The Seattle Mariners announced Sunday evening that they have traded OF Jarred Kelenic, LHP Marco Gonzales, 1B Evan White, and cash considerations to the Atlanta Braves for RHPs Jackson Kowar and Cole Phillips. The deal ships just shy of $20 million in guaranteed money from Gonzales and White’s deals in the 2023 season and around $32-33 million in total, though the cash likely mitigates a small portion of that.
Kelenic departs the Mariners in a similar capacity to the way he entered it, being the young, promising player utilized to grease the wheels on a salary dump trade. This time serving as the Edwin Díaz, Kelenic will head to Atlanta to fill out a young outfield that includes NL MVP Ronald Acuña Jr. and 2022 Rookie of the Year Michael Harris II. While White is likely to continue to work through his health issues to return to the promise of his prospect status, Gonzales will likely compete for a rotation or long relief role in the Atlanta bullpen. Given the potency of Atlanta’s offense, Gonzales’ reputation as an innings eater may serve him well. His residency as the longest tenured Seattle Mariner now passes to J.P. Crawford.
The players joining the M’s are a pair of raw pitchers still working to fulfill their draft promise. Taken 33rd overall in 2018, Kowar is a prototypical pitcher’s build with electric stuff that lights up the radar gun. However, his command has long been cataclysmic, and he was unable to find success in an infamously poor Kansas City Royals pitching developmental system. Though Kowar has started in the minors, the 27-year-old has only worked in relief as a big leaguer. The onetime University of Florida standout joins fellow winter acquisition Carlos Vargas in the framework of ultra-talented reliever who Seattle is betting they can mold into brilliance.
Phillips will require more time, as the 2022 2nd round pick underwent Tommy John surgery following his draft year and has yet to pitch professionally. He shot up draft boards due to a velo spike into the high-90s pre-draft but showcased three quality pitches as a prep. He’s immediately the highest ceiling pitching prospect in Seattle’s system, however if you wanted to make the comparison to the just-departed Sam Carlson, you’d be right for your caution.
This deal is another salary dump, plain and simple. While both Kowar and Phillips have interesting traits, moving Kelenic digs another hole in the outfield for the current roster while also shipping him off specifically with the purpose of shaving money off an already-low payroll. Most media reports have ranged from shock at the continued payroll-cutting to assumptions that surely this may mean a big move is imminent. As Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times notes, however, we have reason to question why that is deemed necessary at this point, and at least from what little I know myself, well, I wouldn’t take money on a big acquisition to Vegas.
More analysis to come in the following days.