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Mariners send RHP Connor Phillips as PTBNL to Reds to complete Winker/Suárez trade

Seattle sends away some more young pitching depth in exchange for two position players

MLB: Spring Training-Seattle Mariners-Workouts
The trade looks even better if you consider the Mariners got a potential play by play guy out of it
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The final piece of the Mariners’ arguably biggest off-season move clicked into place today, as the team announced that RHP Connor Phillips is being sent to the Reds to complete the trade that brought OF Jesse Winker and INF Eugenio Suárez to Seattle.

Phillips was drafted by Seattle in the second round (competitive balance pick) of the COVID-shortened 2020 draft and stood out as being the only non-four-year-college player Seattle took with its six choices, having gone the JUCO route out of high school (players who attend junior colleges don’t have to wait a certain amount of years before being drafted). As a young(er) player, Phillips carries much of the high variance risk of a prep selection, although with a little more polish than a traditional high school arm. In his first year of pro ball at Modesto, Phillips demonstrated both his impressive raw stuff, striking out almost a third of batters faced, and the command issues that can plague a young arm.

Phillips got off to a blazing-hot start in Modesto, striking out 31 batters in just 17 innings of work, but slowed down over the next couple of months as batters in the Cal League—a smaller league to start with, with a schedule set up so the same teams play each other often—adjusted to him, bringing his command issues more to the forefront. Phillips rebounded down the stretch, striking out 40 batters in his final 23 innings at Modesto while limiting his walks and earning a call-up to High-A Everett for the final weeks of the season.

There are some scouts who see a fair amount of reliever risk in Phillips’s already high-variance profile; his fastball (96-97 MPH) grades as his only above-average offering currently, although I think the slider is much better than its 45 grade, and his pitches have a “nasty” factor that doesn’t necessarily show up in just looking at his stat lines.

Phillips moves from #15 in the Mariners system to #14 in the Reds system. Dipoto warned Mariners fans that this trade would sting a little more when the PTBNL’s name was made known, and for those who follow the minors closely, Phillips’ name is recognizable enough to sting, as a prominent part of that next crop of rising pitchers. However, the general reaction seems quite measured (some people on Twitter feared Harry Ford would be the price, and the folks at 710 were happy it wasn’t Noelvi Marte, which...if that’s what people were expecting, no wonder Phillips comes as a relief). Our general sense here at LL when it became known it would be a young player was it would be someone from the international player group: Starlin Aguilar, George Féliz, Jonatan Clase, Milkar Perez, etc., so not giving up position player talent and instead dealing from an area of depth feels like a win to us.

However, this is not the fleecing of a trade Mariners Twitter has been crowing about, but rather the appropriate return for an All-Star and a player coming off his third straight 30+ homer full season (or fourth, if you prorate 2020). The Mariners sent a top-10, a top-20, and two MLB-ready rebound candidates to the Reds in a deal that hopefully makes sense for both teams, and even more hopefully will make both fanbases happy.