs. Best case scenario is the Rangers are contracted and the Mariners win every World Series for the rest of human history.
It’s not that I don’t like this trade, it’s just that I’m not moved by it. Leonys Martin is on the Mariners, and I don’t really have a lot to say about that. He’s not useless, as his defense gives him something of a floor. But last season showed us that his floor isn’t really all that high, and the Mariners gave up an oft-useful relief arm to get him. Even if he bounces back, he’s not a very compelling player. And he’ll never hit. The Mariners offense is clicking into place, so it’s not like they need him to hit. Just, ne’s never going to. That much is all but guaranteed.
The Mariners are no better or worse for having made this deal. They’re just different. The 2016 Mariners are going to look different, and Jerry Dipoto is going to make absolute sure of it.