The Mariners bolstered their bullpen by acquiring David Phelps from the Miami Marlins in exchange for minor league outfielder Brayan Hernandez and right-handed pitchers Brandon Miller, Pablo Lopez, Lukas Schiraldi.
Phelps comes with club control through the 2018 season, so he will presumably help this year’s and next year’s bullpen.
Last year, Phelps was an effective reliever for the Marlins, striking out 114 batters in 86.2 innings with a 2.28 ERA. He walked 38 and gave up six home runs.
This year, Phelps has already allowed five home runs, and some early-season struggles have contributed to his 3.45 ERA. But as our very own Colby Patnode pointed out this morning on Twitter, Phelps has been on a run since mid-to-late April:
Three of Phelps’ five home runs this season came in the first month of the season. Two came in the same appearance, his very first of the season on April 3rd against the Washington Nationals.
The Mariners need pitchers of all kinds who can contribute at the big-league level. After I and many others wrote Scott Servais‘ team off just a few weeks ago and started looking around for players to sell for next year, Seattle went on a 5-1 road trip to start the second half and now sit just 1.5 games behind the New York Yankees for the second Wild Card position. And guess who’s coming to dinner for four games at Safeco? The Mariners could have a Wild Card spot after their home series with New York. If Phelps can continue his success for the remainder of the season, he’ll shorten games and give Servais more options out of the bullpen, which has caused problems this season.
Dipoto gave up four players to get Phelps. Hernandez, a nineteen-year-old Dominican center fielder who signed with Seattle with a $1.85 million signing bonus. Hernandez could end up being a five-tool outfielder, or he could not. He was the sixth-ranked prospect in the Mariners system.
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While Hernandez hasn’t impressed with his bat so far, he’s already considered a fast and polished defender in the outfield. Trading a rangy outfielder, which the Mariners have in spades with Ben Gamel, Guillermo Heredia, Jarrod Dyson, and Mitch Haniger at the Major League level and Tyler O’Neill, Kyle Lewis, and others at the minor league level, makes sense for a team trying to win now.
Maybe Dipoto would have tried to buy regardless of the Mariners performance in the opening week after the All-Star Break, but after a successful roadtrip, Dipoto’s move makes even more sense. There’s a risk, of course, that Hernandez turns out to the be the next Adam Jones, but baseball is a risky game. The other pitchers could pan out to be useful Major League starters or relievers in a few years, but there’s no guarantee any of them will or would have make it in the Marlins or Mariners systems.
Dipoto seemed to pay a heavy price for a reliever, but prospects are never sure things, especially teenagers like Hernandez. With the most important series starting tonight against the Yankees, the Mariners have at least one other arm to get outs and protect leads. It could be a season-saving move. The benefits this season and next outweigh the risks of giving up too much talent.