Trade Deadline Round-Up: Leake to Arizona, Elias/Strickland to Washington (Oh, and the M’s Play The Rangers)

marc w · July 31, 2019 at 5:02 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Wade LeBlanc vs. Mike Minor, 5:05pm

After weeks of inaction and complaints that the incentives to get better were broken or non-existent, the past 24 hours have provided us with a deadline day to remember, even if 90% of the action was jammed into the last few minutes. The biggest movers of the day were clearly the Astros, who brought in both Zach Greinke, unquestionably the biggest name moving, and also ex-Jays SP Aaron Sanchez. The cost was significant: they’ve moved former top OF prospect Derek Fisher to Toronto, and a package including Seth Beer, Corbin Martin, and JB Bukauskas. The Astros look ready to contend with the Dodgers in the World Series, and what was still a fairly formidable minor league system looks thinned out noticeably.

The M’s weren’t going to be doing anything that flashy, but they’ve made some moves, too. First, the long, drawn-out saga of Mike Leake is finally over. The M’s got dinged-up minor league IF Jose Caballero to send Leake to Arizona, exactly where he wanted to go to be closer to his disabled father. The D-Backs will pay about $6 M of the money left on Leake’s contract; not sure if that includes his 2021 buyout. Caballero is 22 and fast. He was leading the Cal League in steals when he got hurt, and posts a solid walk rate leading to decent OBPs. He had some decent numbers in the Midwest League, but it’s been slightly tougher sledding in the Cal League for him, though he’s still posted an above-average line. He’s a flyer, but it almost doesn’t matter. As I said yesterday, the M’s owed it to themselves and Leake to just move on from the righty starter, and they seem to have done him (and his family) a real favor. Cool.

In another deal, the M’s packaged Hunter Strickland and Roenis Elias to Washington to bolster the middle/back of a beleaguered Nats bullpen. It’s been an absolute disaster this year, and with Strickland back, the hope is that they’re buying low on two guys who can munch some innings before they get to Sean Doolittle. That’s fine by me – I hope it works out. The M’s have no need for either, especially after Elias’ swoon this year, and especially in recent months. His ability to allow fly balls and yet not HRs did not survive the new dragless baseball, and he allows a ton of contact in front of a suspect defense. I can’t imagine what I’d think as a fan, and your big additions to fix a weakness that’s pushed you from the elite teams in the NL to the fringes of the wild card are a guy who just came off a lat injury and Roenis Elias, but that’s not my problem (ok, ok, they also got Daniel Hudson from Toronto). In return, the M’s get three live arms, essentially all destined for relief roles. 26-year old Tayleor Guilbeau has a solid, mid-90s fastball from the left side, and carved up AA this year. A low arm slot allows him to run some above-average ground ball rates. Grounders are the calling card of sinkerballer Aaron Fletcher, too. Fletcher’s 23, and dominated high-A before moving up to AA recently. I don’t think either will be a real wormkiller; ground ball rates are higher in the lower minors, after all, but I love the combination of grounders and Ks. The wild card in the return is converted OF Elvis Alvarado, who still doesn’t know how to locate, but has touched 100 in his brief tenure as a pitcher. All in all, it’s a very solid move, as the M’s had no need for two pitchers who realistically were only late-inning relievers out of necessity, and late-inning relievers don’t really matter for them at this point. In return, they get two guys with plus fastballs, and another with movement and some GB% upside. Is it system changing? No, and the M’s already have some relief prospects. But they traded something they don’t need now for a shot at a playable late-inning reliever in a few years. Easy call.

The M’s will call up/purchase the contract of RP Zac Grotz, who’d been with AA Arkansas. Grotz, a former Astros draft pick and minor league FA signing, throws righty and posted 69 Ks to 11 BBs out of the pen for Arkansas this year in 57 1/3 IP.

John Trupin of LL is bullish that the Astros going all-in for 2019 makes the M’s play for 2021 more likely, as the Astros will have fewer prospects providing them with depth/youth then. I’m not convinced, but then that’s kind of my thing. Seth Beer going to an NL team is great, as Beer’s dominated two levels this year. But he became expendable when Yordan Alvarez dominated two levels, too (one of them is MLB). Their pitching prospects stalled out this year and THAT, more than the fact that Bukauskas and Martin are leaving, is the one glimmer of hope here. But Alvarez is just 22, Alex Bregman just 25 and Carlos Correa is just 24. The M’s still need to identify a player with their level of upside, and then find several more. With Mitch Haniger suffering a lost season, he’ll be over 30 in 2021. The Astros reloading after acquiring Gerrit Cole and Justin Verlander in recent years demonstrates that they have the ability and development system to do this regularly, so I can’t imagine why they wouldn’t trade prospects for whoever the big deadline addition is whenever the M’s near a competitive window. Still, there’s no doubt their depth has taken a hit here. That, compared with the lost season of Forrest Whitley and the regression from Josh James, gives the M’s a faint hope. But they need a few guys to take major, major steps forward. And soon.

1: Smith, RF
2: Crawford, SS
3: Santana, DH
4: Narvaez, C
5: Beckham, LF
6: Vogelbach, 1B
7: Nola, 2B
8: Seager, 3B
9: Broxton, CF
SP: LeBlanc

The Rangers lefty Ariel Jurado was once a prized prospect, but the M’s continued his mediocre pro career by knocking him around a bit yesterday. That’s becoming something of a pattern, as their vaunted international scouting gives them raw material that develops into solid prospects, and then…. nothing. Jurado was once the #2 guy in the sytem behind Yohander Mendez, who was the next big thing, but has stalled out and is now hurt. Martin Perez kind of did this years ago. They’ve done well with Mike Minor and Lance Lynn, but didn’t develop those guys. All of this is a concern for Rangers fans, I’d think, because they swapped reliever Chris Martin for Braves command/control SP Kolby Allard. How exactly is Allard going to avoid the traps that ensnared Jurado and Mendez? Allard’s stuff isn’t quite what it was, but it’s playable. Some org could get him to be a real #4 starter, but I’m not sure it’s Texas. For the record, I’m not sure it’d be Seattle, either.


3 Responses to “Trade Deadline Round-Up: Leake to Arizona, Elias/Strickland to Washington (Oh, and the M’s Play The Rangers)”

  1. Stevemotivateir on August 1st, 2019 6:46 am

    The Astros’ farm took a pounding. I don’t know if that does anything to help Seattle, but there’s little question they currently lack the depth Mariner fans have envied. The question is if they can develop more with lower draft picks and get the most out of who they have left. My guess would be “yes”.

    If they lose Cole to free agency, they’ll still get a compensation pick. Same with Springer in the 2021 off season. Easy to see how they could start to slip if they fail to retain some of the bigger names with expiring contracts, but it’s still hard to see them not being the team to beat through 2021 at a minimum, with or without Cole and Springer.

    I still think Seattle is poised to start making real noise in 2021 and should be a post season threat in 2022 if things continue to progress the way they have. But I agree with Marc that they need more star power. Kelenic is obviously one with potential, and Rodriguez may be another. But Kelenic is probably at least two more years away from getting there and Rodriguez is even further away. The same could be said of Gilbert, who just might end up a solid number 2 starter.

    Haniger rebounding might be the key to everything. Selling high on him is probably the only way Seattle gets another prospect with star potential outside of the 2020 draft. Other than that, Seattle’s probably going to have to absorb a contract or three and sign star free agents to fill in the gaps. Who that might be is beyond me, but it might not be a bad idea to get started on that immediately, even if it means eating more salary early.

    Still, these moves we saw yesterday were small steps that help.

  2. Chris Miller on August 1st, 2019 11:26 am

    Wouldnt surprise me if the Mariners are more of an 80 win team by 2021 with maybe 2022 or more likely 2023 being more realistic assuming something doesnt go terribly wrong or conversely goes better than expected to change that timeline. There’s some interesting pieces and there’s a non zero chance their decent as soon as next year but shouldn’t go making big moves in terms of prospect for veteran trades or big contracts based on wishful thinking. I do think they should be all over short term upgrades, especially pitching, and shouldn’t completely shy from prospect for young mlb type trades if they present themself and makensense.

  3. Chris Miller on August 1st, 2019 11:33 am

    They need a few guys turning into 4 to 6 WAR players to stand a chance of sustainable winning.

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