It's been a downward spiral for the M's. Their starting pitching depth is decimated, the offense isn't scoring runs, the bullpen is a mess, and they've just dropped five straight promptly after returning to .500 last week. What's left to do? Make a desperate trade at an inopportune time for a quintessential Jack Zduriencik player.
If you were to sarcastically joke around about the most Mariners player the team could acquire, who would it be? The answer is Mark Trumbo. He'll come over from Arizona and mostly slot into left field, bumping out Ackley, Weeks, and the mishmash of other players they've tried out there, including Brad Miller, who once again seems to own the shortstop job for himself.
Trumbo is the floor show model of the type of player Jack Zduriencik has obsessed over for a number of years now -- power hitting, right-handed, corner outfielder/1B/DH who can't field a lick. The M's will double down on their quota for the season now, and while Trumbo fills a black hole in left, he's unlikely to make a huge impact. Trumbo has murdered the Mariners over his career, and he does currently carry a 115 wRC+, but his season to date has been worth a whopping 0.5 WAR, upgrading over the -0.3 WAR the M's have put out so far. He's also fresh off a year in which he had a -1.2 WAR in 88 games. At most, it's an upgrade of a win for the rest of the season, at worst he could revert back to previous production and be a wash, or even a downgrade.
To date, Trumbo is putting together a very Trumbo season, carrying a .299 OBP to go along with his .506 SLG. He has nine homers, and his fit in Safeco is decent enough for RH power -- it's a lot of no doubters. Still, he'll be impacted, and assuming current production will sustain is a fool's errand.
Trumbo is a poor defender in left, and an adequate one at first base. He'll likely enter into some sort of constantly churning LF/DH/RF cycle with Seth Smith and Nelson Cruz, rotating between LF, DH, and occasionally first base. Trumbo is signed though 2016, and the Mariners appear to be assuming the remainder of his $6.9 million salary this year.
The Diamondbacks are also sending over Vidal Nuno, who's spent most of 2015 in AAA, despite posting a 3.76 ERA/3.90 FIP last year starting 14 games for the Diamondbacks. He'll provide vastly needed rotation depth for the Mariners, and is likely a more viable long-term solution in the rotation than Mike Montgomery. As Trumbo will depart, Nuno will likely end up being a major part of this deal going forward, and his acquisition shouldn't be overlooked -- he's probably a more valuable piece than Trumbo, who will get all the headlines. Nuno has barely over a year of service time, so the Mariners will control him for another five seasons if they wish to do so.
The cost is four players, as the Mariners will ship out recently-acquired catcher Welington Castillo, reliever Dominic Leone, IF Jack Reinheimer, and OF Gabby Guerrero. Castillo is a weird one, as he'd filled a clear need for the Mariners, giving them a competent backup and a safety net for Mike Zunino if he continued to struggle badly at the plate. That net is now gone, and the Mariners are back to Jesus Sucre, who's even worse, or an unimpressive John Hicks.
Dominic Leone departing follows another Mariners trend, shipping away relievers when they still have some shred of value, though this is selling awfully low on Leone, who flashed closer potential as recently as a year ago. Jack Zduriencik has now shipped away Yoervis Medina, Brandon Maurer, Dominic Leone, and Carter Capps in the past few years, and now he's turning Danny Farquhar into a starting pitcher. Maybe that idea will go away with the addition of Nuno. I suspect it will. Casting aside Leone after a bout with command struggles is questionable -- that being said, he is still a reliever, and he's only good until he's not. He hasn't been recently.
Jack Reinheimer is mostly inconsequential, as he's organizational depth at best, looking overmatched in Jackson. Gabby Guerrero is the one that you wince at a little -- at 21 years old he's struggled mightily in Jackson (.567 OPS), but has monster tools. He probably won't amount to much given his extremely raw skillset and approach, but the flashes he's shown are tantalizing.
This would be a perfectly understandable trade for the Mariners to make if it were late June or early July and they stood a reasonable chance of winning the division, or competing for a second wild card spot. Trumbo is a decent enough piece to grab you an extra win down the stretch by filling a black hole, and the cost, paired with a solid chance of a playoff appearance, would be understandable.
But the Mariners aren't in that position. Their playoff odds are down to 36.4%, and their division title hopes at 17.1%. Mark Trumbo and Vidal Nuno are not going to be the difference makers that get this team over the top -- in fact, if the Mariners sat with their current roster and weren't back at .500 or better by the middle of July, then this team wasn't good enough to contend with Trumbo or Nuno anyway. They're taking a risk they really don't need to. It's too early to go shopping for a dress when you don't even know if you're getting an invite to the dance, especially when chances aren't looking great. It's way too early to decide if the Mariners are buying or selling, so why are the Mariners buying in the middle of a brutal freefall? It's desperate and the timing is completely unnecessary.
It'd be nice to get excited about a trade like this. After all, the offense has been terrible, the rotation is banged up, and these two players do fill needs. But after a series of Mariner games that just felt so exhaustingly Mariners, this trade feels the same. Exhausting. It embodies everything about this current front office that hasn't worked over the past several years, and yet here we are, trying it again. Jack Zduriencik has a blueprint that he believes will result in success, but it never really has. The 2015 Mariners, face down in the middle of the chosen year, and an answer to adversity is doubling down on a tactic that's never worked, at a time that comes far too early.
Over and over and over again, Mariners.