We’ve already identified each MLB organization’s top former Seattle Mariners. Now, let’s determine the best players the Mariners got from other teams.
As with our preceding project, we’re linking players to their first organization – not necessarily the team they broke into the majors with. “Best” refers to highest WAR (Baseball Reference version), although there will be exceptions.
There are no-brainer choices, but several unexpected selections too. In some instances, few options were available meaning some names you’ll see may be surprises.
Angels – Bruce Bochte
Originally, a second round pick of the Angels, Bochte signed with Seattle as a free agent after the 1977 season. The Santa Clara alum was top-10 in the AL in doubles, AVG, and OBP in 1979 and an All-Star.
Astros – Freddy García
The Venezuelan was the best player Seattle received in the 1998 trade sending Randy Johnson to the Astros. García was the 1999 AL Rookie of the Year runner-up and finished third in 2001 Cy Young Award voting.
Fun fact: Mariners manager Scott Servais was Houston’s second round pick in the 1985 draft.
Athletics – Glenn Abbott
The Mariners acquired Abbott from Oakland via the 1976 expansion draft. During Seattle’s inaugural season, he’d lead the club in starts and innings and the right-hander’s 4.45 ERA was the rotation’s best.
Fun fact: ROOT Sports analyst Bill Krueger began his 13-year career with the A’s, but finished with the 1995 Mariners.
Others: Mike Morgan
Blue Jays – John Olerud
The former Washington State Cougar was one of the best first baseman in franchise history. Hall of Famer Edgar Martinez is the only Mariner with a higher OBP (.418) than Olerud’s .388 mark. He also earned the only three Gold Gloves of his 17-year career with his hometown team.
Braves – Kevin Millwood
Millwood played just one year with the Mariners, but did pitch the first six innings of Seattle’s combined no-hitter on June 8, 2012 against the Dodgers. The North Carolina native retired after the season.
Brewers – Mitch Haniger
Haniger was under-performing prior to suffering a season-ending injury in June, but he’s just a year removed from being an All-Star and receiving MVP consideration.
Fun Fact: Another former Brewer to spend time with the Mariners – Gorman Thomas – was the Seattle Pilots’ first round draft selection during the 1969 amateur draft.
Cardinals – Marco Gonzales
Some may suggest Bill Caudill for top billing since he placed seventh in 1982 Cy Young voting. However, we’re going with Gonzales. The former Gonzaga Bulldog has been Seattle’s best pitcher the last two seasons and 2019 Opening Day starter.
Cubs – Jamie Moyer
Moyer was a 1984 second round pick of the Cubs, but joined Seattle via a 1996 deadline deal with the Red Sox for Darren Bragg. By the time the team dealt him eleven years later, the ultimate crafty lefty’s WAR ranked seventh all-time among all Mariners.
That’s why Moyer is a Mariners Hall of Famer.
Diamondbacks – Wade Miley
Miley didn’t last a full season with the Mariners. How is he the best option?
Arizona and Seattle have made just seven trades since the D-Backs came into existence in 1998. The only deal yielding significant value for the Mariners involved Haniger and Segura. As already noted, both players began their careers elsewhere.
Hence, the Miley selection.
Dodgers – Adrián Beltré
Beltré’s 21.2 WAR is second best among Mariners third baseman behind only Kyle Seager and ranks eleventh overall in team history. He also won two Gold Gloves with Seattle.
Giants – David Aardsma
The former Rice Owl enjoyed his best seasons with the Mariners saving 69 games – fifth most in team history. Unfortunately, Aardsma underwent Tommy John surgery in 2011 and the club cut him loose afterwards.
Others: Gaylord Perry
Indians – Franklin Gutierrez
Some may suggest Richie Sexson for the top spot since he hit 105 home runs. However, Gutierrez won a Gold Glove and delivered more value than Sexson. Besides, “Guti” is my wife’s third favorite Mariner behind Edgar and Mike Cameron.
Fun fact: Seattle’s most successful manager and Mariners Hall of Famer – Lou Piniella – signed as an amateur free agent with Cleveland in 1962.
Marlins – Randy Winn
Winn was a 1997 third round pick of Florida, but joined the Mariners in the deal sending Piniella to the then-Devil Rays. The Santa Clara product was a solid contributor for Seattle stealing 56 bases and slashing .287/.345/.417 in nearly three seasons.
Fun fact: Winn played 157 games with a .346 OBP in each of his first two seasons as a Mariner.
Mets – Nelson Cruz
Cruz was the club’s best hitter for the majority of his four-year Seattle tour. “Boomstick” was a three-time All-Star winning two Silver Sluggers along the way. His 163 home runs are sixth most in Mariners history.
Others: Justin Dunn
Nationals/Expos – Randy Johnson
Johnson threw the team’s first no-hitter, won a Cy Young Award and was runner-up two other times during his 11 seasons in the Emerald City. It’s understandable why some fans consider “The Big Unit” the best Mariners pitcher ever.
Orioles – Arthur Rhodes
Years: 2000-03, 2008
The southpaw from Waco, Texas joined the Mariners as a free agent and led the AL in appearances during 2000-03. Rhodes’ signature season was 2001 when he was top-three among relievers in ERA and WAR.
Padres – Joey Cora
The greatest success of Cora’s 11-year career came with the Mariners. Only Edgar (.333) and Álex Rodríguez (.316) had a higher AVG than the Puerto Rico native (.293) during his four years with the team.
Phillies – Michael Jackson
The Mariners acquired the Texan with Glenn Wilson and minor leaguer Dave Brundage from Philadelphia for Phil Bradley and Tim Fortugno. During Jackson’s four seasons with Seattle, he made 335 appearances recording a 3.38 ERA and 34 saves.
Pirates – Jay Buhner
Buhner played 14 seasons with Seattle hitting the third most home runs (307) in franchise history behind Ken Griffey Jr. (417) and Edgar (309). “Bone” is also a member of the Mariners’ Hall of Fame.
Rangers – Justin Smoak
Leonys Martín delivered slightly more WAR, but I went with Smoak. Unfortunately, the former South Carolina Gamecock didn’t live up to the hype after the Mariners acquired him in the package for Cliff Lee. Still, he was a strong defender at first base and did hit 66 home runs with Seattle.
Others: Martín; former manager Mike Hargrove
Rays – John Jaso
Jaso spent just one season in Seattle, but was a valued contributor to the team’s offensively challenged lineup. The Californian led all regulars in AVG, OBP, SLG, and wRC+.
Red Sox – Aaron Sele
The Washington State product joined the Mariners as a free agent and was an All-Star in 2000. Sele delivered even better results during Seattle’s record-setting 116-win campaign the following year.
Reds – Dan Wilson
Our final Mariners Hall of Famer’s WAR leads all Seattle backstops with Dave Valle (9.4) and Mike Zunino (7.0) closest to him. The one-time Minnesota Gopher is undoubtedly the best catcher in franchise history.
Rockies – Tom Murphy
Murphy certainly was one of the more pleasant surprises in an otherwise dismal 2019 Mariners season. The right-handed hitting Buffalo alum and lefty bat Omar Narváez formed a historically good catching tandem.
Royals – Ruppert Jones
Ken Phelps had a higher WAR (9.6), but I went with the original Mariner. Jones was the team’s first selection during the 1976 expansion draft and its starting center fielder on Opening Day. Furthermore, he was Seattle’s lone representative at the 1977 All-Star game.
Tigers – Leon Roberts
As a member of the 1978 Mariners, the former Michigan Wolverine set personal bests in home runs, AVG, OBP, SLG, wRC+, and WAR and even received MVP consideration. Roberts played two more seasons before the team dealt him to Rangers in December 1980.
Twins – Paul Abbott
Abbott also delivered career-best results while wearing a Mariners uniform. The right-hander led the pitching staff in WAR during the 2000 season and placed second behind García the following year.
Others: Eddie Guardado
White Sox – Mike Cameron
Seattle acquired my wife’s second favorite Mariner from the Reds in the deal sending Junior to the Queen City in 2000. Cameron delivered Gold Glove center field defense, while averaging 22 home runs and 26 stolen bases. Moreover, Cammy’s 18.4 WAR in 2000-03 was tenth best in the AL.
Yankees – Robinson Canó
Canó ranks sixth all-time among Mariners position players in WAR. Unfortunately, an 80-game PED suspension three years later may partially define his Seattle legacy.
The Mariners have certainly made ill-advised deals – Adam Jones, José Cruz, David Ortiz, Derek Lowe, Jason Varitek, Doug Fister and others. Still, the organization’s most successful era doesn’t happen without acquiring its Hall of Famers, Cora, García, Olerud, Cameron, and Sele.
Realistically, player acquisition is a balancing act the Mariners have struggled with at times. Looking forward, fans can only hope the current regime enjoys better success than some of their predecessors did.
Perhaps someday, fans everywhere will refer to the Robinson Canó trade as the Jarred Kelenic trade.
Wouldn’t that be something?
My Oh My…