Mariners Swap Depth With Phillies

While the majority of us on the west coast were complaining about losing an hour’s sleep, Jerry Dipoto was using the hour he didn’t lose in Arizona to make his first trade in nearly two weeks. The Philadelphia Phillies are sending outfielder Joey Curletta to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for switch-pitcher Pat Venditte. Curletta will report to Seattle’s minor league camp.

While this has the feel of a move made almost for the sake of making a move — Dipoto hadn’t made a trade in a while — there is a path of logic that can be followed.

Venditte, 31, was designated for assignment back in November and was sent to Triple-A Tacoma after clearing waivers. Although he offers the unique ability to pitch both right and left-handed, in 50 and 2/3 major league innings he owns a 4.97 ERA and a 5.01 FIP. He’s been excellent against left-handers though, including a 10.96 strikeouts per nine innings.

But given the influx of new pitchers on the roster and Venditte no longer holding a spot on the 40-man roster, there didn’t appear to be much of a chance of him appearing in a game for the Mariners this season.

Instead he will join a rebuilding Phillies club that may offer a better chance at a big league job. Currently Venditte is pitching for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic.

Curletta is an interesting add for the Mariners. Interesting because he was the player the Phillies acquired when they traded now current-Mariner Carlos Ruiz to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Also interesting because Curletta isn’t the traditional athletic-type of player that the organization has been pursuing.

Selected in the sixth round of the 2012 draft by the Dodgers, the 23-year-old boasts plenty of raw power and a terrific throwing arm. However his poor contact abilities minimize the potential of the power and his strikeout rate fits the profile.

His 6-foot-4 and 245 pound frame is likely what limits his mobility in the outfield and on the bases — he grades out with below average speed — but he isn’t sluggish, per se.  The bat is interesting and Curletta has been able to draw walks at an eight-to-ten percent clip despite the strikeouts living in the 30 percent range during his five years in the minors. The concern here is that the strikeout rate has only increased as he’s moved up through the minors and faced better pitching.

Curletta figures to start the year at Double-A with Seattle’s new affiliate, the Arkansas Travelers. In 107 plate appearances with the Dodgers’ Double-A affiliate at the end of last season he posted a .206/.280/.371 slash line with an 88 wRC+, so there’s still plenty of work to do. He added four home runs in that time frame and when he connects with the ball, it can go a long way. The challenge for the Mariners player development staff will be to make that contact occur more often.

At 23 the book has started on the outfielder, but it is far from written. Really, in exchange for a waiver-wire reliever, Seattle is able to pick up a prospect with some projectability. He’s a project for sure, but there’s potential. Not bad for a Sunday morning in March.

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Tyler Carmont

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