Here is today’s Mariners minor-league report.
With the trade deadline season nearly upon us, and the first big deal having already dropped, the Mariners are sure to be front and center in the trade rumors as July 31 approaches. That’s what happens when 21 teams are within seven games of either the division lead or wild-card status. It puts a lot of focus on the small group positioned to be sellers, and the Mariners at the moment are solidly in that camp. They currently sit 11 1/2 games out of first in the AL West, and 10 1/2 games out of the wild card (with nine teams ahead of them). There’s still almost a month to perhaps change this dynamic, but right now the Mariners set up as a team with numerous veterans to deal.
We’ll examine the specifics of that soon (though you know the names that will likely come into play — Kendrys Morales, Michael Morse, Oliver Perez, Brendan Ryan, Raul Ibanez and Joe Saunders, most prominently), but for now I wanted to take a look at Jack Zduriencik’s track record at the trade deadline. This is his fifth season, so he has four years of deadline deals, mostly as a seller, to look at. I’m not including waiver deals after July 31.
6/28: Acquired OF Ryan Langerhans from Washington in exchange for INF/OF Michael Morse. Comment: The Mariners were looking for some outfield depth, but this one backfired big-time when Morse developed into an impact bat with the Nationals. He peaked in 2011 with 31 homers, 95 RBIs and a .303/.360/.550 line. Langerhans had a couple of good moments but was a .200 hitter in 117 games over three seasons. Morse came back this year, and now he may be dealt again.
7/10: Acquired RH Danny Cortes and LHP Derrick Saito from Kansas City in exchange for INF Yuniesky Betancourt. Comment: Getting a team to take Betancourt off their hands was a coup for Zduriencik. There was some excitement over Cortes’s arm, and he made it to the majors but didn’t pan out. Saito never made it past A ball. Betancourt, bless his free-swinging heart, is still at it with the Brewers.
7/11: Acquired INF Jack Hannahan from Oakland in exchange for RHP Justin Souza. Comment: This was a non-impactful trade. Hannahan was an adequate utility infielder for 51 games, while Souza is still kicking around in Triple-A in the Tiger organization.
7/29: Acquired INF Jack Wilson and RHP Ian Snell from Pittsburgh in exchange for INF Ronny Cedeno, C/1B Jeff Clement, RHP Aaron Pribanic, RHP Brett Lorin and RHP Nathan Adcock. Comment: This was Zduriencik’s first big mid-season deal, and the first indication that Bill Bavasi’s top prospects weren’t nearly as coveted in this regime. At the time of the trade, the Mariners were surprisingly five games over .500 (coming off a 100-loss season) and 7 1/2 games out of first, still hoping for a spark. In retrospect, the trade really didn’t amount to much. No big breakouts to haunt them; Jeff Clement, the No. 3 overall pick in 2005, is still mired in the minors. But the Mariners didn’t reap much from Wilson and Snell, except for a memorable reaction from new manager Eric Wedge when Wilson basically pulled himself out after making two errors at second base in a game in Texas.
7/29: Acquired RHP Robert Manuel from Cincinnati in exchange for OF Wladimir Balentien. Comment: Another Bavasi-era hotshot in Balentien out the door. He didn’t do much with the Reds but is now a slugging star in Japan for Yakult, with 31 homers in each of the past two years and 27 so far this year in just 58 games. Manuel never made it to the majors with Seattle and now appears to be out of baseball.
7/31: Acquired LHP Luke French and LHP Mauricio Robles from Detroit in exchange for LHP Jarrod Washburn. Comment: With an 8-6 record and 2.64 ERA in 20 starts, Washburn was a pretty good trade chip (albeit a rent-a-player as his four-year, $37.5 million contract ran out after the season), but the Mariners didn’t get much out of this deal. Footnote: This appears to be the first of many times Zduriencik flirted with acquiring Jesus Montero. Luke French appeared in 24 games over the next two years with a 5.37 ERA before being designated for assignment in 2011. Robles had a lot of promise but never blossomed and is now in Triple-A with the Phillies.
6/26: Acquired 1B Russell Branyan from Cleveland in exchange for OF Ezequiel Carrera and INF Juan Diaz. Comment: In the midst of a miserable season, the Mariners were desperate for some power and brought back Branyan, who wound up leading them with 15 homers even though he played in just 57 games (you can look it up). Carrera has played, without much distinction, in 131 games with the Indians, Phillies and now back to the Indians. Diaz appeared in five games with the Indians last year but is back in Triple-A.
7/9: Acquired 1B Justin Smoak, INF Matt Lawson, RHP Josh Lueke, RHP Blake Beavan from Texas in exchange for LHP Cliff Lee and RHP Mark Lowe. Comment: Much time and space has already been devoted to analyzing this trade, including the Mariners spurning a potential deal with the Yankees involving Jesus Montero to take the Rangers offer. Let’s just say it hasn’t worked out nearly as well as the Mariners hoped, starting with the Lueke fiasco (though Lueke turned into John Jaso who turned into Michael Morse) and continuing through the slow development of Justin Smoak.
7/30: Acquired LHP Charlie Furbush, OF Casper Wells, INF Francisco Martinez and RHP Chance Ruffin in exchange for RHP Doug Fister and RHP David Pauley. Comment: Probably Zduriencik’s worst mid-season deal because of the advancement of Fister into a frontline pitcher, and the failure of Francisco Martinez, considered a top prospect, to develop. He was eventually DFA’d and is back with Detroit. The only asset for the Mariners out of this deal was Furbush, a good left-handed reliever. Ruffin is in Double-A being converted to a starter.
7/31: Acquired OF Trayvon Robinson and OF Chih-Hsien Chiang from Boston in exchange for LHP Erik Bedard and RHP Josh Fields. Comment: Neither Robinson or Chiang are still in the Mariner organization. Turns out the best player in this three-way deal went from Boston to the Dodgers: RHP Stephen Fife, who is in the LA rotation with a 3-2 record and 2.83 ERA in seven starts.
7/23: Acquired RHP D.J. Mitchell and RHP Danny Farquhar from Yankees in exchange for OF Ichiro. Comment: The time had come for a parting of the ways. This deal benefited the Mariners by removing the temptation to bring Ichiro back for a couple more years, and it enabled him to get back to the postseason. Mitchell is already gone, but Farquhar has shown a live arm in the Mariners bullpen (28 strikeouts in 19 1/3 innings).
7/30: Acquired OF Leon Landry and RHP Logan Bawcom from Toronto in exchange for RHP Brandon League. Comment: Too soon to say whether Landry or Bawcom will blossom, but League had definitely become expendable with Wilhelmsen’s emergence.
7/30: Acquired OF Eric Thames from Toronto in exchange for RHP Steve Delabar. Comment: This one backfired. Thames was recently DFA’d out of the organization, while Delabar is a valuable reliever for the Blue Jays (5-1, 1.58 ERA in 35 appearances, 57 strikeouts in 40 innings)
That’s 13 trades, yielding four players currently on the active roster: Smoak, Beavan, Furbush and Farquhar, plus Morse indirectly through the Jaso trade. There are no hauntings of the Jason Varitek/Derek Lowe caliber (of course, the Mariners under Zduriencik haven’t yet been in the position to trade prospects for an established player), but Fister is sorely missed.