The Seattle Mariners announced that they have traded 3B Eugenio Suárez to the Arizona Diamondbacks for RHP Carlos Vargas and C Seby Zavala. The move has numerous major implications. First, the deal is well and truly a salary dump, as the veteran Suárez, even heading into his age-32 season, has been a lifesaver for the Mariners. Worth 7.3 fWAR over the past two seasons, Suárez salvaged the trade that brought him to Seattle, compensating for massive underachievement by Jesse Winker and, later Kolten Wong, for whom Winker was dealt. Suárez filled the hole left by Kyle Seager’s retirement, and though his bat took a step back in 2023, his defensive dependability elevated to among the best third basemen in the sport. Due $11.285 million in 2024 and holding a $2 million buyout for 2025 or a team option for $15 million, Seattle clearly deemed Suárez the most highly paid player they could effectively move on from. The recent trade for INF Luis Urías with the Boston Red Sox in exchange for RHP Isaiah Campbell now takes on a different light, as Urías appears to be a full-time replacement and not merely a platoon bat as initially assumed given his capabilities.
In return, Seattle adds a pair of part-time players. Zavala is a veteran backstop who hits from the right side and has a great defensive track record. His arrival largely signals the departure of Tom Murphy, who had been discussed frequently as a player Seattle would love to have back. Zavala was designated for assignment by the Chicago White Sox in September after an atrocious season at the plate. The 30-year-old strikes out around 35% of the time, and has 514 plate appearances over four big league seasons, but is still on a league-minimum contract due to frequent promotions and demotions. His 2022 was far better; however, an offensive backslide puts him in the realm of Austin Hedges - pitchers love him, but you’re really eating it when he comes through the order. Out of minor league options, Zavala is likely to slot in as Cal Raleigh’s primary backup given his inability to be demoted, although he may compete with fellow new acquisition Blake Hunt.
On the pitching side, Vargas is headed into his age-24 season, with just 4.2 IP in the majors. He began his pro career with the Guardians as their largest IFA signing in 2016 with a fair amount of prospect shine thanks to his triple-digit fastball, but lost development time with TJ and struggled with command. Cleveland flipped him to Arizona for fellow minor-league pitcher Ross Carver in order to free up 40-man space during a roster crunch. However, Arizona’s pitching coaches were also unable to help rein in the 6’3” righty’s command; he walked almost as many batters as he struck out with Triple-A Reno while getting hit hard in the offensive-friendly PCL. Vargas’s fastball, which routinely sat 94-97 as a young prospect, got him through the lower levels, but as he progressed, more advanced batters were able to easily track its minimal tailing action. Instead of improving that pitch’s shape and risking his command further, the Guardians had him add a sinker that’s spiked to triple digits with some better results. His hard, biting slider also flashes plus, but he’s inconsistent at landing it. The Mariners will hope the third team’s the charm in attempting to unlock the dynamic fireballer’s premium stuff.
This move either can signal a shifting of funds to make larger additions elsewhere, namely in the outfield, or a blanket grim commentary on the club’s self-imposed financial austerity and how it will continue to stand in the way of competitiveness. While hopefully it is the former, it’s hard not to see the pattern as indicative of the latter.