Are the Seattle Mariners Better After Their Winter of Wheeling and Dealing?
The Seattle Mariners have been doing more wheeling and dealing than a collection of half-drunk 17th century colonial fur traders this winter.
Since the end of the 2016 season, general manager Jerry Dipoto has been a swapping machine, attempting to supplement his handful of stars with enough useful pieces that he hopes can turn the M's into a playoff contender. On Wednesday, he pulled off what has to be his final major deal of the winter, bringing starting pitcher Drew Smyly aboard in exchange for Mallex Smith and two other players.
That’s 11 trades this off-season for #Mariners. Acquisition of Smyly from #Rays deepens rotation. Felix, Iwakuma, Paxton, Smyly, Gallardo.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) January 11, 2017
No team in baseball has transacted as many trades as the Mariners, and fans will certainly remember the Mallex Smith era with great fondness.
Mallex Smith was traded twice today in a span of 77 minutes. https://t.co/7H5hoxBFxX pic.twitter.com/BYMwaxC8T4
— Cut4 (@Cut4) January 11, 2017
So many jerseys being burned. So sad.
Since the offseason began, here are all the major trades Dipoto and his merry band of swappers have completed. Chances are your team was involved in one of them.
|11/7/2016||LHP Vidal Nuno||C Carlos Ruiz|
|11/12/2016||RHP Paul Blackburn||IF/OF Danny Valencia|
|11/23/2016||RHP Taijuan Walker, INF Ketel Marte||SS Jean Segura, OF Mitch Haniger, LHP Zac Curtis|
|11/28/2016||OF Alex Jackson & PTBNL||RHP Rob Whalen, RHP Max Povse|
|12/7/2016||PTBNL||RHP Chris Heston|
|1/6/2017||RHP Nathan Karns||OF Jarrod Dyson|
|1/6/2017||OF Seth Smith||RHP Yovani Gallardo|
|1/11/2017||LHP Luiz Gohara, LHP Thomas Burrows||OF Mallex Smith, RHP Shae Simmons|
|1/11/2017||OF Mallex Smith, SS Carlos Vargas, LHP Ryan Yarbrough||LHP Drew Smyly|
That's a lot of dancing on the 40-man roster, but have all these changes helped the Mariners improve from a team that went 86-76 and finished three games out of the wild card race and nine games behind the Texas Rangers in the AL West last season?
The additions of Smyly to the rotation and Simmons to the bullpen were well-liked by Fangraphs' projections, which gave Seattle an additional two wins after the deals were made. They're now projected to go 84-78, which would be tied for the fourth-best record in the American League. But I don't share Fangraphs' optimism on the Smyly deal.
The dude wasn't good last year, posting a 7-12 record in 30 starts (175.1 innings pitched), a 4.88 ERA, a FIP of 4.49, and an ERA+ of 83 (100 is considered league average). It was easily his worst season since debuting in 2012, but we've all seen that when he's on, the southpaw can do some things.
Smyly just plain got hit like a rented mule last season, with a slash line of .253/.307/.456, up from his career line of .233/.290/.395 heading into '16. He also developed a small neck and shoulder problem, which doctors said was largely attributed to his head snapping around as he gave up 32 home runs last year, sixth most in baseball. At least, that would make sense.
But he isn't being asked to front the Seattle rotation, either. He'll likely slot in behind the aging Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and James Paxton, with newly-acquired Yovani Gallardo in the mix. The Mariners also traded for former San Francisco Giants hurler Chris Heston a few weeks ago, who provides decent depth either in Triple-A or as a long reliever. It's not a rotation that will make teams get the jelly-legs, but it's one that, if healthy, can keep them competitive.
And Smyly did have some positive peripherals last year. His 3.41 K-BB ratio was 27th out of 73 qualified starting pitchers, and only six pitchers did better at inducing softly-hit balls than him, those being Kyle Hendricks, CC Sabathia, Tanner Roark, Jake Arrieta, R.A. Dickey and Max Scherzer. He doesn't throw hard, averaging just over 90 mph on his fastball, but his 77% contact rate and 10.5% whiff rate showed he can miss some bats and be in the same neighborhood as Arrieta, Jon Lester, Hendricks and David Price.
The M's hope to put a ton of runs up on the board with the newly-acquired Danny Valencia manning first base and Jean Segura at shortstop, joining an infield that also features Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager, as well as DH Nelson Cruz. That powerful group of players allows Seattle to now play a defense-first outfield, with former Royal Jarrod Dyson in left, Leonys Martin in center and Mitch Haniger in right.
Perhaps the least-talked about but just-as-important move is the acquisition of Shae Simmons from Atlanta. He's a solid middle reliever who missed time to injury last season, but has a fastball that averages in the mid-90s and is accompanied by a pretty good breaking ball. He'll be the set-up man for closer Edwin Diaz, a thing Seattle needed desperately.
The Mariners are going to go as far as King Felix, Iwakuma, Paxton, and their dominant middle of the order take them. If some of those guys falter, they're sunk, but they're going to need an improved bullpen and a back of the rotation that can also hold down the fort. If Seattle gets the 2016 version Smyly and Gallardo, they're in big trouble.
The M's finally appear to be done trading, and now must wait to see if they got the real deal, or the faux furs.