It was Wednesday evening, the night before Thanksgiving, and baseball was scarcely a glimmer in anyone’s eyes, save for one Gerard Peter Dipoto. While everyone else was out drinking with old friends whom they may or may not still like, or preparing food for the next day, or perhaps simply lying comatose on the couch, our dear friend Mr. Dipoto traded Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte to the Arizona Diamondbacks for Jean Segura, Mitch Haniger, and Zac Curtis. In the blink of an eye any question about the Mariners’ win-now attitude disappeared, but the question remains: was this a Good Trade?
Allow me to warn you now that this post isn’t going to have a ton of numbers, or any of the in depth #analysis you readers so richly deserve. Many other writers, far more talented with statistics than I, have already covered this trade and you can read those pieces here, here, and here. It’s a fool’s errand to try to determine, in the immediate aftermath of a trade, if it was good or bad, but the offseason is long and mostly dull, so why not stir up the pot and make some large sweeping claims about things that cannot yet be proven or disproven? My only hope for this piece is to simply create an opportunity for further conversation about the trade, and to have documented proof when gleefully exclaiming "I told you so" in October.
All that being said: This was a good trade and we should like it very much.
Let’s break this down into two quite obvious sections: what the Mariners lost, and what the Mariners gained. First off is the looming specter of the eternal refrain "why do they always get better when they leave?" The loss of Taijuan Walker in particular seems to have struck this fear into the hearts of many and when you think about his potential, rather than his track record, the trade can seem like a terrible idea. However, here’s the trick: the likelihood of Walker reaching this (in many cases lexaggerated) ceiling is pretty slim. He showed flashes of brilliance in his last few starts, but that was largely acknowledged as being due to mechanical changes he worked on with Mel Stottlemyre Jr. and guess who’s not going down to Arizona with him? This is not to say he can’t have the same kind of success with the Diamondbacks’ pitching coaches, but you’ll excuse me if I don’t have a lot of faith in an organization which has had to rely almost exclusively on bringing in established pitchers, and who’s greatest homegrown pitching success was Brandon Webb (29.7 fWAR throughout seven seasons). Ketel Marte has significantly less upside than Walker and those who say he could be the Diamondbacks’ starting shortstop clearly did not see many of his 2016 plate appearances. It’s not fair to ignore the fact that Marte’s stints on the DL, coupled with a lingering case of mono, compromised his abilities this season and there’s reason to hope that a return to health could help him improve in 2017. However, to be perfectly honest, one of the things I love most about this trade is that a) Dipoto was somehow able to trade Marte for something more than a Costco-sized box of Nutrigrain bars and b) we will never again have to see Marte flail at a pitch in the opposite batters box on an 0-2 count.
On the other side of things, acquiring Segura has the potential to give the Mariners one of the strongest infield defenses in the league. It’s true that he likely won’t repeat his incredible 2016 season, but even if he simply lives up to Steamer’s projected 2.2 fWAR he’ll be a vast improvement over the abominable amalgamation of Marte/Shawn O’Malley/Mike Freeman/Luis Sardinas. From an utterly unquantifiable perspective I also must confess that I love the idea of having Segura in the clubhouse, and as everyday teammates with Robinson Canó (if you haven’t read this take the time to do so now. You’ll both feel incredibly happy to have Robbie on this team, and dramatically helps to shed some light on Segura’s 2014 and 2015 struggles). Mitch Haniger has fantastic upside and some notable baseball minds are even looking at him as the potential steal of the trade. I wasn’t initially sold, since his presence is a threat to my ALL CUBAN OUTFIELD dream, but he seems like a good guy on Twitter and his first major league hit was a triple off of Noah Syndergaard, so I think he can stay. Zac Curtis seems to have been tossed in at the last minute, when Dipoto got a little greedy, but you can never have too many relievers in the pile, right?
So now it's your turn to weigh in. Do you agree with me? Lovely, let's be friends. Think I'm completely, incoherently wrong? Tell me why, and I may even reconsider my stance. Otherwise you'll just give me an excuse to share the 48-minute super cut video of all of Ketel Marte's 2016 strikeouts.