Mariners Trade for Mark Trumbo, Finally

Usually, around this time of year, there still isn’t really much of an active trade market. Not only are teams wrapping up the process of figuring out what they already have — front offices everywhere are dedicated to the draft. Meanwhile, in Seattle, Lloyd McClendon says he’s always being reminded by his analytics department that the team should be okay. And in Arizona, just the other day, Dave Stewart stood by Mark Trumbo, calling him one of the team’s biggest threats. Based on the circumstances, you wouldn’t expect trades, generally. And based on the words, you might’ve figured Trumbo would stay put, and the Mariners would stand pat.

That’s what you get for thinking things. Wednesday afternoon, the following trade was agreed to:

Mariners get:

Diamondbacks get:

Interestingly, while Arizona is getting the prospects and selling the main piece, they’re currently closer to a playoff spot than Seattle. But that’s kind of Seattle’s whole reason, and Arizona doesn’t fancy itself a real contender just yet. From the Diamondbacks’ perspective, this relieves a roster crunch, with Jake Lamb coming back and forcing Yasmany Tomas somewhere else. And from the Mariners’ perspective, Mark Trumbo feels like one of the most obvious acquisitions in years. He fits the mold, partially based in truth, of being a dinger machine who doesn’t really do anything else. But as easy and fun as it is to snark, that doesn’t make this a bad trade. And as much thump as Trumbo has, that doesn’t make this a big trade. It’s not actually of great significance, nor is it wildly lopsided.

I understand now that didn’t do a good job of selling the rest of this article. But, I mean, you’re a FanGraphs reader — you already know the perspective on Trumbo. Really strong! Nothing else. The power makes him a decent player, but the flaws keep him from being more than that, and none of the other pieces are shiny. Each could be a role player on a good team one day. You could say that of most professionals.

This might be the most helpful way to put it: I looked at the Mariners’ team projection before and after factoring in the deal. I know they’re just projections, and projections can miss some things, but I’ll take the projections over any individual’s gut feeling. The table shows how little this might matter over the rest of the year:

Time Win% R/G RA/G Run Diff.
Before 0.531 4.29 4.01 31
After 0.536 4.35 4.02 36

Five runs. A total benefit of five runs, with Nuno getting scattered innings, and Trumbo getting time in four different places. That’s not blowing any socks off. But the benefit could be greater, and the benefit doesn’t need to be limited to just the rest of 2015.

Trumbo has another year of team control, and that’ll cost probably about $10 million. At the moment, he’s 29, and he’s most definitely right-handed. We can look at how the market rewarded right-handed hitters over the winter. Nelson Cruz got four years and $58 million, and the Mariners gave up a draft pick. Billy Butler got three years and $30 million. Michael Cuddyer got two years and $21 million, and the Mets gave up a draft pick. Michael Morse got two years and $16 million. Those obviously aren’t all the same player, but they’re versions of a profile, and you see the value. Considering Trumbo’s age, he’d get more on the market than he’ll be paid before he’s a free agent, so that’s the surplus value.

Despite what Jack Zduriencik says, Trumbo isn’t a good defensive outfielder. He has done well at first base, but first base in Seattle is mostly occupied. This gets into the flawed part of his game — defensively, he’s limited. But he does hit enough to make up for it, much of the time, so the Mariners are going to squeeze him in. I’d figure this spells the end of Rickie Weeks, who was supposed to do what Trumbo ought to do. Dustin Ackley will probably play less, and the same could be said for Justin Ruggiano. There’s not a clear, obvious lane for Trumbo, but he’ll get his time. And he is an overall improvement.

Think about his power for a moment. Trumbo’s power is of the big-boy variety. There are a few Cruz parallels. He’s topped out at a 117 mile-per-hour exit velocity. Based on average air-ball batted-ball velocity, Trumbo right now ranks at the 90th percentile, and many of the balls he hits tend to stay hit. A month ago, Tony wrote about the necessity of big power in Safeco Field, if you’re going to put the ball in the air. Trumbo has that power. He’s a righty bat who should be able to play in Safeco, and those aren’t very common.

The power’ll be good, when it shows up. The defensive ratings will be negative. The OBP will be somewhere around .300. Trumbo could be a starter next year, or he could get traded again. Given his age, he should be fairly reliable. It’s easy to focus on the downsides, but the elite power really does make up for many concerns.

Vidal Nuno is a depth add. He won’t get discussed very much, because attention will go to Trumbo’s power and Vlad Guerrero’s nephew. His fastball tops out around 90 miles per hour, and he’s almost 28, so he isn’t an impact asset. At the same time, this is the underrated part of the trade. The Mariners have had an inconsistent bullpen, and with James Paxton and Hisashi Iwakuma hurt, the rotation depth has disappeared. Nuno, this year, has 19 strikeouts in 14.1 innings, and he maintained good ratios in Triple-A. He’s under team control for a while and he’s a strike-thrower, and the dinger problem could be relieved by Safeco’s environment. Nuno could be a capable starter. Teams spend millions on guys not much better than him.

Flipping it over, Dominic Leone is sort of the piece that replaces Nuno. The Mariners got an older potential starter; the Diamondbacks got a younger potential late-inning reliever. Leone’s stock is down — everyone Arizona’s getting has seen their stock go down — but a season ago, Leone flashed good stuff and promising results. He can throw a hard fastball and while he hasn’t yet figured out left-handed hitters, he has time to do that. If he does do that, he could close. Otherwise, he’ll need to be more carefully spotted, but he’s a tweak away from being able to help again. He’s too young to have had it disappear.

Welington Castillo is just a replacement for Tuffy Gosewisch. Sort of. Arizona also acquired Jarrod Saltalamacchia, and he’s in the process of learning all the pitchers, and they’ll be new to Castillo, too. So it isn’t clear who’ll end up playing more often, but Castillo probably has the better defensive reputation. With Castillo and Saltalamacchia, Arizona will have two guys who’ve handled big workloads in the past.

The prospects are the bigger gets. At least, one of them — that being Gabriel Guerrero. As you can imagine, he’s got tools, and he’s 21 years old. In spring training, he generated some buzz after doing this to a real pitcher:

Kiley ranked Guerrero eighth in the Mariners’ system. Problem is, in his first exposure to Double-A, he’s been lousy, with a sub-.600 OPS. Doesn’t mean it’s the end of the road, for someone with so much talent and so much youth, but Guerrero would be considered a lot less interesting if his name were Martinez, and he’s an obvious longshot. He wasn’t one of Kiley’s top-200 prospects, and his stock has lowered.

Finally, Jack Reinheimer, who’s nearly 23. Kiley ranked him 19th in the Mariners’ system, and he of course also wasn’t a top-200 prospect. He’s a shortstop who might not stay there, and he’s light on power, but he might be one of those fairly safe under-the-radar guys, who stays as a shortstop through pure determination. He probably won’t have a big-league career that takes him off the bench, but a young shortstop is a young shortstop.

Relative to a few months ago, Trumbo’s stock is up. Nuno’s is either up, or it’s stayed the same. Leone’s is down. Castillo’s is down. Guerrero’s is down. Reinheimer’s is down. The optimist would say the Diamondbacks are buying low, but it does feel like a bit of a light return. Trumbo’s a marketable piece, even with his limitations. But there are two things: one, the Diamondbacks were running out of time to clear room, and two, ultimately, this is what the market offered. A Mark Trumbo trade isn’t a blockbuster trade, not within the industry. It’s a trade of a guy who hits right-handed dingers. Maybe, one day, Gabby Guerrero will be hitting right-handed dingers. Maybe he’ll hit more of them.





Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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buctober 2015
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buctober 2015

Where and how much will Trumbo play this year?