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Mariners make rare painless off-season trade, acquire Ricardo Sanchez from the Braves for cash

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Jerry Dipoto Finishes Chapter One of “How To GM A Rebuild For Dummies”, Pays Cash For Talented Young Player

MLB: Atlanta Braves-Media Day
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The Mariners used one of those prized spots on their 40-man today to snag the recently-DFA’d Ricardo Sanchez from the Braves. Atlanta added Sanchez to their 40-man last season to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, but dropped him on Monday in order to free up room for their new (old) catcher (?) Brian McCann.

Sanchez was just 17 when he debuted in the Arizona Fall League for the Angels, running an impressive K/9 of over 10 but a troubling walk rate of over 5. With a fastball that could touch the mid-90s and a plus curve, however, MLB.com’s Teddy Cahill (now with Baseball America) wrote, in his summation of the trade: “Still just a teenager, [Sanchez] has plenty of upside and simply needs time to learn the intricacies of his craft.”

Unfortunately, time has not resulted in markedly better command for Sanchez, who, at High-A in 2017, collected plenty of strikeouts (a K/9 of over 9), but also issued plenty of walks (4.14 per 9). Unceremoniously deposited in High-A in 2018, the 21-year-old Sanchez saw his strikeout rate swoon while his walk rate remained stubbornly consistent. A 5’11” lefty, Sanchez has a frame reminiscent of fellow short king Justus Sheffield, with the same command issues but less overwhelming velocity. Sanchez has bulked up and is listed at 215 now on Fangraphs as opposed to the 170 he’s listed at in earlier scouting reports, and his fastball lives in the low 90s with good sink. The curve is his second-best pitch, showing good 11-5 break, and he also throws a changeup that Baseball America calls more consistent than the curve. Sanchez gets some late movement on his pitches, like this fastball clocked at 94 from a start this August:

From that same game, here’s the curveball:

And we as a staff are divided about what to call this—we debated sinker, flat curve, and cutter—but decided on “slurve,” for now.

Sanchez is still just 21—he won’t be 22 until mid-April—so there’s time yet to develop him, especially in a system as thin on pitching as the Mariners. Sanchez ranked as #26 on MLB Pipeline for the Braves, and per JJ Cooper, perhaps their 15th-best starting pitching prospect; for the Mariners, he slots in as their 21st-ranked prospect, fifth-ranked starting pitching prospect, and their best left-handed pitching prospect not named Justus. Getting a player like this without having to give up any of the already scarce resources on the farm is significant, and if the Mariners can help develop Sanchez into a viable starting pitcher (perhaps by gluing him to whatever side of Wade LeBlanc isn’t currently occupied by Justus), that would be a large feather in the cap for both the M’s development and the always-active Dipoto.

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A couple other minor transactions of note: per MiLB Mariners, the Mariners have signed South African righty Tayler Scott, a 26-year old reliever-only who’s been in the Cubs, Brewers, and Rangers systems, and last season posted an FIP of 4.12 at Triple-A Round Rock; and RHP Nabil Crismatt, a very Productive Outs name, a 23-year-old starter from the Mets system who was fine in Double-A this year but had a disastrous 38 innings for Triple-A Las Vegas, where he suffered a Biblical-level-punishing HR/FB rate of over 20%. Crismatt fits the soft-tossing, barrel-missing mold, and isn’t ancient, but still fails to wow with his stuff. The Mariners have had some success charming pitchers out the Mets’ discard pile (Erik Goeddel, Chasen Bradford); perhaps Crismatt will follow suit.