About That Trade

Welcome back, I hope you had an enjoyable Thanksgiving weekend. So, about that trade…

Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto made his biggest move of the offseason late on Wednesday night, after most of us had begun our holiday preparations.

He sent popular pitcher Taijuan Walker and shortstop Ketel Marte to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for shortstop Jean Segura, outfielder Mitch Haniger, and left-handed reliever Zac Curtis.

I think a lot of us Rainiers fans were initially stunned by the move. We’ve seen a lot of Walker and Marte at Cheney Stadium over the last three seasons, watched them grow, and have rooted for them to have success with Seattle.

The Mariners saw this as a chance to upgrade at the shortstop position. Segura had a huge season in 2016, a career year in which he batted .319 with 20 homers, 41 doubles, and 102 runs scored while leading the National League with 203 hits. That is some serious production, and even if he falls back a bit, it will be a massive upgrade from what the M’s received from Marte in 2016. Heck, he even received some down-ballot MVP votes this year.

Seattle gives up Walker, who still has the potential to become a No. 1 or No. 2 starter – although the Mariners were probably frustrated by the recent slow pace of his development. Walker has the talent to be better than he has so far (he was 8-11, 4.22 in 2016), and maybe he’ll be able to harness it with a new team. He just had surgery to clear up his lingering foot injury, which should help him moving forward.

It’s a lot to give up: the dream of Walker becoming a top-of-the-rotation starter. The M’s are banking on Segura being worth it.

There are other parts of the trade which could have an impact in Seattle.

Mitch Haniger is a nothing-left-to-prove-in-the-minors outfielder with some pop. He demolished PCL pitching this year while playing for Reno, hitting .341 with 20 HRs and 64 RBI in a half-season (74 games). Included were two home runs against the Rainiers at Cheney Stadium – one of them a grand slam on September 4.

Home/road splits are crucial for Reno players, because Greater Nevada Field is a launching pad. Haniger actually hit better in road games: .325 with seven HRs at home, .355 with 13 HRs on the road.

Haniger is 26 years old, and a right-handed hitter. He’s been on a slow development path since he was drafted in 2012, and this past season was a breakout year. The Mariners are hoping he becomes more than a reserve outfielder at the major league level.

The M’s also added to their slim reserve of left-handed relievers by acquiring Curtis, who managed to go directly from Class-A Visalia to the major leagues.

This deserves more attention, because of how rare it was. Let’s dive in:

Zac Curtis broke spring training camp in April and was assigned to Advanced-A Visalia of the California League. This was a natural progression for him – he had spent the entire 2015 season at Low-A Kane County.

On April 28, Curtis pitched a scoreless inning at Visalia’s Recreation Park against the Modesto Nuts. After that game, he had a 5.23 ERA but with 22 strikeouts in 10.1 innings pitched. He probably felt like he was 100,000 miles away from the big leagues.

Two days later he made his Major League Baseball debut, facing the Colorado Rockies at Chase Field in Phoenix. He got the only batter he faced – Gerardo Parra – to ground into a double play.

Curtis ended up pitching in 21 major league games for Arizona, with a 6.75 ERA. When they needed to send him to the minors, they optioned him to Double-A Mobile. He has yet to pitch in a Triple-A game.

Haniger and Curtis both have a chance to help in the majors in 2017 and beyond.

So, what do I think of the trade? People kept asking me all weekend. After four days of thinking about it, I have come to my conclusion:

I don’t know.

The move fills one hole, shortstop, while creating another one in the starting rotation.

Segura could help push the Mariners into the playoffs and we’ll point at this trade as a key moment, even if Walker reaches his full potential. Or Walker could become a star, while Segura craters to his 2015 level and leaves as a non-tendered free agent in two years. That’s the disaster scenario. Maybe Haniger will become an average starting corner outfielder for a few years. Marte will move to second base with Arizona (Nick Ahmed is their shortstop; he’s a fielding wizard); he could emerge as a quality starting infielder.

There are a lot of possible outcomes. I have no idea how this is going to work out.

One thing we know is that now the M’s need to add another solid starting pitcher in a market that is very thin on starting pitching.

Dipoto is creative. He knew when he made this trade that he needs to add a starter. We’ll find out what he has up his sleeve.

Links:

Check back later in the week for a Triple-A All-Star Flashback or two, and Baseball America’s Top 10 Mariners Prospects comes out on Wednesday. The Winter Meetings begin on Monday, December 5.

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