Jack ZduriencikRarely does Major League Baseball’s annual July 31st non-waiver trade deadline spark as much interest as it did today. In total there were 12 trades made and several significant pieces were moved in the process. Aces David Price and Jon Lester found new homes, the Boston Red Sox cleaned house, and the Seattle Mariners added a pair of outfielders to a club in need of an offensive boost. In a market barren of impact bats and overpriced assets, the Mariners played it safe, and smart.

Chris Denorfia, acquired from the San Diego Padres for Abraham Almonte and a minor league reliever, may be a veteran on a down season, but he has hit left-handed pitching well throughout his career and is an upgrade on the current Seattle roster. Austin Jackson, acquired from the Detroit Tigers in a three-team trade in which the M’s sent Nick Franklin to the Tampa Bay Rays, is a true centerfielder that’s capable of hitting at the top of a lineup. He represents a significant upgrade to the roster as is.

Both players are now with the club Bob Dutton of the Tacoma News Tribune tweets, and are expected to be in the lineup tomorrow night when Seattle wraps up a three-game set with the Cleveland Indians. Now as always, the first question that usually comes to mind is who’s roster spots will the new imports take?

Presumably Stefen Romero will be sent down to Triple-A as the club as already used an option on him for the year and he’s now managed a 52 wRC+ in 180 plate appearances with the big club. Romero is still just 25-years old and only had one full season of Triple-A experience under his belt before breaking camp with the team this spring. He’s received below average grades for both base running and fielding according to FanGraphs and his fWAR on the year is -1.0, meaning even having a replacement level player take his spot on the roster would be an improvement.

The second most likely candidate to face the roster crunch is James Jones as Jackson is expected to take over regular center field duties. Jones, also 25, burst on the scene when he was called up at the end of April and posted an impressive 101 wRC+ in May while hitting at the top of the order. He started to slide in June with a 76 wRC+ for the month before seemingly imploding in July with just five hits and a walk in his last 12 games and 48 plate appearances. Jones’ defence has been a work in progress this year and he definitely had his struggles at times, but a trip down to Tacoma to work on his defence and try and figure his offensive issues out could be very beneficial. Jones could still factor into the team’s plans in 2015 as he’s shown the ability to succeed in the big leagues, but needs to improve his game as a whole first.

The pair of veterans everybody’s been wanting to see disappear, Corey Hart and Endy Chavez, are perhaps the least likely to be removed from the active roster, at least for right now. Hart’s had his struggles this year, there’s no questioning that, and between missing the entire 2013 season as well as an extended stretch in the first half recovering from a hamstring injury, it’s really been a disappointing season for the slugger. His wRC+ is now down to 72 after an 0-for-4 performance in tonight’s win, but he has started in right field three games in a row now. He’s still owed at least $3 million for the year — depending on how his incentives play out — so cutting him would be simply an exercise in opening up a roster spot as the M’s wouldn’t save any money in the process. The move could still happen, but it doesn’t seem imminent, yet.

Chavez has seen far more at bats this year than anybody expected and he doesn’t have much to show for it. Often hitting at the top of the order, the seasoned veteran owns a 74 wRC+ in 173 plate appearances. He’s been below average in right field, but he’s essentially provided replacement level value with a -0.2 fWAR. Chavez hasn’t actually been that awful in his second stint with the Mariners, but if he was utilized as a No. 4 outfielder instead of a regular contributor it’s likely he would’ve provided more value. The 36-year old would hit the waiver wire in the event the M’s decided to designate him for assignment and it appears unlikely he’d accept an assignment to Triple-A, but I suppose it is possible.

Simply replacing Romero and Jones with Denorfia and Jackson stands to make a potentially significant improvement to the club, and if Chavez ends up as the odd man out when Michael Saunders returns — possibly in two or three weeks time — one could suggest that the M’s would finally have a decent group of outfielders together. Between Dustin Ackley, who’s been swinging the bat very well this month, Jackson, and Saunders the club has a set of very competent defensive outfielders with a couple of decent bats to make use of in Denorfia and Hart.

[pullquote]Since rejoining the Mariners lineup on July 25th Morales has just one hit in 21 plate appearances with a pair of runs batted in and one walk. His wRC+ in that time is -41.[/pullquote]

The acquisition of Kendrys Morales should weigh in to the review of the Mariners trade deadline success, and in exchange for the three bats acquired, the team gave up nothing off of the big league roster and nothing of real significance to the future. As I mentioned earlier, Franklin has all the talent to be a very good player but it just wasn’t going to work out in Seattle for him. Almonte is an okay depth piece but he’s replaceable, as is Stephen Pryor.

The M’s received some flack from Jeff Passon of Yahoo! Sports for being involved in the Price trade but not coming up with the player they had coveted for so long and the additions they did make only brought them back to mediocrity. Let’s look at the facts: Seattle was lukewarm at best when it came to including Taijuan Walker in a deal of any kind and didn’t have another comparable player to Drew Smyly to include in the deal. If the M’s offered Franklin, a Smyly-type of pitcher, and a third high-upside prospect they would’ve landed Price. The pieces simply didn’t meet up for the Rays and M’s, and I don’t believe that’s for lack of effort.

I do agree that the return for Price may look slightly on the lighter side, but it was likely still more than the M’s should’ve been comfortable dealing at this point in time. Remember, this wasn’t a club that was one piece away from being a World Series contender. This is a club that was a couple pieces away from even being a serious playoff contender down the stretch, and paying a premium price for Lester, or any other rental, just doesn’t make sense for this club. General manager Jack Zduriencik did well to turn Franklin, an asset who had no opening within the organization, into Jackson who fills several holes on the club and is controllable for the 2015 season as well. If that was the only move Jack Z made, I would’ve been happy with the day. Adding another bat, albeit low impact, only helps improve the club further. As will the returns of Saunders and James Paxton.

Again, even getting back to mediocrity in right and center field is still a boost considering how outstanding the entire pitching staff has been. Think of all those times the M’s had an opportunity to cash in an extra run or two but came up empty. Having Denorfia take the place of Romero, for example, on even a handful of those spots could net the team some extra wins, or at the very least the extending of an inning to create a better chance for victory. Bottom line, Jackson and Denorfia make the current roster better.

In terms of true impact bats, there really was nothing available. I’m surprised the Philadelphia Phillies weren’t able to move Marlon Byrd, though their asking price sounded totally unrealistic, and that the Texas Rangers held on to Alex Rios as well. I don’t blame Seattle for passing on the $16 million that would be owed to Byrd for the next two seasons following this one, but I’d be curious to know why Rios didn’t end up getting dealt. There were several reports of trade talks occurring, but the Rangers obviously didn’t get an offer that they deemed to be worthwhile.

Yoenis Cespedes was dealt today, and he would’ve been a huge addition to the Mariners, but look at the context: the Oakland Athletics were able to bolster their rotation even further with Lester and Jonny Gomes makes for an interesting addition as well. Not to mention the A’s re-acquisition of defensive specialist Sam Fuld as well which will help offset the loss of this year’s Home Run Derby Champion. Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that the A’s were going to move Cespedes this winter regardless since they didn’t feel they could lock him up to a long term deal before he reaches free agency just over a year from now, and decided to cash in now.

Not to say that Oakland would or would not deal Cespedes within the division, but the Mariners simply didn’t match up well with the A’s. Who on the club is comparable to Lester and could actually be given up? I suppose there’s an argument that Hisashi Iwakuma could be of similar value though he’s not as good as Lester, but there’d be no reason for the M’s to deal him. Aside from Cespedes, there wasn’t another high impact bat traded today.

The Mariners got better without hurting the future. That’s the biggest thing to takeaway from today, in my opinion. Zduriencik didn’t collapse under the pressure he faced and overpay for a player like Price. One could argue that Jack Z should’ve made the flashy acquisition, but I have no problem with the pair of moves made today since they improve on players like Romero and Jones who’s contributions have been sub-par, as well as the Morales acquisition from earlier.

Seattle still has a solid chance to grab a Wild Card slot, and today they were able to improve their chances while a team like the Toronto Blue Jays did not. It’s going to be a fun next two months.

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  1. Avatar

    “Peterson…2014: AFL…2015: AAA with Sept call up…2016: hopefully in majors to stay. While I am impressed, and he seems to be doing well, he isn’t putting up numbers that make me think he warrants being rushed.

    So, we need a 1B for the rest of 2014 and 2015, at least.”

    Totally agree. Peterson’s actually in a pretty bad slump right now. Absolutely no need to rush him.

    Zunino was rushed, but he was a better hitter at the same levels than Peterson. But he wasn’t rushed because of his bat, he was rushed because he had real defensive value. Peterson is unlikely to have that. When you have a bat only player like Peterson you better be sure as hell that the bat is ready before you bring him up.

    I agree we need a 1B for next year.

    Slowly but surely it seems like the pieces are coming together. I’m in love with the Jackson acquisition, such a perfect fit for what we needed.

  2. Avatar

    Edman, I’ll give you that. Catchers are definitely different animals and I knew the primary reason for him being called was his defensive value but it still sucks to have a guy batting .200 at one of your spots in the order. Personally I would have let him have a full season in AAA and then brought him up. It would have given him time to adjust to a better breed of pitching, gave him some more seasoning and would have saved his arbitration clock, it’s not like the M’s were in any good last year.

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    rjfrik, your comment Zunino is a little inacurate. Mike didn’t show any signs of struggle in the minor leagues, until he got to AAA. He crushed the ball at every other stop in the minors.

    The biggest asset for a catcher is his ability to call a game and play defense. Mike already has those skills. Offensively, yes he was probably rushed, but that depends on the mental make-up of the ballplayer. IMO, players who lack the confidence to compete at the MLB level need more seasoning than others. Mike has confidence plus. His skills with a bat will come with experience. He’s ready to be in the majors. More seasoning might have helped. But, what’s the difference, if he gets it in the minors, or in the majors? Are minor league instructors better?

  4. Avatar

    Yep…which is why I want to see us bring in a 1B for 2015. Then there is no need…but in a way, I am too excited about seeing the new lineup tonight than to worry about this too much. 1B can still be improved upon. I hope it happens, but this should be a good team to watch.

  5. Avatar

    I agree with Peterson not being rushed. But Zunino didn’t put up very good minor league numbers, Peterson’s are better then Zunino’s, and he was rushed. This front office seems to care more about need then if a player has minor league seasoning. Zunino, Almonte, Jones all recent examples of minor league position players that might have come up too soon, but the M’s had position’s to fill.

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    Peterson…2014: AFL…2015: AAA with Sept call up…2016: hopefully in majors to stay. While I am impressed, and he seems to be doing well, he isn’t putting up numbers that make me think he warrants being rushed.

    So, we need a 1B for the rest of 2014 and 2015, at least.

  7. Avatar

    I wasn’t being critical of you I was just sort of analyzing things, no zing intended.

  8. Avatar

    Oops I miss read the age you posted and looked it up my bad. I thought he was 30-31. I take back what I said about his next contract but still he has been a solid contributor the last couple of years with a 4.8 war and 2.0 war last year. So I do stand by my comment of a solid corner outfielder. The one I dont understand is that his dwar this year is -0.9 draging his overall war down a bit compared to last years -0.1 so I dont know. Im still not liking war that much to be honest anyway but you get my point I hope.

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    I may have a man crush on a good corner outfielder but I wasnt comparing Jackson who I also like alot to Rios as a one or the other type. I was simply stating I would ALSO like him in a M’s uni. The first paragraph stated how much I liked what JZ did today and was expressing my confusion on why Rios wasnt traded along with Tyler’s article. You cant really argue though that his salary is what his kind of player is getting now either. 13.5 mil for a solid defensive outfielder with a solid stick with some speed and pop (this year excluded). I garuntee when he hits the market he will get at least 12 mil per year for at least 2 to 3 years in 2016 offseason.

  10. Avatar

    If Peterson is able to play a credible 1B and if he can provide a better slash line than .279/.352/.630 (Smoak), .259/.333/.593 (Morrison) or .283/.320/.603 (Hart) have produced this year, then he represents an upgrade. I suspect he might be able to do about that well right now.

    But I don’t want to see them rush him. I hope they give him enough time in the minors to refine his skills, and that he can have a great spring training in 2015, get off to a solid start in the majors when he’s ready… he will be a fun player to watch. I think he could end up being the answer for the Mariners at 1B in the fairly near future.

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    I could see Peterson get a call up next year. Especially with the way JZ and Co. push minor league hitters through the system. Peterson has been our best MiLB player by far. He’s our best prospect and a player who should be capable of handling the bat even in the bigs.

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    An upgrade to Morrison/Smoak at 1B is the most glaring offensive hole left now. Corey Hart factors into that equation, too, but Kendrys Morales addresses Hart’s downside of a year to some extent. It was great to see Kendrys get a solid double yesterday.

    AustinJackson >> JamesJones

    When will DJ Petersen be ready to man first base? Mid-2015??

  13. Avatar

    Grabbing a good starting cf and a bench bat for essentially Franklin is a slam dunk. Hell of a move to get Jackson for Franklin. I would have never thought Franklin could net a player like Jackson.

    Awesome job Jack!

  14. Avatar

    Sounds like you have a man-crush on Rios. I doubt the M’s wanted him at his present salary:
    Jackson career:
    .277/.342/.413 avg wRC+106
    Rios career:
    .280/.325/.442 avg wRC+ 101

    Jackson 27 1/2 yo. Rios 33 1/2 yo
    Jackson 6 Million 2014 – Arb in 2015, so I’m just guessing about 8 million.
    Rios 12.5 million 2014 – Team option 13.5 million and I imagine you want to keep him.
    And Jackson is the superior outfielder defensively and he’s the leadoff hitter the M’s don’t have.

    I would say Rios was too expensive for the M’s and his age doesn’t fit the long term plan. Jackson however, is young enough for an extension if the M’s choose to move in that direction. I think the M’s made the right choice.

  15. Avatar

    I love what the M’s did today. They just like you wrote improved two spots on the team and have solidified the top of the order with at least another season after this one. We also did this without losing something that we were not going to have to move (franklin) or players that even factored into our future plans (Almonte, Kohlscheen, and Pryor). That is exactly what they should have done if there wasnt an obvious big bat out there and there wasnt.

    I too am curious why Rios wasnt moved today. I would have loved to have him in a M’s uni right now but I can understand trading in the same division and what not. Even though we have done it before (Lee deal) and many other trades within this division but like you said maybe they do feel they can be good once healthy. I also feel they didnt get an offer they liked. He is very valuable currently if all factors are involved bat/defense/contract situation he is a solid player. The more I think about him possibly being a August move it doesnt make sense. The rangers lose leverage because they wont be able to have a bidding war for him and there is no way he passes through waivers. Man I wanted him but Im extremely content with what the M’s did and who knows what august moves if any we will get not to mention getting Paxton and Saunders back healthy its looking up for the M’s.

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