We’ve reached a point where Jerry Dipoto appears to be doing one of those Instagram-esque “30 pictures in 30 days” challenges, only with trades, and I’m not exactly sure we’re at the tail end of it all. The Seattle Mariners have acquired starting pitcher Chase De Jong from the Los Angeles Dodgers in exchange for shortstop Drew Jackson and reliever Aneurys Zabala, per reports. They have also designated infielder Mike Freeman for assignment:
The trade continues a trend we’ve seen from Dipoto: trading away young, intriguing prospects who are still long shots to make the majors in exchange for prospects who are a bit closer to becoming a big league contributor. Let’s break down what is going where here:
What the Mariners are receiving
The only thing coming the Mariners’ way in this trade is right-handed pitcher Chase De Jong. De Jong is a 23-year-old righty who was selected out of Wilson High School (Long Beach, CA) by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 2nd round of the 2012 MLB Draft. In 2015, he was traded to the Dodgers for international bonus pool slots.
De Jong has pitched well in the Dodgers organization and 2016 might have been the best year of his career. In 141.2 innings in Double-A, De Jong managed a 3.68 FIP while striking out hitters at a rate of 7.94 K/9. He made one start in Triple-A at the end of the season, striking out 8 over 5.1 dominant innings.
The big righty (6’4, 205 lb) fits well into Dipoto’s organizational philosophy, preferring to pound the strike zone with a three-pitch range of offerings. His fastball is a low-90s offering that he throws well to all parts of the zone. He also has a curveball that shows plus potential and a changeup that’s more of a fringe offering, but is good enough to keep hitters honest. De Jong is an extreme fly ball pitcher and assumedly will be more effective in the spacious confines of Safeco Field.
At this point we can only assume Dipoto is trying to acquire every single baseball player that retweeted this Greg Maddux quote:
What the Mariners are giving up
Drew Jackson is the biggest name going away in this trade. Jackson continued his breakout 2015 season with Low-A Everett after being selected out of Stanford, but he failed to build on his offensive successes in year two. After being aggressively promoted to Advanced-A Bakersfield, Jackson managed just an 88 wRC+. He was then oddly sent to the Arizona Fall League at the end of the season, where he was eaten alive (19 wRC+, .149/.231/.170) by all of the spectacular arms the league features. The glove is and always will be Jackson’s biggest selling point. His combination of athleticism and general feel for the position has him set up to be a major league-quality shortstop at some point if he cleans up the routine errors. He will go as far as the bat takes him.
Zabala, meanwhile, is a 20-year-old flamethrower who is yet to pitch above the rookie leagues. He spent 2016 with the AZL Mariners, totaling 28 strikeouts in 25.0 innings pitched. And while Zabala is capable of sitting in the high-90s with his fastball and boasts a decent curve to go along with it, the command is a very serious issue that will need to be ironed out before he can take significant steps forward.
Mike Freeman is now in purgatory
Mike Freeman falls into baseball limbo after being designated for assignment to create space for De Jong on the 40-man. Freeman entered camp with a very outside shot at the utility bench role. He finished 2016 with a 56 wRC+ in 24 plate appearances between Seattle and the Arizona Diamondbacks.