The conclusion of the Mariners magical 2021 season is upon us. With that, it’s time to reflect. As fans have come to collectively know, cheering for a Jerry Dipoto led franchise is bound to include watching new players arrive, as well as the occasional fan-favorite exit, via trade. The nickname of “Trader Jerry” doesn’t just appear from thin air, there’s a relative amount of qualitative data that supports it. This year was no exception to the rule, with three major trades being made in the week leading up to the deadline. One notably more controversial than the rest, the three trades produced four players who would prove to be significant impact pieces throughout the second half of the year in Diego Castillo, Tyler Anderson, Joe Smith, and Abraham Toro.
Acquiring those players came at a cost though, and that’s the point worth revisiting. With the season completed, were those deals worth the cost they incurred? Pieces like MiLB 3B Austin Shenton (moved in the Castillo deal) and MiLB C Carter Bins (Tyler Anderson move) could have proved to be important players down the line, with both of them finding themselves within the top 30 of the minor league organizational rankings at the time of their moves. It’s time to look at each move and decide the true winner of the deal. Were the Mariners fleeced? Did we do the fleecing? There’s only one way to tell.
Trade: Pirates Send LHP Tyler Anderson, Mariners Send C Carter Bins, RHP Joaquin Tejada
Verdict: Mariners win trade (sort of)
It’s fair if the name Anderson leaves a little bit of a sour taste in your mouth when you hear it. The former Pirate turned Mariner experienced a bevy of highs and lows through his last three starts of the season, getting shelled by the Angels once, following that up to my a fantastic outing against the A’s in which he came in off of short rest, then once more getting lit up by those very same Angels during a heartbreaking game 162. His story is not just those three games though, as without Anderson it’s rather evident there wouldn’t have even been relevant baseball in Seattle come the last week of the year.
In his 63.2 IP during his time in Seattle Anderson pitched to the tune of a 4.81 ERA, 4.52 FIP, and 48 SO over the course of 13 starts. While those numbers aren’t exactly elite, they are a vast improvement upon the abysmal pitching that was taking place during the bullpen starts that he replaced. His consistency was extremely valuable to the M’s, frequently pitching into the 6th or later allowed the Mariners opportunities to rely on the rock-solid back of the bullpen and in turn, a more straightforward path to victory than three innings of Robert Dugger followed by a smorgasbord of Tacoma arms that were called up once every six days. By no means can you argue that Tyler Anderson is some elite starter, but that’s not what he was asked to do. The Mariners as a whole went 7-6 in his starts, good for a .538 winning percentage. Compare that to the 2-8 record in games you could describe as “bullpen starts” and the impact Anderson had on this team is clear. Without him arriving in the second half, the Mariners don’t contend.
On the other end of the deal, two MiLB pieces were shipped to Pittsburgh. Carter Bins; the more notable of the two players traded, spent the remainder of his 2021 season playing for the AA Altoona Curve, making appearances in only 16 games. While Bins tore up High-A ball in Everett, the promotion to AA seems to have thrown him for a loop as between Arkansas and Altoona Bins has only produced an OPS just over .500. He’s still a valuable prospect and remains ranked in the Pirates system, but with catchers like Cal Raleigh in the system, it feels like this is a loss that the Mariners can absorb, especially if the re-signing of Anderson becomes reality.
When it comes to Joaquin Tejada, there’s not much of a sample to judge his talent by. When he was traded, there was a collective “who?” emanating from Mariners Twitter. With less than 30 professional innings under his belt, making any judgment on Tejada would be supremely rushed. There’s a chance he never makes it beyond AA, but there’s also a chance he pitches game 7 of the World Series for the Pirates in 10 years, who knows with this guy. The future value of him doesn’t project to be anything supersubstantial, and his absence from the Mariners farm shouldn’t leave a hole too big to replace.
In short, the losses were clearly outweighed by the gains in this deal. The Mariners elevated their rotation significantly while managing to keep the asking price relatively low, and fans should be happy with how this deal worked out.
Trade: Rays send RHP Diego Castillo, Mariners send MiLB 3B Austin Shenton, RHP J.T. Chargois
Verdict: Most unclear of the bunch
This deal is all sorts of confusing to unpack. On the surface, it feels like the edge favors the Mariners. The future of Austin Shenton is the determining factor, however. J.T. Chargois did have a rather effective season for the Mariners as well as the Rays, that success appears to be an outlier when viewing his career production as a whole. Castillo, on the other hand, is a household name in the category of relief pitching. Castillo’s appearances for the Mariners were at times shaky, but with stints on the IL during that time, those issues may be on account of injury. Castillo’s floor, as well as his ceiling, are higher than Chargois in both categories. With three more years of club control on Castillo’s deal, if this were a straight one-for-one trade it would almost assuredly be chalked up as a W for Dipoto and the Mariners, but there’s more to it than that.
With Castillo, we’ve only seen little of what he can offer. When he’s grooving, he’s a top 15 reliever in all of baseball. Combine that with the recent magic that’s been worked to the benefit of folks like Paul Sewald and Casey Sadler and bullpen coach Trent Blank has the ingredients to create a truly dominant late-inning arm. Consistently in the 130+ range in regards to ERA+ on a yearly basis as well as averaging less than 3.5 BB/9, Castillo should be a very stable piece in an area of the game that often lacks stability. He may have allowed some less than timely homers in his first-half season in Seattle, but 2Chains himself (Castillo wears two on the mound) is a welcome addition to the bunch. With the return of Ken Giles from TJ next year, a backend of the bullpen consisting of Castillo, Steckenrider, Sewald, Sadler, and Giles should rank among the top of the MLB positionally.
Welcome to the Austin Shenton problem. Formerly the 17th ranked prospect in the Mariners farm system according to MLB Pipeline, the 3B has torn the cover off the ball at every level of the minors. During his time with the Mariners Shenton was named one of the 2019 organizational All-Stars, along with a High-A player of the week award earlier this season during his time in Everett. Shenton’s lowest wRC+ at any level in the Mariners system was 125, while he peaked as high as 192. Shenton can hit, flat out. His power tool is the highest-rated aspect of his game per his Fangraphs profile, and yet he still is overperforming his projected values in that department. His production did slow in AA Montgomery after the trade, but the question mark of his potential remains. Although not even ranked in the Rays loaded farm system, Shenton is a name to remember a few years down the road just to see what he becomes. Trading with the Rays always feels a little scary, and from an outsider’s perspective, it feels like there’s something that Tampa might know that the Mariners don’t despite a lack of evidence to support that outside of the elite Tampa front office narrative.
Trade: Astros send 2B/3B Abraham Toro, RHP Joe Smith, Mariners send RHP Kendall Graveman, RHP Rafael Montero
Verdict: Big Ole Mariners Win
Well well well, if it isn’t the most highly debated deal in Seattle circles this past deadline. Admittedly the single worst timing of a trade that I can remember in my lifetime, emotions aside this is a clear victory for the Mariners.
Fresh off of the heels of the most exciting game of the Mariners season so far in which Dylan Moore began his rent-free stay in Brooks Raley’s head after taking him deep to left to complete the comeback victory, the Mariners moved both an elite closer/clubhouse leader. The execution and communication were lacking, leading to a Ryan Divish article in the Seattle Times in which many Mariners under the guise of anonymity voiced their complaints with the front office, and in turn, this all led to the question, “did the Mariners seriously just sell at the deadline with the playoffs a relative possibility?” The answer would quickly prove to be not at all as the two aforementioned moves occurred in quick succession, but the overall value of this trade would make itself apparent as time passed.
First off, an unheralded part of this deal was the removal of Rafael Montero from the collective consciousness of Mariners fans. Acquired in the offseason from the Rangers, Montero was supposedly going to be a staple in the backend of the ‘pen but instead proved to be perhaps one of the most agonizing experiences to witness in real-time that fans could possibly imagine. With an ERA near 8, a WHIP north of 1.6, and a hits/9 of 11 during his time in Seattle, this trade allowed those horrific memories of early-season bullpen collapses to fade into the past.
Graveman on the other hand did not prove to be the tragic loss that some expected him to be. He certainly was dominant in Seattle; no question, but that same intensity seemed to fade away after his move to the Astros. Clearly upset by the move and with no interest in wearing the Astros uniform; at least at the time of the deal, Graveman regressed rather heavily. Still above average by pitching sabermetrics during his time in Houston, Graveman allows significantly more walks and hits, in turn doubling his WHIP. The most significant indicator of Graveman taking a step back can be found in the 374 point drop in his ERA+ from one team to the other (his ERA+ in Seattle was 513 and he somehow was not selected for the ASG) as well as the 2.31 difference in ERA from Seattle to Houston. (0.83 with Seattle, 3.13 in Houston) This loss just wasn’t as large as it felt like it would become. It’s worth noting that Graveman’s lone loss of the year came against Seattle on the storybook Toro grand slam. Thanks, double agent Graveman.
Do you know who outpaced Kendall Graveman in nearly every statistical category in the second half of the season? Joe Smith. ERA? Joe Smith. WAR? Joe Smith. ERA+? Joe Smith nearly doubles up Graveman. The journeyman reliever who has been in the MLB since George W. Bush occupied 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. was not exactly the main part of this deal that the Mariners were interested in, but he had a purpose and he served it well. He will not be back next year, but 18 innings of Joe Smith and his funky delivery will be remembered fondly in the Mariner community.
The last piece of the deal is the most interesting. Abraham Toro, supposedly the analytical darling of many a front office, moved from utility player to everyday second base with this trade, adopting a position somewhat unfamiliar to him. He started hot, reaching base in nearly all of the first 30 games in a Mariner uniform, but his future is a little more cloudy. Is he here to be the one to fill the hole left at the hot corner in the absence of Seager? Is he a utility bench bat? Those questions need a firm answer by 2022. Always one for a timely hit, Toro was certainly a better alternative than the revolving door between Tacoma and Seattle that was 2B position before, but that wasn’t by any means a high bar to clear. The club control that he offers was stressed as a big selling point of this deal, and perhaps Toro will be molded into something special during the course of that contract, but as of right now he remains a serviceable player at best. He wouldn’t start on any team that made the playoffs, and that should serve as an indication for where the Mariners should look to address holes in the roster come free agency.
“Two outta three ain’t bad” is both a Meatloaf lyric as well as a solid takeaway from an MLB trade deadline review. Dipoto did rather solid business despite the controversy that may have occurred along with it. Moves like these should give you faith that he is the man to right the proverbial ship that is Seattle baseball, the captain to guide these Mariners at the sea. Free agency will be his next test but expect a trade or two this offseason as well.
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