Monday night, immediately after the Mariners beat the Blue Jays, the Mariners traded Steve Delabar to the Blue Jays for Eric Thames, and they traded Brandon League to the Dodgers for Leon Landry and Logan Bawcom. In truth, the Mariners made those trades before the end of the game, and both Delabar and League were unavailable in the bullpen, but we didn't hear anything until after the contest because baseball teams love keeping secrets. Baseball teams are like teenage girls. Especially in how their friends are always blabbering to Jon Heyman.
Matthew wrote about the League trade here, and he wrote about the Delabar trade here. I don't actually have much at all to add in terms of player evaluation, but I feel obligated to say something before I turn in for bed. I can't help it and so off I go!
The Delabar move comes as something of a surprise. It's not at all surprising that the Mariners acquired a bat - the Mariners were known to be looking for bats. But while I'd seen Delabar in an odd rumor or two, I didn't think he'd have much in the way of trade appeal. He's a virtual unknown, he's had dinger problems, and he's only had success in Safeco Field. Delabar has allowed a .348 OPS in Safeco Field. He's allowed a 1.130 OPS on the road.
But what Delabar has is fastball velocity and a dangerous splitter. Say what you will about Delabar's slider and dingers, but he's allowed an exceptionally low rate of contact. I believe more in a low contact rate than I believe in a high dinger rate. As is, Delabar could be successful, and with a better slider, Delabar could be highly successful. He could even conceivably have a future as a closer. Delabar's a good get for the Blue Jays, even though I don't think I was ever going to trust his elbow to remain intact, and I'm not sure if the Mariners have ever had a player with a better story. They definitely haven't had many of them. Ultimately Delabar was expendable and I hope that he's awesome.
Thames is going to get a lot of attention, because he's a new bat, and people are always going to wonder about the Mariners' new bats. He's way more of a visible guy than the two Brandon League prospects. He's a big strong man who plays the corner outfield like a big strong man, and he's 25 and left-handed though he's really right-handed. He's left-handed in the way that we care about. In the equivalent of just about a full season in the majors he's been a roughly league-average hitter. In triple-A he's been fantastic, but he's played triple-A in Las Vegas where a literal corpse once slugged .450. Thames has put up big numbers in an extremely hitter-friendly environment.
Thames looks like a guy who's going to make a below-average amount of contact, and he looks like a guy who's occasionally going to get himself out on bad pitches. Or, as pitchers would call them, good pitches. He's unlikely to make a strong positive contribution in the field, so barring a step forward in plate discipline, the key for Thames might be his power. If he can be a good power hitter, he can be a starter; if he can be a decent power hitter, he can be a backup. Thames doesn't have the look of a franchise building block, but at the cost of Steve Delabar, it's worth seeing what Thames can do now with an opportunity. The playing time is there for him, and even though I don't think Thames is a good bet to be a solution I would so much rather watch him try to work than Carlos Peguero. I know what Carlos Peguero is. I have nothing against Carlos Peguero as a person but I have everything against his batting approach. If Carlos Peguero's batting approach were a race, I would be openly racist against it. I would hold rallies, I would scream hate speech. I could be put in jail for what I would do to Carlos Peguero's batting approach if it were a tangible entity.
Thames pulls most of his home runs to right field. Earlier this year he homered off Tom Wilhelmsen, which tells me that he's amazing. He has worn some unbelievable sideburns and those were actually what first brought him to my attention a year ago. Eric Thames leads the 2012 Seattle Mariners in sideburn potential.
As for the other trade, it's hardly surprising that Brandon League is gone. As we've talked about, it wouldn't have made sense for the Mariners to hang on to League, assuming there was anything at all out there for them to get. What they got was a fine return for what Brandon League is. It's a lesser return than the Mariners might've gotten for what Brandon League was, but the Mariners elected to keep League until today and this trade is the result. I don't know enough to accuse the Mariners of mismanaging the Brandon League trade situation. I just know that it's too bad that his performance fell off, although on the plus side it's allowed Tom Wilhelmsen to blossom.
In some ways, League suffered from what Adrian Beltre suffered from. Beltre was a valuable Mariner, but he had so much talent that people always expected him to be more. As a Mariner, Brandon League posted a 118 ERA+ over 185 innings. That's not bad for a reliever. League had value. But League came in with such talent, with such expectations, that he was a frequent source of frustration. His unhittable splitter wasn't there as often as we would've liked. His slider was inconsistent, and his blazing, tailing fastball proved curiously easy to drive.
A difference between League and Beltre is that Beltre was very valuable with Seattle. League was only somewhat valuable. Another difference is that some of League's issues seemed preventable. Beltre chasing pitches low and away was just part of the package. Part of what made him him. It was League who was choosing to throw more fastballs. It was League who was choosing predictable pitch sequences. League is less of a sympathetic character than Beltre was, although I don't buy at all that League was some sort of villain.
It's not League's fault he was acquired for Brandon Morrow. It's not League's fault Brandon Morrow figured shit out. It's not League's fault that he makes people think of Brandon Morrow, and that Brandon Morrow makes people think of Tim Lincecum. League has had it kind of rough. He's also pitched kind of rough, at times. The last time League pitched as a Mariner, he was booed as he walked off the field, and in his outing he was kind of imperfect and kind of unlucky. I hope that he's good with the Dodgers, I hope he fits in, and I'm personally not going to miss the experience of watching him pitch. The Mariners have other relievers I'd like to watch more.
Leon Landry is a toolsy sort. Of course he is. What did you expect the Mariners to get for Brandon League? He's an athletic 22-year-old outfielder in advanced single-A, and he has a lot of improvements to make before he can be considered a significant prospect. Before the year, Baseball America didn't consider him one of the Dodgers' top 30 prospects. The same goes for Logan Bawcom, a 23-year-old righty reliever. He's in double-A now, where he's been getting strikeouts, but where he's also been issuing walks. He's armed with a fastball that can get into the mid-90s, a slider, and something of a changeup, with the platoon splits you'd expect. Bawcom is a prospect, and he could one day see the majors, but even as relief prospects go he's simply acceptable. He's not a Carter Capps. Carter Capps is what an impact relief prospect looks like.
Landry and Bawcom are what League brought back, but League has a low strikeout rate and two months left of team control. He just didn't have value that matched his raw stuff. What's next for the Mariners? I don't know. I don't know if anything's next for the Mariners, before the deadline. Remember that they did already trade Ichiro. Remember that? That was insane! The Mariners traded Ichiro! To the Yankees!