- Going to Texas: Tom Wilhelmsen, James Jones, Player To Be Named Later
- Coming Back: Leonys Martin, Anthony Bass
- Going to San Diego: Two Guys I’ve Never Heard Of From Single-A
- Coming Back: Joaquin Benoit
Lost in the shuffle of my Tahoe debacle, the Mariners made a couple trades earlier this week. Leonys Martin is a centerfielder, and supposedly a really good one, from a defensive perspective. So, we’ll see what that means. Austin Jackson was supposed to be “really good” too, but he ended up just sort of being okay. A-Jax made most of the plays, but none of the spectacular ones; he wasn’t Guti in his heyday. I want Guti in his heyday, God dammit! If Leonys Martin ends up being Guti in his heyday, I’ll be thrilled with this trade, regardless of how he hits.
Well, that’s not entirely true. He’s got to hit SOMETHING. The kid outta Cuba had a couple cups of coffee in the big leagues in 2011 & 2012. He won the starting job with the Rangers in 2013 and had two full years of pretty good production at the plate. He doesn’t walk a lot, which seems to go counter to Jerry Dipoto’s credo of finding guys who get on base a lot. But, if he did walk a lot, and played this supposedly great defense, I’m sure the Rangers wouldn’t want to give him up, or if they did, for more than Wilhelmsen, Jones and PTBNL. Centerfielders who walk a lot and play great defense aren’t on the trading block, is what I’m trying to say. To do what we’re doing, trading our crap away, we’re ultimately going to get other teams’ crap in return. Just be glad he does SOMETHING well.
Where Leonys gets dicey is his 2015. He had a God-awful year at the plate, broke his hamate bone, and missed most of the last two months of the season. If you want to be a glass half-full guy, you’ll look at his 2013 & 2014. If you want to be fucking real for a change, you’ll look at his .219/.264/.313 line from last year and realize we’re probably going to watch someone who is frustratingly bad at the plate.
BUT, there’s hope. For starters, the team isn’t so delusional that they see FAST GUY and automatically think to themselves: LEADOFF HITTER. They understand this is a guy who should be hitting in the bottom third of the order (probably ninth, if we’re being honest with ourselves). The pros are: Great Defense, Great Base Stealer (he stole 36 & 31 respectively in 2013 & 2014); the cons are: Doesn’t Hit For A High Average, Doesn’t Hit For Power, Doesn’t Walk. If you keep Leonys Martin away from the general area of home plate, you’ve got yourself a helluva player. He does bat lefty. I don’t know if that does anything for you, but for me I like as many lefties in my lineup as possible when we’re talking about Safeco Field. Besides, batting from the left side means you’re that much closer to first base on all those dribbling grounders to short stop. Unfortunately, I’m not seeing that a huge percentage of his overall hits are of the infield variety, so I dunno.
Anthony Bass is a right-handed relief pitcher who appears to be Just Another Guy. He doesn’t strike out a ton of guys, he doesn’t walk a ton either, but he walks enough. He just seems to be a guy who gives up a good amount of contact, and that contact ultimately leads to runs scored. MAYBE he could be a long reliever or something, but it seems like we already have guys like him on the roster (Vidal Nuno comes to mind, and he can spot start in a pinch).
For these two guys, we say goodbye to Tom Wilhelmsen. Like with Brad Miller, I think we’re talking about a guy who had maximized his value in a Mariners uniform. Trading Wilhelmsen now is the only other option, because putting him back out there on the mound would only expose him to risk of reducing that value. Wilhelmsen showed he was a quality pitcher back in 2012, as he took over the closer’s job from a struggling Brandon League, then he proceeded to struggle and lose his job in 2013. He salvaged his career in 2014 by being a sort of Jack Of All Trades out of the bullpen – a long man when we needed it, a late-inning guy when we needed it, a spot-starter when we needed it – and in 2015, improved his stock even more by taking back the closer’s duties at the end of the season when literally everyone ahead of him fell apart.
Losing a guy like Wilhelmsen (and replacing him with an Anthony Bass) doesn’t necessarily help what was a struggling bullpen in 2015, but there are a couple things at play here. First, bullpen variance. Wilhelmsen has looked competent the last couple years, but that doesn’t mean he won’t throw in a stinker of a 2016 season. Secondly, we only had club control over him for two more seasons. He’s the reason we can get a guy in Leonys Martin – a starting centerfielder right this minute – who we control for three more seasons, at a much more premium position. I appreciate you, Wilhelmsen, but I wouldn’t say I’ll be missing you. We’ve got other fish to fry.
Aside from that, we’ve got this Joaquin Benoit guy! Benoit has been around forever (he’s currently 38 years old), but he’s still kicking ass! Dude has averaged 8-11 strikeouts per 9 innings since 2004 and hasn’t really dropped off whatsoever. He’s making a hefty $7 million in 2016 (after that he’s a free agent), but he immediately slides into the back-end of our bullpen with Carson Smith and whoever comes out of the pile in Spring Training. He really doesn’t have a lot of closing experience (only 50 career saves in 14 Major League seasons), so who knows if he’s mentally the right guy for the job? But, I would venture to guess we won’t have NEARLY as many cardiac episodes as we had with Fernando Rodney.
A lot to like about these early deals by the Mariners. But, let’s not fool ourselves, there’s still a long way to go to get back to contention.
In closing, I suppose I should say SOMETHING about James Jones. I never really had a spot I liked to shoe-horn him into the post above this point. He may strike some as very similar to Leonys Martin, until you realize he’s probably worse at defense, getting on base, and hitting. I’ll say this about Martin: at least there’s upside. At least there’s a ceiling in there somewhere that we can stomach. I don’t think Jones has anywhere near that. Jones strikes me as a guy who tops out as a 4th or 5th outfielder, but probably more like a Quad-A player who will shuffle between Triple-A and the Bigs. So it goes.