In another trade that swapped some probability for club control and added outfield defense, the Seattle Mariners have acquired Leonys Martin and swing reliever Anthony Bass in exchange for right-hander Tom Wilhelmsen, outfielder James Jones and a player to be named. And no, the player to be named isn’t Taijuan Walker, or even Roenis Elias or D.J. Peterson.

The Mariners get a top-half glove in center field in Martin, 28 in March, who struggled at the plate in 2015 — .219/.264/.313 — due to a rather curious fall in BABIP from .319 and .336 to .270, but also an uptick in strikeout rate.

Martin is a left-handed bat with 30 power but a decent line-drive stroke that remains very much a ‘1290’ type — No. 1, 2 or 9 in the order, or a bench bat (the ‘0’). He’s a well above-average runner, posting times under 3.8 seconds on bunts in the past, handles the bat pretty well and as a base runner and a base stealer is among the smarter players in the league.

Defensively the glove is plus, consistently impressing the scouting eye with solid routes and terrific jumps on balls to either side. He’s an accurate thrower and possesses above-average arm strength. At 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, Martin physically is the prototype center fielder.

When Martin was signed, all the main boxes were checked; speed, arm, bat speed that suggested some power and the acumen and instincts to make it all work. But the swing needed work, and probably still does in an ideal world. Safeco is a non-issue for Martin offensively.

If the bat bounces back some and he stays healthy all year, the Mariners probably have a 2-2.5 win center fielder at worst, and he’s just now entering arbitration s he comes off a major-league deal that made him $15 million over five years. Don’t be surprised if he cuts a multi-year deal with Seattle rather than going year to year.

Bass, essentially, is meant for the role Wilhelmsen played under Lloyd McClendon until late last season when he handled the ninth inning again: Swiss Army Knife.

The 28-year-old is a five-pitch arm; two-seam, four-seam, cutter, slider and changeup. He came to pro ball with a curveball, but has ditched the pitch and succeeded without it.

From a high three-quarters arm slot, Bass sits 91-95 mph with all three fastball options, setting up a true slider in the mid-80s and low-to-mid 80s changeup. His two-seamer and slider are his best pitches but the split-style changeup was more of a factor for him in 2015 and is a pitch he’ll need in any expanded role. When he needs the strikeout his usage of the slider spikes and the four-seamer becomes almost 100 percent non-existent.

Bass is best suited as a long reliever, but can start in a pinch despite a relatively high-effort delivery. He has problems versus left-handed pitching, mostly due to problems pitching effectively away from them, which may be where improving the use of his cutter and two-seamer can help. He’s done a solid job keeping the ball in the yard, despite being more of a fly ball arm, even though his ground ball rates are up the past two years.

Bass also is arbitration-eligible for the first time this winter and is probably in line for a similar salary as Wilhelmsen’s $1.4 million this past season.

The Rangers get a versatile arm in The Bartender, who stills reaches the 94-97 mph range with a straight four-seamer, but has added a useful cutter-slider to his arsenal. When he has a feel for it, his 12-6 curveball is as good as there is. Wilhelmsen is likely to receive a salary in the $3-4 million range via arbitration this offseason. He’s not the worst option at closer, but unlikely to overtake Shawn Tolleson. He can start in a pinch and cover multiple innings at any point in the game.

Wilhelmsen is held back by spotty control that leads to less-than-ideal walk rates — he’s ended each of the last three seasons between 4.08 and 5.03 walks per nine innings. He’s not much of a ground ball guy, so the Rangers will have to hope he throws more strikes and his 8.7 K/9 in 2015 repeats or gets better.

James Jones is a terrific athlete who’s below-average in center, above-average in a corner with consistent time and offers a plus throwing arm. Despite a 6-foot-4, 200-pound frame, Jones cannot hit for power thanks to a swing more reminisce of Juan Pierre than Fred McGriff. He’s a 65-70 grade runner and base stealer and embraces any and every role club’s present to him. Jones is depth for Texas.

Player To-Be Named is all ages, has both no playable skills and every skill known to man and has them at every grade stop between 20 and 80. Can pitch OR play the field, but not both, and likely brings six years of club control to the table.

The Mariners more-than replace Austin Jackson‘s glove in center and there’s a chance Martin gives them more at the plate — and he’ll do it for about half what Jackson was paid in 2015. The club’s bullpen loses Wilhelmsen, but Bass is a worthy seventh arm if not more.

Since taking over, Jerry Dipoto has added about $6-7 million in salary for 2016, but already the outfield defense is at least 10 runs better with a chance for more. The bullpen is better, and deeper, despite losing Wilhelmsen’s versatility, and exactly zero pieces sent away in trade is going to be missed by the club on the field in 2016, including Brad Miller, who is far less valuable in left field than at shortstop.

It’s early, and the club has many areas to address still, but it’s been a very strong start for the new regime in Seattle, and if you’re a fan of the team and aren’t impressed with the names brought in, there’s absolutely no question the game plan is correct, which isn’t something the club has had in the front office since Year 2 of the Jack Zduriencik era.

Next up for Dipoto and company: C, SP, RP, part-time or full-time RF, veteran reserve infielder that can play SS. Sounds like a lot, but again, the club has barely used any of its available resources as we near the winter meetings and the heart of the offseason.

Acquiring Martin, and after the Boog Powell and Franklin Gutierrez transactions, likely means the Brett Gardner rumors will die down for Seattle. I wouldn’t completely rule it out — Gardner can play left or center and the presumed Gutierrez-Seth Smith platoon can handle either corner — but the salary and likely trade cost seems a little out of character for what Dipoto has done and is doing.

Gerardo Parra still fits, as might Rajai Davis and a number of potential non-roster invites. Free agent Denard Span seems to be a player the Mariners aren’t likely to be that interested with the addition of Martin.

As for that reserve infielder, Clint Barmes might make some sense, and Alexi Amarista (Padres) and Jose Ramirez (Indians) could be available and fill such a role.

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Jason A. Churchill

Churchill founded Prospect Insider in 2006 after getting his start at InsidethePark.com. He spent several years covering prep, college and pro sports for various newspapers, including The News Tribune and Seattle PI. Jason spent 4 1/2 years at ESPN and two years at CBS Radio prior to joining HERO Sports in July, 2016. Find Jason's Mariners podcast, Baseball Things, right here and follow him on Twitter @ProspectInsider.

15 Comments

  1. The difference is that I sometimes disagree with things that you – or some other real person – actually said.

  2. Jerry, you might heed your own words:

    “Again, you are grossly misrepresenting the ideas of other people in order to make yourself look smart”

    You spend many words trying to do the same, do you not?

  3. Edman,

    Nice incoherent rant.

    Jason and Luke presented a very good argument for the importance of building a more balance team, and how important defense is in winning. I don’t have much to add. But I’d appreciate it if you could try to raise the level of dialog here, as most of your comments here are baseless rhetoric and issues that are irrelevant to the discussion here.

    “Easy for you to say, Jerry. How many games have you played at a high level, sitting on the bench?”

    My ability to play baseball (or lack thereof) on the same level as a major league player is ABSOLUTELY IRRELEVANT. If you think that is the case, you should follow your own advice and never talk about ML baseball.

    “I know you stat lovers think that a player is just a machine, but they are human. And for that reason, you can never relate to human factors. You want a sterile environment where everything is absolute.”

    Gross mischaracterization of what I’ve said. Who has argued that is the case? This is a silly straw man argument: your argument is weak, so you’ve shifted the discussion to a criticism of a fabricated and easily refutable argument that nobody has made.

    “Many stataholics like to ignore offense, because they believe in the great powers of defense. There is a balance that has to be met, and sacrifices that have to be made to achieve a workable balance.”

    This is just factually inaccurate. The statistical revolution in baseball was mostly focused on pitching and offense, with only recent progress of quantifying defense. Stats have provided us with a MUCH more clear frame of reference for measuring the ways that different aspects of the game contributing to Ws and Ls, and achieving the ‘workable balance’ you talk about. Again, you are grossly misrepresenting the ideas of other people in order to make yourself look smart.

    This rhetoric is tiresome. We are all rooting for the same team here. No reason it needs to devolve to silliness.

  4. And yes, the whole “Cruz hits better when he plays RF” argument is absurd. Lloyd McClendon is a complete moron for falling for that and believing it. As Luke said, you can’t simply use the numbers put up at DH to assess Cruz’s ability to serve as the DH. Look at what he did for his career at Safeco — as a visitor, in incremental visits as the road team only — and then he goes 304/375/517, the first two slashes better than his road output in the same categories, and all better than his career numbers at Safeco.

    “He hits better when he plays right field” is the dumbest narrative built around a player since Derek Jeter was crowned a great defensive shortstop because of his jump throws back in 98-99. Just stupid.

  5. Who said at the full, 100% expense of offense? Point is, defense plays, consistently. It’s a reliable value and doesn’t slump.

    It’s one thing to replace an above-average center-field bat with Leonys Martin and call it an overall upgrade. It’s another to replace Austin Jackson with Martin and argue differently.

    Getting zero offense from any outfield position is not a viable option. But running a 35-year-old Cruz out there for half the innings tears down an enormous chunk of the offensive value he provided FOR THE SEASON. In the end, it’s significantly “better fielder” not “gold glover, even if he can’t hit at all.” Nobody is making that suggestion or argument.

  6. A better fielder at what cost? The complete ignorance of the need for offense? Many stataholics like to ignore offense, because they believe in the great powers of defense. There is a balance that has to be met, and sacrifices that have to be made to achieve a workable balance.

    I have no issue with finding someone who can spell Cruz, and act as a defensive replacement late in games. And I wouldn’t want to see him out in RF for much more than 100 games. Those guys are in demand by every team. It’s not like there is a tree full of ripe fruit.

    I hear a lot about “projected” losses, but how many games did Seattle actually lose because of Cruz’s fielding versus the number of games he won with his bat? It’s all subjective, but someone like Jerry treats it like it’s a must have, when it’s more like a like to have.

  7. Before 2014, Cruz didn’t play more than eight games as the DH during any season. So, the sample size of his DH performance is small and isolated. Remember, that whenever he played DH on consecutive days in 2015, he was hurting.

    And yes, he exhibits very poor range and is considered a below-average fielder. The numbers show it. I expect that he’ll incrementally play fewer games in the field with each passing year.

    Two issues that will impact his performance more than his position are age and injuries. Cruz performed poorly in June and September and that’s when he was banged up. Keeping him off the field doesn’t guarantee he’ll stay injury-free. But, it does reduce the risk. He’s struggled with hip/back/quad/hamstring issues since 2010. Doesn’t it make sense to put a better fielder in RF and try to keep Cruz as fresh as possible?

  8. Easy for you to say, Jerry. How many games have you played at a high level, sitting on the bench? For you to day “He’s going to have to learn….” Sounds a lot like a guy who’s never been at that level, telling someone who is, how to do their job. I know you stat lovers think that a player is just a machine, but they are human. And for that reason, you can never relate to human factors. You want a sterile environment where everything is absolute.

    Get ready to pout, but Dipoto has already stated that Cruz will see time in RF.

  9. Edman,

    Cruz IS that terrible defensively. He’s terrible. He grades poorly in most defensive metrics. He doesn’t make a lot of Manny Ramirez type plays, but his range is shitty. Calling him ‘not a stud defender’ is a huge understatement.

    In regards to his better numbers as a RFer, that’s from a pretty small sample size. He’s going to need to learn how to keep his head in the game as a DH, because his playing time in the OF WILL go down in the next few years. Having one of the best DHs in baseball history as his hitting coach won’t hurt. I think Dipoto and Servais will have him play RF a bit, but it shouldn’t be the 50/50 split he had last season. The best solution is to have him play in the field as little as possible.

    Lots of players don’t like to be relegated to DH, but having him play OF is not in the best interest of the team.

  10. Cruz produced better when he played RF, than when he was a DH. He wasn’t a horrible defender. I want his run production, more than worrying that he’s not a stud defender in RF. I don’t think that he should be playing RF full-time. But anomaly or not, I’d rather he has some playing time in RF.

  11. Obviously, the list below is very much a work in progress, and we can/should expect Dipoto to make more deals. He’s been damn busy thus far.

    The problem: Assuming we have the same payroll as last year (123 mil according to Cots), that leaves about $15 million to spend. Just resigning Iwakuma (or a comperable arm like Leake, Kazmir, etc) would eat up that much cash alone. Of course, this is based on the assumption that they will keep the payroll static. If they could bump that up closer to $150 mil, things change dramatically.

    Remaining needs, in order of importance:
    1. Good starting pitcher (#2 type)
    2. Starting Ofer (to push Cruz out of RF)
    3. Catcher who can start (just sign Iannetta already!)
    4. Starting pitching depth (which would help push someone like Montgomery into the pen)
    5. Bullpen depth

  12. So, lets take stock of where we are at this point in terms of projected payroll:

    Offseason Roster:

    C Zunino 500K
    1B Trumbo 9.1 mil
    2B Cano (L) 24 mil
    3B Seager(L) 7.5 mil
    SS Marte (S) 500K
    LF Smith (L) 6.75 mil
    CF Martin (L) ~4 mil
    RF Cruz 14 mil
    DH Montero 500K

    MI Taylor 500K
    OF Guti 1.5 mil
    C Sucre 500K
    OF Flores?? 500K

    SP1 Felix 24 mil
    SP2 Walker 500K
    SP3 Paxton 500K
    SP4 Karns 500K
    SP5 Montgomery/Elias 500K

    CL Smith 500K
    RSU Benoit 7.5 mil
    LSU Furbush 1.7 mil
    RMR Zych 500K
    RMR Bass ~1 mil
    MR ???? 500K
    SW Nuno 500K

    Payroll: 108 mil

  13. I agree, Jason. Trumbo is a good option at first. With Lomo gone, and all the false praise for Montero, Trumbo is at least consistent enough to get a majority of starts at firstbase. He’s an average fielder, but many average fielders end up at first.

    I get tired of the “Dipoto traded him once” comments. Many forget that he got return for him. It wasn’t like he said, “That Trumbo guy has got to go.” Sometimes, you trade good players to get good players, different kind of players in return.

  14. Name ONE legitimately available free agent or trade target that makes so much sense that dumping Trumbo for whatever makes sense. It’s damn near impossible. The Mariners don’t need any more big-name position players. Could they USE another one? EVERY team could. But this team needs arms, arms, arms, 25-and-40-man depth and more player with reliable MLB skills — not stars. It’s a gross overpay to pry stars from teams, or to spend another $200m on a guy like Heyward, who wouldn’t come to Seattle, anyway.

    Trumbo’s close enough to league avg bat at 1B that unless something develops — a market weakens, a team acquires another player that makes a 1B less valuable to them, then maybe they can do something. I’m sure Dipoto would LIKE to do something, but because they have a playable option there, 1B is FAR FAR from the club’s list of priorities. It’s not even on my radar, nor should it be.

  15. What about 1B? Is the thought to just go with Trumbo? It would be great if someone is interested in his contract. I agree about RF because it would be nice if Cruz only sees the OF during interleague play in a NL ballpark.

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