The M’s Record in Pitcher Trades

marc w · July 25, 2017 at 5:05 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

I’ve seen/heard a lot of commentary about the M’s two trade deals last week, and much of it has been far more positive from the M’s point of view than my rather bleak assessment. One of the reasons is that I’m perhaps subconsciously discounting the eventual production of a guy like Marco Gonzales due to the M’s record when acquiring pitchers in trade. Is that fair? I obviously think so, but I’m open to counterarguments. This is one of the key bits of context for this or other trades that I didn’t spell out as well as I could’ve in the articles on the trades. So let’s fix that now!

Jerry Dipoto and company have made 27 separate trades (not waiver claims, not free agent deals) to acquire a grand total of 30 pitchers.* These range from blockbusters like the Tai Walker for Jean Segura/Mitch Haniger (it also included Zac Curtis, remember!) to the instantly forgettable, like acquiring Bryan Bonnell from the Rays for cash. Of these 30 pitchers, 21 have thrown at least one pitch for the Seattle Mariners. The sum total of their FIP-based WAR contributions to the M’s is less than 4; it’s slightly worse using ERA-based WAR. In other words, every pitcher the M’s have acquired in trade in the Dipoto era have produced roughly as much WAR as Chris Taylor has this year for the Dodgers. Depending on the WAR framework you prefer, 8-10 of them have put up *negative* WAR for the M’s. In return, the M’s have given up roughly 15-16 WAR in major league production in 2017 plus 6 prospects ranked in the system’s top 10. They’ve given up another 9 or so players ranked in the 10-20 range, too. The M’s haven’t gotten a whole lot from any of these deals; you’re talking about James Pazos’ first half, Evan Scribner’s 2016 and David Phelps first appearance. The trades that have produced the most pitching WAR for the M’s are not ones that most M’s fans feel unambiguously positive about: they’re the Seth Smith for Yovani Gallardo trade (using fWAR only) and the two deals involving Wade Miley.

I don’t want to oversell this. The M’s *do not* have wholesale issues in pro scouting or player development. While they didn’t get much when trading Erick Mejia for Joe Wieland, flipping Jio Orozco for Ben Gamel has worked out rather nicely. The M’s farm system wasn’t great, so that limits their ability to acquire talent in trade – they’re shopping in the bargain aisle, so of course there aren’t as many clear wins. Injuries have hurt, too, as Shae Simmons and Drew Smyly might’ve been great if they were healthy. And of course, guys like Gonzales may contribute for 6 years later on, but haven’t had the opportunity to produce for the M’s yet. The same works in reverse, though, too; the M’s have traded/sold several pitchers who are now interesting prospects for other teams, and if you want to feel more positive about the history of this FO, you should absolutely not look at the stats of guys like Luiz Gohara or Zack Littell.

Still, this is a pretty appalling record when you consider what the M’s gave up. Like DMZ, I’m all about evaluating a trade based on what we knew at the time, but a team’s track record starts to matter as the sample of trades grows. Part of the reason, as I mentioned in the post about the O’Neill/Gonzales swap, is that Dipoto seems to target low-ceiling/high-floor command guys, perhaps because that’s what’s available in his price range. But just as the Zduriencik-era M’s had a big disconnect between the scouting group’s love of power-hitting right-handed bats and the player development group’s ability to develop such players, I worry that the M’s PD system hasn’t been able to do a ton with command/control guys throwing 88-92. I don’t want to pin too much of this on PD; guys like Lance Painter have done an admirable job getting a ton of AAA production out of the odds and ends handed to him by the FO, and of course, there’s the small matter of James Paxton turning into JAMES PAXTON on his watch. Another factor could simply be that the players Dipoto loves to target have been the most impacted by baseball’s HR binge – command guys who “should” see their HR/FB regress have seen them rise instead as the entire league’s HR/FB gets ratcheted upwards.

It’s impossible to disentangle all of these factors, and when we’re talking about 2-dozed+ players, many of whom were acquired for cash considerations, it’s entirely possible that the entire record is dumb luck, and it shouldn’t impact our evaluation of Gonzales at all. But as well as some of his trades have worked out, the team really seems to have struggled to add pitching. This isn’t blaming Dipoto for not landing Cy Young candidates. Rather, it’s wondering why there are so many negative WAR figures dotted around the 2017 stats for the guys the M’s traded for. Dipoto’s work in free agency is a mixed bag, but the trade record is so important because it’s pretty much the only way Dipoto’s filled out the M’s rotation. He inherited Felix and Paxton (and sort of inherited Iwkauma), but pretty much everyone else who’s started this year has been acquired in trade – Miranda, Gallardo, Heston, Whalen, Gaviglio, Overton, de Jong were all trade guys. Only Andrew Moore (drafted), Christian Bergman and Ryan Weber (waiver claims) weren’t trade targets. If his clear MO is to build a rotation through deals, then it’s imperative that the M’s actually succeed at that strategy. They haven’t yet.

* I tallied this up manually by scrolling through transaction logs; I’ve probably missed something(s). Here’s the list, for those interested:

Traded Acquired
7/3/2017 Tyler Herb Cash
7/20/2017 Brayan Hernandez, Lukas Schiraldi, Pablo Lopez, Brandon Miller David Phelps
7/21/2017 Tyler O’Neill Marco Gonzales
7/24/2017 Jean Machi, Mark Lowe cash
5/9/2017 Cash Bryan Bonnell
4/14/2017 Paul Fry Cash
3/1/2017 Drew Jackson, Aneuris Zabala Chase de Jong
3/2/2017 Pat Venditte Joey Curletta
1/6/2017 Seth Smith Yovani Gallardo
1/6/2017 Nate Karns Jarrod Dyson
1/11/2017 Carlos Vargas, Ryan Yarbrough, Mallex Smith Drew Smyly
1/11/2017 Luiz Gohara, Thomas Burrows Shae Simmons, Mallex Smith
1/26/2017 Jason Goldstein Dillon Overton
12/7/2016 PTBNL Chris Heston
12/9/2016 Tyler Pike PTBNL
11/7/2016 Vidal Nuno Carlos Ruiz
11/12/2016 Paul Blackburn Danny Valencia
11/18/2016 Andrew Kittredge, Dylan Thompson, Dalton Kelly Taylor Motter, Richie Shaffer
11/18/2016 Zack Littell James Pazos
11/23/2016 Taijuan Walker, Ketel Marte Jean Segura, Mitch Haniger, Zac Curtis
11/23/2016 Alex Jackson, PTBNL Max Povse, Rob Whalen
9/1/2016 Jake Brentz, Pedro Vasquez Arquimedes Caminero
9/13/2016 Wade LeBlanc PTBNL
9/14/2016 Joe Wieland PTBNL
8/6/2016 Tim Lopes Pat Venditte
8/31/2016 Jio Orozco, Juan De Paula Ben Gamel
7/20/2016 Mike Montgomery, Jordan Pries Dan Vogelbach, Paul Blackburn
7/26/2016 Joaquin Benoit Drew Storen
7/31/2016 Wade Miley Ariel Miranda
6/11/2016 Justin de Fratus Pat Kivlehan
6/19/2016 Chris Taylor Zach Lee
6/22/2016 PTBNL Wade LeBlanc
3/30/2016 PTBNL Nick Vincent
1/12/2016 Erick Mejia Joe Wieland
12/2/2015 Mark Trumbo, CJ Riefenhauser Steve Clevenger
12/4/2015 Jose Ramirez Ryne Harper
12/7/2015 Carson Smith, Roenis Elias Wade Miley, Jonathan Aro
12/8/2015 Trey Cochran-Gill Evan Scribner
12/9/2015 Daniel Missaki, Freddy Peralta, Carlos Herrera Adam Lind
12/18/2015 Tyler Olson Cash
11/5/2015 Brad Miller, Logan Morrison, Danny Farquhar Nate Karns, CJ Riefenhauser, Boog Powell
11/12/2015 Enyel de los Santos Joaquin Benoit
11/16/2015 Tom Wilhelmsen, James Jones, Pat Kivlehan Leonys Martin, Anthony Bass


One Response to “The M’s Record in Pitcher Trades”

  1. stevemotivateir on July 26th, 2017 8:12 am

    Thank you, Marc. Excellent job laying everything out and making sense of one heap of a mess of transactions.

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