The 2019 Seattle Mariners are not fun to watch. After an encouraging start to the season, the team came to Earth and currently own an underwhelming 38-54 record. Still, the future is bright for Seattle thanks in large part to the blockbuster trade of Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano. The Mariners sold high on Diaz, took Cano’s massive contract off their books, and got some elite prospects in return. As we approach the All-Star break, it’s never been clearer that the Mariners won the Edwin Diaz trade and the franchise is moving in the right direction.
Seattle Mariners On Right Side of Edwin Diaz, Robinson Cano Trade
The Mariners traded Cano and Diaz for outfielder Jay Bruce, Anthony Swarzak, Gerson Bautista and top-100 prospects in Jarred Kelenic and Justin Dunn. Bruce and Swarzak have already been dealt, but the other three remain in the system. Bautista struggled during his time in the majors and isn’t doing much better in the minors. Kelenic and Dunn, however, are already making names for themselves as future stars.
According to MLB.com, Kelenic and Dunn are the two best players in the Mariners’ organization. It’s easy to see why, as both players are tearing up the minors. Kelenic, the 24th-best prospect in baseball, currently owns a .265/.315/.494 slash line in 92 plate appearances. While he’s yet to play above the High-A level, he has all the tools to develop into a star outfielder. MLB.com gives him above-average grades across the boards and he’s only 19 years old, so he should only improve with time.
Dunn, meanwhile, is showing elite strikeout potential at the AA level. Through 75.1 innings, the righty is striking out 11.47 batters per nine innings while posting a 3.82 ERA and a 3.19 FIP. He throws a mid-90’s fastball and can sustain the velocity late into starts while complementing it with a strong slider and average curveball. He’s got strong odds to make it as a starting pitcher in the majors, and he could be up as early as 2020. He’s currently MLB.com’s 67th-ranked prospect, and he and Kelenic have the potential to be the futures of the franchise.
The Rest of the Trade
Additionally, Seattle has bolstered its minor league depth with the other trade chips. The Mariners traded Bruce in exchange for Jake Scheiner. Scheiner isn’t the most exciting prospect in the world, but he offers positional versatility all across the diamond and is hitting .247/.277/.474 in High-A. He has a chance to make it to the majors as a depth guy. Swarzak, meanwhile, was traded to the Atlanta Braves for Arodys Vizcaino and Jesse Biddle. Vizcaino is a fringe-MLB arm while Biddle was designated for assignment on June 28th.
The Mariners had no chance to compete in 2019 and traded off two of their assets for two top-100 prospects and a few depth pieces. This would be a fantastic return on investment even if Cano and Diaz were playing up to their potential. However, the Mariners chose the right time to sell, as both players are having underwhelming seasons.
Cano, Diaz Are Underperforming
Cano had a strong season in 2018, but everyone knew Seattle wanted to move on. The second baseman slashed .303/.374/.471 in 80 games with the Mariners, but he wasn’t worth his 10-year, $240-million contract. Nobody believed Seattle could ever find a legitimate suitor for Cano’s contract until the Mets came along. Seattle’s front office deserves all the praise in the world for finding a way to trade away that contract.
Losing Cano was an easy decision, but parting with Edwin Diaz was significantly harder. Diaz just finished up a fantastic campaign, posting a 1.96 ERA, 1.61 FIP, and 57 saves in 73.1 innings pitched. Entering his age-25 season, Diaz was still under team control for the foreseeable future and looked like a fixture in Seattle’s bullpen.
Instead, the Mariners knew they didn’t have the pieces to compete in the short-term. They made the difficult decision to package Diaz with Cano in exchange for a handful of players. As of this posting, this is a move Seattle would make every day of the week.
Age appears to be catching up with Cano, and the Mariners sold at the perfect time. Through 63 games, Cano has posted an unimpressive .244/.292/.368 slash line with an accompanying 77 wRC+. While he’ll bounce back to some extent, his .288 BABIP suggests he hasn’t been the victim of batted ball luck.
Similarly, Diaz has yet to find his footing in New York. The righty has made 36 appearances for the Mets, posting a 5.67 ERA and a 3.72 FIP while on the mound. While he has been the victim of batted ball luck, his fly ball rate has never been higher while his ground ball rate is at a career-low. Additionally, he’s giving up more hard contact (48.8%) than ever before. He’ll naturally improve his batted ball luck as the season goes along, but he’s going to remain a subpar reliever unless he finds a way to increase his ground ball rate and his hard contact percentage.
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