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Mariners beat the buzzer, trade Mike Leake to Diamondbacks for INF Jose Caballero

They sent him home.

Baltimore Orioles v Seattle Mariners
A job well done.
Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

It seemed like the clock had run out, but the MLB Trade Deadline plays on Rocket League rules - the buzzer doesn’t sound until the ball touches the ground. Despite the 4 PM ET deadline, just as folks were about to turn away and pack up their bags and head home from the fireworks, a discreet but unmistakable **pop** came from over the hill.

Mike Leake! Traded! To the Diamondbacks! What is this, May? But no, it’s real, and despite an earlier deal reportedly being scuttled, this one made it. Seattle’s return in the move is not extensive, but it’s a player with a possible future and that ain’t nothing.

While we’re not 100% certain on the prorated salary remaining for Leake, it looks like Arizona will be taking on $6 million of the remaining money owed to him.

That means the deal comes out to this:

Mariners send: RHP Mike Leake, approximately $12-14 million

Diamondbacks send: INF Jose Caballero

This is not an earth-shattering return because Mike Leake does not shatter the earth. Still, the 22-year-old (23 at the end of August) Caballero has had some success at every level, and has split his time fairly evenly between 3B, 2B, and SS. This year he’s been with the High-A Visalia Rawhide, meaning he’s faced off against the Modesto Nuts a few times. Caballero’s numbers are solid this year - a .268/.388/.396 line with a 126 wRC+ and 145 DRC+ is encouraging, particularly as Caballero has hit at each level he’s been promoted to.

Even more encouraging, his speed has become a weapon this year, with 28 stolen bases in 35 attempts. According to Baseball America, his arm is just so-so, making him likelier a 2B or UTIL than an SS at the big-league level, but he’s had a contact-rich profile that could play up as he gets stronger. Still, the body type isn’t one to suggest more power - Caballero is listed at 5’10, 185 and already has a slight leg kick to try and generate some more oomph.

Not to throw too much rain on this parade, but between the excellent baserunning, UTIL profile, pull-heavy contact, and baby leg kick, there’s a Taylor Motter-like profile here. That’s good in that Caballero could follow that track to the majors, but that’s about the limit of the comparisons you’d hope to see. Caballero has gotten strong reviews on his makeup and high motor, fortunately, and his move to Florida to be drafted out of JUCO Chipola College in the 7th round of 2017 after being born in Panama City, Panama makes his pathway an intriguing one.

Caballero has been on the injured list since the 31st of May with a hand injury but was sent to Arizona for a rehab assignment starting today. He should be able to just move a few doors down to the Mariners facility and continue there. Whether he is able to get back up to speed is uncertain, but he should either return to Modesto or move up to Arkansas next year. Caballero was not a top-30 prospect in Arizona, nor was he on any major lists, but he’s mildly interesting, young, and plays positions Seattle has not had prospects at in many spots through the minors.

It’s a fine enough return, sending Leake to the state he played college and as close as possible to his father, who is paralyzed and for whom Leake has prioritized proximity in the past. The deal came about as a reaction to the much larger move by Arizona of the day - dealing ace Zack Greinke to the Houston Astros for four notable prospects.

This deal makes the Astros a true juggernaut this year, but can hardly be seen as anything but a win for the 2021 and beyond Mariners. Houston retains its top two prospects in Kyle Tucker and Forrest Whitley, but the chances the Astros regress to beatability by the time Seattle is ascending grew significantly today. Also, in a corresponding move to the three trades this afternoon, another minor league free agent signee will join the club!