The Mariners stunned fans today by shipping away 24 year-old phenom Danny Tartabull to the Kansas City Royals along with minor league pitcher Rick Luecken. The trade follows Tartabull's promising rookie season after finishing fifth in the American League Rookie of the Year voting. The Mariners will receive pitchers Scott Bankhead and Steve Shields along with outfielder Mike Kingery in return.
The immediate reaction to the trade, by both experts and fans, has been decidedly mixed.
Tartabull looked like one of the team's first true superstars in the making, slugging 25 home runs while hitting .270 in his first full major league season. Drafted in the 3rd round in 1980 at just 17 years old, Tartabull was plucked from the Reds organization following the 1982 season as compensation for losing All-Star pitcher Floyd Bannister. Tartabull quickly ascended through Seattle's minor league ranks, forcing his way onto the big league club by mashing 43 home runs in just 125 games in 1985.
Tartabull, a rare power-hitting shortstop in the minors, played primarily right field for the Mariners this past year, shifting over to second base for 31 of his 135 starts.
The Mariners also included minor leaguer Rick Luecken, a 6'6'' right-handed starting pitcher who was sent back to AA Chattanooga in 1986 after posting a poor 6.93 ERA with a 4-8 record at AAA Calgary in 1985. Luecken's struggles continued this year, going 6-7 with a 5.28 ERA. Some have speculated that his future may be as a reliever.
In return for dealing away the best pure power hitter the organization has ever seen, the Mariners receive a trio of young players. Scott Bankhead, a former first round draft pick, was a minor league phenom in his own right this past year, earning a promotion to the Royals following a 1.49 ERA in seven starts. His rookie season was more rocky, going 8-9 with a 4.61 ERA, mostly as a starting pitcher.
Steve Shields, a 28 year-old reliever, has also been successful through the minor leagues, going 9-8 with a 2.59 ERA in the Atlanta Braves organization. Shields was traded to the Royals on September 23rd for outfielder Darryl Motley. This will be Shields' fourth organization.
Mike Kingery, a promising young outfielder in his own right, will likely replace Tartabull in right field. Kingery hit .258 through 66 games in his rookie season for Kansas City following his mid-season promotion from AAA Omaha. Kingery is considered to be an excellent defensive outfielder, but there are cocerns that his bat might limit him to a reserve role.
Tartabull is the fourth starter to be dealt by the team in the past calendar year, with Ivan Calderon heading to the White Sox and popular regulars Dave Henderson and Spike Owen heading to Boston. General Manager Dick Baldurson was unavailable for comment, but many feel that grizzled veteran manager Dick Williams drove the deal. Williams has publicly excoriated the team's effort, especially in the defensive realm.
This trade makes the Mariners a better defensive team, no doubt. The price of that upgrade remains to be seen. In the meantime, we'll provide more details as they become available.