I did, so I compiled a list.
Full disclosure: a fun article by Joe Noga of Cleveland.com identifying the greatest ex-Cleveland Indians on every team recently rekindled my interest in researching other clubs’ top ex-Mariners. I recommend checking out Noga’s piece.
For our exercise, a player must have begun his professional career with the Mariners organization. Generally, the “best” player had the highest WAR (Baseball Reference version) among candidates for the club we’re discussing. I’ll note when that wasn’t the case.
You’ll see other names worthy of mention; some appear with several clubs. Moreover, a pair of players get top billing with two clubs. When you see the names, you’ll understand why.
Since we’re discussing the Mariners, you’ll see recognizable names moved via ill-conceived trades. Conversely, we’ll highlight several lesser-known players when choices were limited.
Finally, I won’t be litigating old trades gone sideways. Instead, I’d prefer having fun reflecting on each player’s post-Mariners history.
Angels – Mark Langston
In June 1989, the Mariners traded Langston and Mike Campbell to the Expos. However, the southpaw signed with the California Angels the following offseason and delivered outstanding results with the Halos for eight seasons.
Langston made three All-Star appearances and won five consecutive Gold Gloves as an Angel. Since the Mariners came into existence in 1977, only Chuck Finley (52.0) and Jered Weaver (35.8) have a higher WAR with the club than the San Jose State alum.
Fun fact: Seattle has made just four trades with the Angels, ever.
Astros – Mike Hampton
As a rookie in 1993, Seattle’s future-former bullpen coach had an unimpressive 9.53 ERA in 13 appearances. Prior to the 1994 season, the Mariners dealt the two-time All-Star and 1999 NL Cy Young Award runner-up with Mike Felder to Houston for Eric Anthony.
Hampton also delivered 3.6 WAR as a hitter with Houston. Overall, he won five Silver Sluggers during his 16-year career.
Fun fact: The Mariners haven’t made a trade with the Astros since 2010.
Others: Luis Valbuena
Athletics – Dave Henderson
Henderson was Seattle’s first-ever amateur draft pick in 1977. He’d play six seasons with the team before a 1986 trade sent the native of Merced, California to the Red Sox with Spike Owen. In return, the Mariners received Rey Quinones, Mike Brown, Mike Trujillo, and John Christensen
In 1987, Henderson signed with Oakland where he’d enjoy the most success of his 14-year big-league career. “Hendu” played six seasons with the A’s helping the club reach three consecutive World Series and beat the cross-bay rival Giants in the 1989 Fall Classic.
Others: Mike Moore
Blue Jays – José Cruz
The Rice product was the third overall selection in the 1995 draft, but the Mariners traded him two years to Toronto for Paul Spoljaric and Mike Timlin. Cruz finished second behind Nomar Garciaparra in 1997 Rookie of the Year voting.
Cruz played seven years with the Blue Jays posting career-bests in home runs (34) and stolen bases (32) during the 2001 campaign. His career spanned 12 seasons with his final campaign being with the club his father José Cruz spent 13 seasons with – the Astros.
Others: Brandon Morrow
Braves – Eric O’Flaherty
Years: 2009-13, 2016-17
The Walla Walla, Washington native debuted with Seattle in 2006 playing three seasons with the club before the Braves selected him off waivers. O’Flaherty spent five years with his new team before stints with the A’s and Mets, but returned to Atlanta for the final two seasons of his 12-year career.
Fun fact: The career .60 HR/9 rate of Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto is a tick better than O’Flaherty’s (.61).
Others: Rafael Soriano
Brewers – Ron Villone
Not a sexy selection, but few former Mariners have flourished with the Brew Crew. Villone only spent two seasons in Milwaukee, although his 1.5 WAR was the best value the University of Massachusetts product delivered with any club during a 15-year career.
Other Notables: Freddy Peralta
Cardinals – Ryan Franklin
Franklin spent the last five seasons of his 12-year career with the Cardinals. The former twenty-third round selection of the Mariners made his lone All-Star game appearance in 2009 with St. Louis at 36-years-old.
Cubs – Luis Valbuena
The Mariners sent Valbuena to Cleveland in a three-team/12-player trade in 2008. However, the Venezuelan subsequently played with Chicago where he’d appear in a career-high 149 games and clobber 16 home runs in 2014. Sadly, the Valbuena passed away last December. He was 33-years-old.
Others: Brandon Morrow
Diamondbacks – Ketel Marte
Seattle traded Marte with Taijuan Walker to the D-Backs for Mitch Haniger, Jean Segura, and Zac Curtis three years ago. This season, the Dominican Republic native was an MVP candidate. Moreover, his 11.3 WAR already ranks nineteenth all-time in Arizona franchise history.
Dodgers – Chris Taylor
Dipoto admitted to Seattle Times columnist Matt Calkins he “whiffed” by trading Taylor. As a Dodger, the former Virginia Cavalier reinvented his swing changing the trajectory of batted balls and his career. Since 2017, he’s averaging 17 home runs, 11 stolen bases, and .268/.340/.468.
Others: Brandon Morrow
Giants – Bill Swift
The second overall pick of the 1984 draft spent six years as a Mariner before the club dealt him in 1992 with Dave Burba and Michael Jackson to the Giants for Kevin Mitchell and Mike Remlinger. The trade changed Swift’s career for the better.
Although Swift began his career as a starter, the Mariners converted him into a reliever by his last year in the Emerald City. The Giants returned the Maine native to a starting role, which resulted in immediate results – a second place finish in 1993 NL Cy Young Award voting behind Hall of Famer Greg Maddux.
Others: Shawn Estes
Indians – Omar Vizquel
Vizquel earned his first Gold Glove during his fifth and final season with the Mariners in 1993. The team subsequently traded their shortstop to Cleveland for Felix Fermin and Reggie Jefferson. The switch-hitter from Caracas, Venezuela won 10 more Gold Gloves and played in three All-Star games as a member of the Indians.
By the end of Vizquel’s 24-year career in 2012, he amassed 2,877 hits and was one of the best defensive shortstops of his generation. Whether that’s enough for Hall of Fame selection likely hinges on the value placed on defensive excellence by voters.
Marlins – Carter Capps
In December 2013, Seattle dealt Capps to the Marlins for first baseman Logan Morrison. The Mount Olive College alum’s 16.8 SO/9 in 2015 is the highest ever recorded in a season by a Miami reliever with 30-plus innings.
Others: Pablo López
Mets – Asdrúbal Cabrera
Seattle traded a then-20-year-old Cabrera to Cleveland in 2006 for ESPN analyst Eduardo Perez. Cabrera had 55 home runs, 85 doubles, and slashed .279/.339/.464 in three seasons with the Mets.
Nationals/Expos – Mark Langston
Spike Owen (originally dealt to Boston) had a higher WAR (6.4) than Langston did with Montreal. However, Owen spent four years with the Expos, while Langston accrued his value in just four months. Moreover, Langston’s combined ERA was top-10 in MLB and only future teammate and Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan struck out more hitters.
Fun fact: Langston and Owen were Montreal teammates of current Nationals manager Dave Martinez.
Others: Mike Morse
Orioles – Adam Jones
Some Mariners fans are still stewing over the team sending Jones to Baltimore for Erik Bedard. During the last four decades, only Hall of Famers Cal Ripken Jr, Eddie Murray, and Mike Mussina and Brady Anderson are the only Orioles with a higher WAR than Jones.
Padres – Brandon Maurer
Brandon Morrow had a higher WAR (1.5) than Maurer, but I chose Maurer because he served as the Padres’ closer for a period saving 33 games. San Diego acquired the right-hander for Seth Smith in December 2014.
Phillies – Raúl Ibañez
Ibañez made the only All-Star game appearance of his 19-year career as a member of the 2009 Phillies. He’d also hit a career-high 34 home runs for the NL champions that season.
Fun fact: Rauuuul was a thirty-sixth round selection of the Mariners in 1992.
Pirates – Enrique Romo
Romo led the 68-win Mariners with 16 saves during the club’s debut season. After the 1978 campaign, Seattle traded the right-hander with Rick Jones and Tom McMillan to Pittsburgh for Odell Jones, Mario Mendoza and Rafael Vásquez.
Fun fact: Romo saved the same number of games (26) for both Seattle and Pittsburgh.
Others: Dámaso Marté
Rangers – Álex Rodríguez
When Rodríguez left the Mariners for Texas via free agency, he was already a four-time All-Star, four-time Silver Slugger, and an MVP runner-up. And he was just 25-years-old.
A-Rod was arguably the best player in baseball while with the Rangers. The enigmatic star led the majors in home runs twice. Plus he won his first MVP, three more Silver Sluggers, and his only two Gold Gloves.
Others: Shin-Soo Choo
Rays – Rafael Soriano
Soriano spent just one season with Tampa Bay, but it was the best of his 14-year career. The right-hander led the AL in saves, finished eighth in Cy Young voting, and earned his only All-Star selection.
Red Sox – David Ortiz
Seattle dealt a then-20-year-old Ortiz to the Twins for Dave Hollins in August 1996. The Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic native made his MLB debut a year later and displayed potential, but Minnesota released him in December 2002. “Big Papi” would sign with the Red Sox shortly afterwards becoming a star and a Boston icon.
Ortiz’s résumé likely carries him to Cooperstown in a few years. He was a 10-time All-Star and eight-time winner of the Edgar Martinez Outstanding Designated Hitter Award. Furthermore, he was MVP of the 2004 ALCS and 2013 World Series.
Reds – Ken Griffey Jr.
Junior became a Hall of Famer in Seattle, but was a star in Cincinnati too. During nine seasons with the Reds, Griffey was a four-time All-Star and hit 210 home runs – ninth most in franchise history.
Fun fact: Ken Griffey Sr. accrued 25.4 WAR and hit 71 home runs in 12 seasons as a Red.
Rockies – Brian Fuentes
Fuentes appeared with the Mariners as a rookie in 2001, but didn’t pitch for the club during the postseason. Two months later, Seattle shipped him, plus Jose Paniagua and Denny Stark, to Denver for Jeff Cirillo.
With the Rockies, Fuentes saved 115 games in seven seasons and was the club’s closer during its World Series run in 2007. The southpaw’s WAR ranks twelfth all-time among pitchers in franchise history.
Fun Fact: Dipoto delivered 5.8 WAR with Colorado – twenty-second best in team history.
Royals – Bud Black
Black was a seventeenth round selection by Seattle during the 1979 draft. The graduate of Mark Morris High School in Longview, Washington reached the majors in 1981. However, the club traded him in the offseason to the Royals for Manny Castillo.
Black would help Kansas City win the 1985 World Series and played 15 big-league seasons. He just finished his third season as skipper of the Rockies after managing the Padres for nine years.
Tigers – Doug Fister
The 2011 deadline deal sending Fister and David Pauley to Detroit for minor leaguer Francisco Martinez, Charlie Furbush, Casper Wells, and Chance Ruffin was supposed to help replenish the Mariners’ system. The trade didn’t work out for Seattle, but the 6-foot-8 right-hander did for the Tigers.
The Fresno State alum had a 3.29 ERA in 68 starts with Detroit helping his new club reach the ALCS in three consecutive seasons.
Twins – Joe Mays
In six seasons with Minnesota, Mays made 156 starts tossing 10 complete games, including six shutouts. The Michigan native enjoyed a career-season in 2001 earning an All-Star selection and posting a 3.14 ERA in 34 starts.
White Sox – Matt Thornton
The Mariners traded their 1999 first round pick to the White Sox in 2006 for outfielder Joe Borchard. Thornton spent eight seasons with the South Siders earning his lone All-Star selection in 2010.
Yankees – Álex Rodríguez
Rodríguez appears again for good reasons. He collected his second and third AL MVP Awards as a member of the Bronx Bombers. Moreover, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, and Mickey Mantle are the only Yankees with 3,000-plus plate appearances and a higher SLG than A-Rod.
It’s understandable why some fans focus on what could’ve been if Seattle had kept some of the names dealt away. Still, several of the best players in Mariners franchise history began their career with other organizations.
In fact, my follow-on to this piece discusses the best Mariners produced by every MLB team. Perhaps this temporarily relieves the sting of trading away Adam Jones, José Cruz, Chris Taylor, and others.
My Oh My…
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