Seattle Mariners: 7 Best Trades of the Last Decade
The Mariners began the decade (spanning from 2002-2012) coming off a record-tying season with 116 wins and a missed opportunity at the World Series. The latter end of the decade has the team poised for a return to dominance very soon.
A string of ill-fitting managers, a sub-par general manager and the exodus of most remnants of the 2001 team have resulted in a lack of consistency that, for a while, prevented the Mariners from rebuilding a strong team.
The hiring of current General Manager Jack Zduriencik, however, brought new hope to Seattle, and most fans would say that the team is on the right track.
Here's a look at the seven best trades for the Mariners in the last decade.
Brandon Morrow to the Jays for Brandon Leauge and Johermyn Chavez
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On December 23, 2009, the Mariners sent starting pitcher Brandon Morrow to the Toronto Blue Jays for reliever Brandon League and minor league slugger Johermyn Chavez.
Morrow was popular in Seattle, where he predominantly pitched relief, but he was easily worth the acquisition of the team's current closer and a 21-year-old outfielder with an attractive power upside.
After the 2009 season, it looked like Morrow might slot into the starting rotation since he spent the previous two years in a gradual transition. However, Jack Z made the right call in dealing Morrow since the rickety team held no guarantees for performance in 2010.
League was converted to a closer for the 2011 season. He took advantage of the move, saving 37 games (third best in the AL) and receiving an invitation to the AL All-Star team. The Mariners just resigned him for another year at $5 million, but that doesn't mean they'll hang onto him all year—he's a great trade piece.
Two years ago, Chavez hit 32 home runs with a .315 average through 136 games in Single-A (Advanced). Last year was a big step off that mark as he was promoted to Double-A (just 13 homers and a .216 average), but he was one of the top prospects in the M's organization, and he could be a future outfielder on the big league squad.
Morrow has yet to have a solid year with Toronto (they've had him start for two years), so Jack Z's move is looking good thus far. Like the Fister deal though, we'll have to wait another few years to see the full effects of the trade.
J.C. Ramirez, Phillippe Aumont, Tyson Gillies for Cliff Lee
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Bringing Cy Young winner Cliff Lee to Seattle inspired hope in many exasperated fans. He was a hero to join Felix Hernandez in a deadly one-two punch that could have potentially boosted the team to a victorious season.
Unfortunately, we only got to see him for 13 games before he went off to the Texas Rangers, but that was probably the right move.
The great part of this trade was that the Mariners got Cliff Lee for three relatively low-key minor league players. The Philadelphia Phillies were able to send him off because in a deal with the Toronto Blue Jays at the same time, they acquired another Cy Young winner in Roy Halladay.
J.C. Ramirez is a starter currently at the Double-A level with the Phillies' affiliate who pitched 26 games with an unpromising 4.50 ERA.
Tyson Gillies has only played in 31 games over the past two years with no exceptional stats—essentially no loss for the Mariners.
Phillippe Aumont is the most successful of these three prospects: 43 relief appearances with a 2.38 ERA in Double-A and Triple-A last year. He could shape up to be a solid bullpen addition or even a closer, but the Mariners aren't lacking in that area. Cliff Lee eventually turned into some offense which was, and still is, the most glaring need in Seattle.
The Fister Deal
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On July 30 of last year, just a day before the trade deadline, the Seattle Mariners sent starter Doug Fister and reliever David Pauley to the Detroit Tigers in exchange for pitcher Charlie Furbush, outfielder Casper Wells, third baseman Francisco Martinez and a player to be named later (who turned out to be Chance Ruffin).
The Mariners were recently off a dismal 17-game losing streak, pushing the playoffs clearly out of the question and necessitating drastic changes.
Until that point, Fister had gone 3-12 with a 3.33 ERA for the Mariners in 2011. That above-average ERA coupled with a horrific record was a direct reflection of the struggling Mariners offense, so there wasn't any point in keeping Fister around for the remainder of 2011.
He had promise as a future pitcher for the Mariners, but it never really showed in the stat line and his development path was skewed ahead of the offense.
Pauley was having a great year out of the bullpen, but he was much more valuable to the Mariners as a trade token than as a reliever.
Furbush has yet to make a strong impression in Seattle, but he'll be given another look in Spring Training, and he could earn a spot in the starting rotation. He's only 25 compared to Fister who will turn 28 in a few days, so he's more in line with the upcoming hitters on the team.
Wells is one of the more lucrative pieces of the deal—he has a great glove and potential for a strong bottom-of-the-order hitter. He had the misfortune of taking a pitch to the face last August which sidelined him, but he'll be back in Peoria playing for a starting spot.
Francisco Martinez hasn't yet made a major-league impact, but he's only 21, and the hot corner is currently caught up in a three-way competition between Chone Figgins, Kyle Seager and Alex Liddi.
The final piece of the deal, Chance Ruffin, could take over as the Mariners' closer by midseason if General Manager Jack Zduriencik decides to ship current all-star closer Brandon League to a contender.
For the Mariners, there is still a lot to be gained from this trade in future years, but it was a smart move by Jack Z.
Three-Way Deal with Red Sox and Dodgers
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All of the trades thus far have been executed by current GM Jack Zduriencik, and the all of the rest will follow suit. What does that say about the guy before Jack Z in this decade? What's his name? Bill something?
There was also Pat Gillick, but he saved his acquisition prowess for the Phillies. No bitterness here though; I'm a huge fan of Jack Z.
On the day of the trade deadline last season, July 31, 2011, the Mariners were part of a three-team deal that involved them sending pitchers Erik Bedard and Josh Fields to the Boston Red Sox.
They paid high for Bedard back in 2008, hoping he would replicate his 2007 stats with the Baltimore Orioles. It's enough to say that they were sorely disappointed by what they got out of him: just 15 starts in 2008 and 2009 and zilch in 2010.
That being said, many still considered him a talented starter, so the Mariners were able to extract considerable value out of him in this trade.
That value being two young, power prospects: Chih-Hsien Chiang from the Red Sox and Trayvon Robinson from the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Mariners also gave up minor league pitcher Josh Fields in the deal, but he was not labeled as an important part of the team's future.
Robinson played 44 games for the Mariners in left and center field after he came up from LA. His -0.2 offensive WAR and -1.1 defensive WAR added up to a disheartening -1.3 overall WAR, but that was his first major league experience, so there's reason to believe he'll improve.
There is a lot of competition for the major league outfield spots right now, and Robinson is in the thick of it, but Spring Training will be paramount in the final decision. Wedge will likely opt for experience to begin with (I would guess Ichiro, Gutierrez and Carp), but there will undoubtedly be a cache of backup outfielders on the 25-man roster as contingency.
It's very unlikely that Chiang will make the major league roster in April since he's yet to play Triple-A, but a midseason call-up like what we saw with Ackley/Carp is a possibility, depending upon how the outfield performs and how the season is going.
If Ichiro shows no improvement from last year (even with a potential move to third in the order), he could lose the everyday starter spot. And if Gutierrez looks like he has the past couple of years, he will also lose the everyday privilege—that is, if his stomach doesn't sideline him.
There are still a few more people in line ahead of Chiang, but he's on the rise, and his power bat will look pretty nice if the Mariners remain last in run production for the first half of the year.
Ultimately, this trade brought in two young hitters with the potential to start in the next few years and dumped the detriment that Erik Bedard had become. Overall, a smart play by Jack Z.
Cliff Lee to Texas Rangers for Justin Smoak
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Ouch, this one hurt. Just a few months after bringing in Cliff, our hero, Jack Z sent him to the division rival Texas Rangers. Lee had put up numbers that came as a revelation to win-starved Mariners fans, so it was tough to see him go, but it was a prudent move by the GM.
Jack Z knew then, after another weak start to the season, that the team wasn't going anywhere soon, so he cut his losses and went younger.
The whole deal was Cliff Lee, reliever Mark Lowe and cash for Justin Smoak, Josh Lueke, Blake Beavan and Matthew Lawson.
Mark Lowe showed potential to be a staple in the Mariners' bullpen, but like many others mentioned in this list, he wasn't a priority for the team.
Smoak was the big prize here, and I still believe he'll be worth it. This year he's going to break out. No bereavement, no injury, just a consistent year at first and hopefully a consistent group of hitters around him in the order (Ackley, Carp, Montero, Ichiro, Olivo/Jaso, Ryan, Figgins, Gutierrez). He's still only 25, so he has a big career ahead of him if he gets rolling this year.
Lueke was just traded to the Tampa Bay Rays this offseason for John Jaso, a lefty-hitting catcher who will platoon with Olivo. Thinking about it that way, Jaso was another part of the Cliff Lee trade, making it even more of a gain for the Mariners.
Lawson moved into the Indians' system last year after a trade for Aaron Laffey. The Mariners had Laffey for half of a season before the New York Yankees claimed him off waivers. So Lawson turned out to be expendable in the deal.
Beavan, like the aforementioned Furbush, has a shot at the 2012 rotation. Felix Hernandez and Jason Vargas are the only two locks at this point. Furbush, Beavan and Anthony Vasquez all saw time last year and will get another chance this spring. But they'll also have to compete with hot prospects Danny Hultzen and James Paxton as well as recently added veteran Kevin Millwood.
The final word on this trade is a positive one. Sending out an impractical whim and bringing in some young potential is the right idea. Good one, Jack.
Mike Carp, Franklin Gutierrez, Jason Vargas and Others in Three-Way Deal
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December 11, 2008: the Mariners sent JJ Putz, Sean Green and Jeremy Reed to the New York Mets and Luis Valvuena to the Cleveland Indians. In return, they got Mike Carp, Endy Chavez, Aaron Heilman, Maikel Cleto, Ezequiel Carrera and Jason Vargas from the Mets and Franklin Gutierrez from the Indians.
It was a big deal.
Putz had been a decent closer for the team for three years, but a closer is usually the final building block in a championship team, and the Mariners were far from that.
Green, just recently signed by the Texas Rangers, hasn't proven to be any considerable loss, having pitched in just 14 games all of last year and 11 the year before due to injury.
Reed is 3-for-28 since 2009.
At the price of those three, the Mariners received their current number two starter, their current starting center fielder and their potential starting left fielder.
The names Vargas and Carp didn't mean a lot back in 2008, so it was either great foresight on Jack Z's part or a stroke of good luck that set them up so nicely in the 2012 lineup.
Gutierrez, who has had a rough couple of years because of stomach problems, is looking to be in tip-top shape for the start of the 2012 season. His defense will remain outstanding, but hopefully we'll see a major increase in his production at the plate.
I had previously expressed doubts about whether or not Guti should start, but I'm excited to see what he can do at full health.
Pineda and Jose Campos to Yankees for Montero and Hector Noesi
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Finally we arrive at the most recent, biggest and best trade for the Mariners in the last decade: pitchers Michael Pineda and Jose Campos to the New York Yankees for catcher/designated hitter Jesus Montero and pitcher Hector Noesi.
If I can speak for the Mariners community, the general feeling immediately after this trade was announced was one of shock. That shock soon turned into a grudging acceptance and then ended in realized elation.
It's sad to see Pineda, an all-star flamethrower with a wicked slider, go, but there were warning signs last season indicating a burnout or a (re-)injury. Pineda was spectacular before the All-Star break, but as his innings total climbed above 100, his ERA began to shoot up and he started coming out of games earlier.
Sure, it was his rookie season, but he didn't even really make it into August with his grade-A stuff. He'll probably return to top form at the start of 2012, but he may lose effectiveness even sooner since he won't have the deep fences of SAFECO or the first-time surprise in opposing hitters on his side anymore.
While it was cool to see King Felix and Prince Pineda go at it together, there's a lot more promise in the Mariners farm system that's brewing up as you read. Danny Hultzen, James Paxton, Erasmo Ramirez and Taijuan Walker all have good shots at making the rotation between this year and 2014.
So getting rid of Pineda was almost a burden lifted from our shoulders, and in exchange, we got Jesus Montero!
There are a number of reasons why Montero is a great fit for the Mariners, and, personally, I'm thrilled to see how he fares this year, his rookie year, against major-league pitching. He's been a highly-touted hitting prospect for a while now, and he hit four home runs and four doubles in 61 at-bats last year, but that doesn't qualify as a significant sample—just a refreshing glimpse into the future.
It actually seems like nearly all of the trades in this list have built up to the next decade for the Mariners. With imposing talents like Ackley, Walker, Montero, Paxton and Hultzen on the rise, a return to glory seems incontrovertible.