Sometimes things go right and sometimes things go wrong. It wasn’t a banner decade for the Mariners swingin’ deals. But it could have gone worse.
Let’s start with the good news. Fortunately, there really wasn’t one trade Seattle swung this decade requiring an oversized dunce cap and an over-spiked cocktail. Bill Bavasi didn’t have the nuclear codes this time around, so World fWar III was avoided. Nobody let Woody Woodward swing for the fences again, so that’s a plus.
But either way, it wasn’t good. Most of the hoopla over the past ten years revolved around big money spent on free agents and big money veterans anchoring the payroll. Sure, there were a couple big deals, but for the most part, trades were consummated at mass volume with little-to-no measurable outcome for either side.
Before we truly dive in, it’s important we identify some parameters for critiquing a deal. When examining the talent exchanging hands, Seattle will be credited with the fWAR a player earned while playing for the Mariners after being acquired. As far as quantifying what the team surrendered in a deal, only controllable years will be counted. Thus, if a player is dealt mid-contract, only the years of the contract with the new team will be counted against Seattle. Similarly, if a player still has controllable pre-arb and arbitration years ahead, only those years would have been held against the Mariners. For this exercise, it won’t be presumed an extension was going to be given to any players. On the subject of extensions, money also won’t be an object in this analysis. Shedding payroll or adding payroll, it doesn’t matter. This is about production, and production alone.
It should also be noted most of these deals aren’t finished products. Several of these trades are still materializing, and will continue to do so over the next several years. For example, the Hanigura deal is clearly yet to be defined. Seattle currently holds a 1.6 fWAR advantage in the deal, but time will tell how that ages. Marte has several years of controllability ahead, and appears to be an MVP-caliber player.
But alas, this is the end of a decade. It’s a great opportunity for a hard stop and a temperature check.
After ten years and 144 major league trades, only 32 of them resulted in greater than 2.0 fWAR exchanging hands. Lots of rentals, a ton of relievers, buckets of cash, and plenty of minor leaguers swapped hands. Unfortunately, a million paper cuts can kill.
The Seattle Mariners exchanged talent at a deficit of 53.1 fWAR from 2010 to 2019. The team was able to acquire 63 fWAR through trades, but in the process, ferried 116.1 fWAR off to the opposition. Acquiring rentals like Adam Lind, Chris Denorfia and Casey Kotchman can be necessary for playoff pushes. Unfortunately, virtually none of those deals worked in the Mariners favor. Furthering the issue, when Seattle moved their veteran players for prospect capital, those young players almost never panned out. It was tough sledding.
But let’s look closer!
Alright, first, the good news! Let’s take a peek at the five best trades of the decade by comparative fWAR.
#5 - Mariners trade James Jones, Tom Wilhelmsen and Patrick Kivlehan to the Texas Rangers. Receive Leonys Martin and Anthony Bass
Date of trade: November 16, 2015
- fWAR accumulated by Wilhelmsen: -0.7
- fWAR accumulated by Jones: 0
- fWAR accumulated by Kivlehan: -0.3
- fWAR accumulated by Mariners in Martin: 2.0
- fWAR accumulated by Mariners in Bass: 0
TRADE: Mariners +3.0 fWAR
Martin is obviously the prize here, and even he only contributed 2.0 fWAR to the Mariners cause over the course of his tenure with the team. Bass never even reported to the team, instead electing to play overseas with the Nippon Ham Fighters.
Wilhelmsen and Jones went on to struggle during their controllable years, while Kivlehan became a journeyman minor leaguer with a few different teams, getting a cup of coffee here and there.
#4 - Mariners trade Jesus Ozoria to the San Francisco Giants. Receive Tom Murphy
Date of trade: March 29, 2019
- fWAR accumulated by Ozoria: 0
- fWAR accumulated by Mariners in Murphy: 3.2
TRADE: Mariners +3.2 fWAR
This trade is a perfect example of an unfinished story, but all signs point toward a massive win for Seattle. Murphy’s inaugural campaign with the Mariners was an unequivocal success and he still has three controllable years ahead. Ozoria struggled in A-ball for the Giants this season and is several years of development away from even potentially contributing to the big league ball club.
#3 - Mariners trade Rayder Ascanio to the St. Louis Cardinals. Receive Mike Leake
Date of trade: September 2, 2017
- fWAR accumulated by Ascanio: 0
- fWAR accumulated by Mariners in Leake: 4.7
TRADE: Mariners +4.7 fWAR
With Seattle hampered by injuries and a dreadfully thinned rotation, the Mariners turned to Leake for innings. General Manager Jerry Dipoto was also looking for creative ways to add an arm for a 2018 run at the postseason. The latter never came to fruition, though Leake provided exactly what Seattle was looking for in the deal. A consistent performer, Leake was a part of three seasons with the Mariners, compiling 4.7 fWAR over 58 starts.
Ascanio is yet to debut for the Cards, spending a majority of 2019 at AA-Springfield. The light-hitting Ascanio is yet to find much pop at the plate.
#2 - Mariners trade Maikel Cleto to the St. Louis Cardinals. Receive Brendan Ryan
Date of trade: December 12, 2010
- fWAR accumulated by Cleto: -0.7
- fWAR accumulated by Mariners in Ryan: 4.3
TRADE: Mariners +5.0 fWAR
The slick-fielding Ryan quickly became a fan favorite to Mariners fans, gobbling up anything and everything slapped his way. A wunderkind at shortstop, Ryan found a way to post 2.9 fWAR in 2011 with Seattle, all while supplying a paltry 84 wRC+ at the plate. He was special. Ryan was later shipped to New York toward the latter half of 2013.
Cleto got some run with the Cards and then White Sox, but never materialized into a consistent option at the MLB-level.
#1 - Mariners trade Tyler O’Neill to the St. Louis Cardinals. Receive Marco Gonzales
Date of trade: July 21, 2017
- fWAR accumulated by O’Neill: 1.4
- fWAR accumulated by Mariners in Gonzales: 7.4
TRADE: Mariners +6.0 fWAR
Ironically, the dealing of O’Neill quite possibly may have been the most uproarious swap this decade. Fans were appalled when Dipoto elected to move our beefed up muscle kid. O’Neill was in the midst of annihilating the Pacific Coast League, but with Nelson Cruz signed through 2018, Dipoto felt there wasn’t a spot for the Canadian body building baseball boy on the 25-man roster. A unanimous Top 100 prospect with prodigal power, Seattle fans salivated at the idea of protein-based dingers at Safeco Field.
Gonzales was the local boy, the Gonzaga product. He was coming off Tommy John surgery and still getting back to full strength. He’d debut for Seattle shortly after being acquired and has been the most consistent piece of Seattle’s rotation for the better part of three seasons.
It should be noted, five or six years from now, I’d be awfully surprised if the fleecing of the New York Mets in 2018 doesn’t top this list, and by a large margin.
Now... the bad news. Seattle too often found themselves bringing Grey Goose to the white elephant exchange, only to leave with a box of Franzia. You have to give Jack Zduriencik and Dipoto credit -- they’re always willing to spend on the party, if only to have their stuff stolen at the end of the night.
Shall we begin?
#5 - Mariners trade Erik Bedard and Josh Fields to the Boston Red Sox. Receive Trayvon Robinson from Dodgers; Chih-Hsien Chiang from Red Sox
Date of trade: July 31, 2011
- fWAR accumulated by Bedard: 0.7
- fWAR accumulated by Fields: 3.0
- fWAR accumulated by Mariners in Robinson: -1.2
- fWAR accumulated by Mariners in Chiang: 0
TRADE: Mariners -4.9 fWAR
After losing Adam Jones in the initial Erik Bedard deal, the short-stint starting pitcher was the gift that just kept giving. Bedard didn’t offer much in value to the Red Sox in his single season with the team, but the return for sending him away was truly awful. Robinson was supposed to be a mainstay in the Mariners outfield for several years but never panned out. He and the Casper Wells were supposed to anchor an outfield for Seattle, but both neither held their weight. Fields ended up being a valuable piece to Houston and Los Angeles bullpens over the next four years. He was never excellent, but consistency goes a long ways in this meta of bullpen volatility these days.
#4 - Mariners trade Doug Fister and David Pauley to the Detroit Tigers. Receive Chance Ruffin, Francisco Martinez, Casper Wells and Charlie Furbush
Date of trade: July 30, 2011
- fWAR accumulated by Pauley: -0.3
- fWAR accumulated by Fister: 9.9
- fWAR accumulated by Mariners in Furbush: 2.8
- fWAR accumulated by Mariners in Wells: 1.6
- fWAR accumulated by Mariners in Martinez: 0
- fWAR accumulated by Mariners in Ruffin: -0.4
TRADE: Mariners -5.6 fWAR
Not great. Nine combined seasons of Furbush, Wells and Ruffin contributed very little success to the big league club. Furbush was an effective situational lefty, but Wells and Ruffin were largely absent. Martinez was supposed to be quite a prize in the deal, but never ended up making the big leagues.
Fister went on to play a significant role in the Tiger’s World Series title in 2012, posting a 3.5 fWAR. He followed that up with an even more impressive 4.1 fWAR the next year before moving on to the Nationals in 2014. Pauley was a bit of a journeyman reliever, struggling after leaving Seattle.
#3 - Mariners trade Mallex Smith and Ryan Yarbrough to the Tampa Bay Rays. Receive Drew Smyly
Date of trade: January 7, 2017
- fWAR accumulated by Smith: 4.4
- fWAR accumulated by Yarbrough: 3.6
- fWAR accumulated by Mariners in Smyly: 0
TRADE: Mariners -8.0 fWAR
Seattle held Smith for just 17 minutes after acquiring him from the Braves. Dipoto would then flip him to Tampa for the starting pitcher the team needed. Smyly would suffer a season-ending shoulder injury in spring training and never took the mound for the Mariners.
Smith was solid, not spectacular in 2017, but would turn in a 3.5 fWAR campaign in 2018. Dipoto would re-acquire the centerfielder prior to the 2019 season where he’d post a meager 0.0 fWAR. Not good.
Yarbrough has been a mainstay as both a long-reliever and spot starter for Tampa for three years now where he’s posted valuable numbers.
#2 - Mariners trade Chris Taylor to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Receive Zach Lee
Date of trade: June 19, 2016
- fWAR accumulated by Taylor: 9.5
- fWAR accumulated by Mariners in Lee: 0.0
TRADE: Mariners -9.5 fWAR
This is where it gets ugly. A swing change for Taylor almost immediately transformed him into a key cog in the Dodgers lineup. Taylor still has controllability for the Dodgers, not due to become a free agent until 2022. This trade is going to get a lot more ugly before all is said and done.
Lee never took the mound for Seattle and struggled mightily in his brief stint with the Padres.
#1 - Mariners trade Michael Pineda and Vicente Campos to the New York Yankees. Receive Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi
Date of trade: January 23, 2012
- fWAR accumulated by Pineda: 9.9
- fWAR accumulated by Campos: -0.1
- fWAR accumulated by Mariners in Montero: -2.9
- fWAR accumulated by Mariners in Noesi: -0.4
TRADE: Mariners -13.1 fWAR
It should come as no surprise the Mariners acquisition of Montero ranks atop the mountain of mistakes from the last ten seasons. Montero actually holds the lowest fWAR of any Seattle Mariner from the past decade. Noesi also became a bit of a punchline, famously throwing meatball heaters down middle on countless 0-2 counts.
Pineda was very good for the Yankees despite some injury issues that caused him to miss several starts over the course of his four-year Yankee career.
Pineda was barely more valuable to the Yankees than Chris Taylor has been to the Dodgers, but considering how incredibly detrimental Montero was to Seattle, the scales topple on this one.
It was a very weird decade for the Mariners. Both Seattle and Kansas City actually won 758 games this decade, but one team added two World Series appearances, including a title. It was a decade of failed development, and poor timing for the Mariners. Whenever Seattle could taste the postseason, Oakland would inexplicably surge. Had some of these deals swung in Seattle’s favor, things could have been much different.
Woody Woodward and Bill Bavasi both made some dreadful mistakes during their tenures in Seattle, and Jack Zduriencik joined that list. The Taylor deal will likely be a nasty wart on Dipoto’s resume, as well as the player development staff in Seattle. Some breakout campaigns by Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn would go a long, long ways toward righting his proverbial transaction-happy ship.
For what it’s worth, Zduriencik’s actions this decade resulted in a loss of 34.2 fWAR. Dipoto’s story is entirely unwritten, but he’s currently operating at a deficit of 18.9 fWAR himself. He’s got a lot left to prove, and frankly, should be praying on the emergence of Jarred Kelenic as a star.
It’s a new decade and things seemed to have cooled a bit on the trade front. Here’s to hoping some of the young acquisitions from a year ago turn the tables for the years ahead.