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Mariners make odd, seemingly indefensible trade, send Jean Segura, Juan Nicasio, and James Pazos to Phillies for... payroll flexibility?

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I have lived many lifetimes this off-season alone

Texas Rangers v Seattle Mariners
sneak peek at my 2019 Mariners lewk
Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images

The Díaz/Canó to the Mets deal wasn’t even official yet before we started hearing rumblings of Segura to Philly in exchange for promising yet hasn’t-put-it-all-together yet SS J.P. Crawford. Then it was rumored 1B Carlos Santana would also be in the deal, which made sense, considering Segura is owed $14.25M for the next four seasons—not a crushing amount for an All-Star shortstop, but a healthy amount nonetheless. Still, Mariners fans held out hope for another piece coming from the Phillies’ highly-rated farm system. That, apparently, is not to be. In fact, there’s an extra arm going over in the deal—two, in fact—but they’re going west to east, not the other way around.

But why would this happen? Why would the rebuilding Mariners deal with a team with a system ranked in the top five last year for prospects...and not come away with a single prospect? (Crawford is not technically considered a prospect anymore, but a “young player.”) What could the possible motivation for this be?

Of course. It’s about money first, and players second. The Mariners aren’t prioritizing getting players to help them in a rebuild; they’re prioritizing clearing out the biggest contracts they can, essentially selling their players under contract like free agents and collecting the money. It’s also about dumping Segura, who went from #SendSegura to #SendSeguraFarAwayFromHere in less than half a year.

To be fair, J.P. Crawford is an intriguing talent, and on the same sort of timeline as Justus Sheffield, acquired in the Paxton deal. Even as the trade of young, dynamic closer Edwin Díaz for a-glimmer-in-a-BA-writer’s-eye Jarred Kelenic seemed to signal the team was pivoting toward a harder rebuild, this trade seems to fit more in line with the idea of a “reimagining” with an eye towards 2020. But now the Mariners will have to compete against the A’s (with Jesus Luzardo) and the Astros (with Forrest Whitley) and the Angels (with Shohei Ohtani) without their two most valuable pitchers from 2018. Maybe Justus Sheffield steps in to fill the lefty ace role; maybe J.P. Crawford fills the All-Star-sized hole left by Jean Segura. Maybe Gerson Bautista goes through Brian DeLunas’s Pitch-o-Matic 3000 and emerges with pinpoint control and triple-digit stuff. Maybe the Mariners flip Santana (they probably will, or what are you even doing here) and get another solid MLB-adjacent player. As it is, though, they’ve given up a young, controllable bullpen piece and what could have been their best trade chip at the deadline, so they better hope they can get something useful for Santana, who is fairly redundant for the Mariners both position-wise (how many 1B/DH types does a team NEED?) and handednessly-wise (it is totally a word, shut up).

To most of us—and you, and official types alike, it seems—this trade looks pretty terrible at first blush, but as Grant pointed out to the rest of us, Crawford only has to be about a two-win shortstop consistently for the Mariners to even out the money, and if the team makes even one impactful free-agency signing for a pitcher, either this year or next, that could turn the perception of this trade pretty quickly. As it stands, however, it looks cheap and more than a little desperate, which isn’t a good look for anyone, let alone a team as mired in controversy as the Mariners have been over recent months.