After weeks of waiting, the Mariners made plenty of noise at the last minute. Seattle acquired Kendrys Morales last week before remaking its outfield Thursday with the additions of Chris Denorfia and Austin Jackson.
General manager Jack Zduriencik was placed under plenty of pressure at the deadline but did well to improve the Mariners roster without sacrificing Seattle’s farm system. All three moves should improve the team to varying degrees, and the Mariners kept their top three prospects in the process.
With a small chance for more to come during the waiver period in August, here’s where the Mariners currently stand.
Mariners acquire 1B/DH Kendrys Morales from the Minnesota Twins for RP Stephen Pryor
The Mariners’ first move before the trade deadline was a surprising one, as they brought back Morales after he rejected a qualifying offer from the team in the offseason that would have paid him more this season:
The #Mariners have acquired 1B/DH Kendrys Morales from the Twins in exchange for RHP Stephen Pryor. Morales will report to the club tomorrow— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) July 24, 2014
Seattle is hoping that Morales used his time in Minnesota as spring training and will begin to turn things around soon. He hit .277/.336/.448 with the Mariners a year ago, good for a 118 wRC+. Anything close to those numbers over the rest of the season would be huge for the Mariners. It hasn’t worked out in a small sample size so far, though, as Morales has one hit in 21 plate appearances since the deal.
Morales may not get going, but it’s not like the team was getting any production out of the designated hitter spot before his arrival. Corey Hart has posted a 75 wRC+ and has looked lost at the plate since coming off the disabled list on July 4.
The Mariners didn’t give up much value to get Morales, either. Pryor has not looked like the same pitcher after undergoing major lat surgery last August and has lost about 4 mph off his fastball.
Pryor could recover eventually and turn into a promising reliever again, but the Mariners bullpen is deep and mostly under club control for the foreseeable future. The chances of Pryor pitching in anything more than a September mop-up this year were slim.
Overall, this move won’t have a big impact either way, but it was worth a shot from the Mariners’ perspective.
Grade: B-. Nothing to get excited about, but Morales should at least be a minor upgrade at DH. Even if he doesn’t get going, the Mariners are no worse off.
Mariners acquire OF Chris Denorfia from San Diego Padres for OF Abraham Almonte and RP Stephen Kohlscheen
The Mariners had been eyeing Denorfia and picked him up with a couple of hours to spare Thursday, per Ken Rosenthal of Fox Spots:
After a number of strong years with the Padres, Denorfia is a bit down in 2014, with a .242/.293/.319 line. Still, he’s a cheap upgrade to Seattle’s current outfield situation.
Denorfia is a good platoon candidate at the very least, as he has posted a career 122 wRC+ against left-handed pitching. Combined with good defense at all three outfield positions and decent speed on the bases, Denorfia has been worth 0.6 WAR this season and posted a career-high mark of 3.9 just a year ago.
For comparison, Corey Hart, Endy Chavez and Stefen Romero have all been below replacement level in 2014.
With the acquisition of Jackson, Ryan Divish of The Seattle Times reports Denorfia will play every day in right field:
McClendon said he plans to play Denorfia in right field and play him a lot.— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) July 31, 2014
Denorfia will likely platoon with either Dustin Ackley or Michael Saunders when the latter returns in a few weeks from an oblique injury.
The price was higher than the Morales deal, but the Mariners didn’t give up anyone who figures prominently into their plans, either for the rest of this season or the future.
Almonte has a lot of raw talent and played well in the majors last September but struggled earlier this season. He struck out in 35.4 percent of his plate appearances in April and continued to have issues making contact in Triple-A, blocking any chance of being promoted to Seattle again.
Kohlscheen has posted a 3.28 ERA (3.79 FIP) in Triple-A this season while displaying excellent control. He's a solid relief prospect, but several players stand between him and the majors on the organizational depth chart.
Denorfia will be a bigger upgrade than Morales and, again, didn’t cost the team much.
Grade: B+. Denorfia isn’t a big name, but this is a cheap, low-risk upgrade that makes sense for the Mariners.
The Mariners didn’t end up landing Price, but they were participants in a trade concerning the star pitcher. Bob Dutton of The Tacoma News Tribune confirms Seattle's portion of the deal was sending Franklin to Tampa Bay while receiving Jackson from Detroit:
#Mariners getting Austin Jackson from Tigers. Sending Nick Franklin to Rays.— Bob Dutton (@TNT_Mariners) July 31, 2014
With Jackson, the Mariners acquire a proven major leaguer who has put together three separate seasons of at least 3.1 WAR. He’s a bit down this year, with a .270/.330/.397 line and 1.2 WAR, but those numbers look good when compared to most of Seattle’s lineup.
He has also been on a hot streak lately, posting an .891 OPS in July. The Mariners are slipping and need that kind of boost as soon as possible.
Jackson plays at least average defense and adds a much-needed right-handed bat to Seattle’s lineup. Overall, he’s going to be a significant upgrade both at the plate and in the field.
He will be replacing James Jones, who has crashed at the plate and in the field, as the everyday center fielder. Jones may be kept in the majors for his speed off the bench, but he at least needs to be in right field, if not in Triple-A.
It also looks like Jackson will replace Jones at the top of the order:
McClendon said he'll likely bat Austin Jackson as the lead-off.— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) July 31, 2014
While Franklin has more upside as a prospect, he simply hasn’t translated his outstanding Triple-A numbers to the majors yet. The Mariners need players like Jackson who have had multiple years of success in the big leagues to stay in the wild-card hunt, not ones learning on the fly.
Plus, Franklin simply had no place to play in Seattle, with Robinson Cano entrenched at second base. Franklin doesn’t have the glove for a utility role and will get a much better chance to be an everyday player in Tampa Bay.
Jackson isn’t a rental, either, as he’s under club control via arbitration in 2015. This is a creative trade from the Mariners that seems likely to have positive results.
Grade: A. This is clearly the biggest move of the deadline for Seattle. On paper, it looks like a shrewd trade from Zduriencik and will certainly make the Mariners better for the rest of this season and next year.
Just as important as the players Mariners received is who they managed to keep.
How would you grade the Mariners' deadline performance?
Seattle hung on to D.J. Peterson, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker, tempting as it might have been to go all-in for a chance at the franchise’s first playoff appearance in 13 years. In particular, it was critical to hang on to Peterson, as the Mariners can’t afford to lose any potential power hitters from the system.
Paxton has also had five excellent starts in the major leagues already and will be a key member of Seattle’s rotation down the stretch. Only Walker might have made some sense to trade for an impact bat, but none were available.
The team, as it currently stands, still faces tough odds to make the playoffs, but it’s hard to view Seattle’s performance at the deadline as anything but a success.
Overall: A-. The Mariners got substantially better in the outfield, and likely slightly better at designated hitter, at the cost of some minor pieces and Franklin. With the limited options available, Zduriencik did well to manage Seattle’s present and future.
All stats via FanGraphs.com unless otherwise noted.