- Mariners acquire LHP David Price
- Rays acquire RHP Taijuan Walker, 2B/SS Nick Franklin, RHP Dominic Leone
While Cano’s contract will likely prevent Seattle from signing another big-name free agent this offseason, the popular belief is that the organization is going to deal for Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price.
Despite graduating Nick Franklin, Brandon Maurer, Brad Miller and Mike Zunino to the major leagues in 2013, the Mariners have both the talent and depth on the farm to execute a potential blockbuster trade.
Even though top prospect Taijuan Walker’s name previously appeared in trade rumors last week, the Mariners are reluctant to include him in a trade.
At least that’s what they want everyone to believe.
The organization’s decision to sign free agent Robinson Cano to a 10-year, $240 million suggests means it isn't messing around and plans on contending during the back end of the 31-year-old’s prime seasons.
So if the Mariners go big and make a move for Price, it’s simply a reality that Walker will be included.
Selected by the Mariners in the supplemental first round of the 2010 draft, Walker has everything you want in a future ace. At 6’4” and 210 pounds, the right-hander is an outstanding athlete with a fluid delivery, quick arm and exceptional stuff.
After dealing at Double-A Jackson and Triple-A Tacoma during the regular season, Walker, 21, was called up the major leagues in September, where he registered a 3.60 ERA and 12-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 15 innings spanning three impressive starts.
Walker boasts a plus-plus fastball that reaches the upper-90s, and he has also developed a high-80s/low-90s cutter that should be at least above-average at maturity. Although his command of both pitches was vastly improved this past season, he still tends to leave too many up in the zone—something that will need to improve moving forward.
Both of Walker’s secondary offerings are also in need of refinement. The right-hander induces whiffs with a curveball that has big-time depth and heavy downer action, though his lack of control makes it an inconsistent offering. Meanwhile, he’s still developing a feel for a changeup that’s average at the moment but plays up when he’s working the corners with the fastball and cutter.
A 2009 first-round draft pick, Nick Franklin opened the 2013 season on fire at Triple-A Tacoma, batting .324/.440/.472 with 13 extra-base hits and more walks (30) than strikeouts (20) in 39 games.
Franklin’s red-hot start to the minor league season ultimately earned the 22-year-old an ahead-of-schedule promotion to the major leagues in late May.
It didn’t take long for Franklin to carve out his role as the team’s everyday second baseman for the offense-starved Mariners. At the All-Star break in July, Franklin was considered a legitimate Rookie of the Year candidate in the AL after batting .268/.337/.451 with 16 extra-base hits (six home runs), five stolen bases and a 36-to-16 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 169 plate appearances.
However, his second half of the season was essentially a two-and-a-half month slump during which he pressed at the plate and swung through everything. As a result, Franklin batted .194/.280/.333 with a 77-to-26 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 243 plate appearances during that span.
While Franklin’s overall body of work as a rookie was impressive, it’s difficult to look past the severity of his struggles following the All-Star break. And with Cano now in the equation and presumably taking over at second base next season, the 22-year-old now represents the Mariners’ most expendable young player.
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay has been attempting to solidify its middle-infield situation for the last several years with minimal success. So expect Franklin to be included in a potential trade should the Mariners pursue Price.
Dominic Leone may not look like much at 5’11” and 185 pounds, but don’t let his size fool you.
Selected in the 16th round of the 2012 draft out of Clemson, Leone hopped on the fast track to the major leagues this past season (also his full-season debut).
The 22-year-old—in his age-21 season—amassed 16 saves and posted a 2.25 ERA with a 64-to-18 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 64 innings between Low-A Clinton, High-A High Desert and Double-A Jackson.
Concern about Leone’s size and lack of downhill plane will continue to follow him through his career. However, that should never detract from the overall nastiness of his stuff.
The right-hander boasts a mid-90s fastball that will play up due to his quick arm and release point. Leone will also attack hitters with a cutter that comes in a few ticks below his regular fastball velocity and features late slicing action to the glove side. Leone’s out-pitch is a nasty slider that dives out of the zone at the last minute to generate a favorable number of strikeouts and weak-hit outs.
While he’ll presumably open the 2014 season in the minor leagues—either at Double- or Triple-A—it shouldn’t take long for Leone to pitch his way to the major leagues. Once he gets the call, Leone’s combination of plus, swing-and-miss stuff and an above-average command profile should allow him to carve out a role as a solid seventh- or eighth-inning arm.
With a host of young, hard-throwing relievers ahead of him on Seattle's depth chart, Leone represents intriguing trade bait given his proximity to the major leagues and could serve as a solid third player in a deal for Price.