The Mariners Made A Blockbuster Trade For Jesse Winker & Eugenio Suarez

Boy do Mariners fans and baseball pundits love this deal for the M’s! That makes me nervous more than anything. Being a Mariners fan is like being an abused animal who is now living with a loving, caring family; even shows of affection draw flinches of apprehension.

  • Mariners get: Jesse Winker (OF), Eugenio Suarez (3B)
  • Reds get: Justin Dunn (SP), Jake Fraley (OF), Brandon Williamson (SP), PTBNL

What’s to like if you’re a Mariners fan?

Well, Winker looks like a true stud. He’s a left-handed corner outfielder who will be 28 years old this season. He was an All Star last year, hitting .305/.394/.556, with 24 homers. Apparently he crushes right-handed pitching, but also really struggles against lefties. Early word is, he’ll be in there against righties predominantly, but will also get a shot at hitting lefties. I don’t know how long that leash will be, but I guess a lot depends on what other moves the Mariners make. You figure Haniger (if he’s still here) will be an everyday bat in a mixture of RF and DH. You figure Kelenic is an everyday outfielder. With Julio expected to make the leap to the Majors at some point, something’s gotta give!

I think you also don’t mind the cost. Justin Dunn has potential as a starter, but the odds are against him sticking there long term. His value plummets once he’s converted to a reliever, especially since he doesn’t project to be a closer. His stuff is interesting, but the Mariners have so many more highly touted pitching prospects that it feels like if he was going to stick here, he would’ve had to have pitched better than he has over the last two seasons. I also wonder what his injury situation will be long term, with the way he throws. Might be a candidate for multiple arm/shoulder surgeries.

Jake Fraley was never going to make it here long term. He strikes me as – at best – a bench outfield bat who plays solid defense, but otherwise hits pretty anemically. He MIGHT be able to carve out a nice career – in a quiet city like Cincinnati (where winning expectations are low) – as a cheap N.L. outfielder, but I’m not holding my breath. The odds that he busts out a la Chris Taylor seem mighty low.

What’s to worry about if you’re a Mariners fan?

The big risk is Williamson, one of our plethora of pitching prospects. He’s only just touched the AA level as of last year, but his strikeout numbers are off the charts. He should make the jump to the Majors either this year or next year at the latest – assuming he stays healthy – and from there we’ll see what he is. Will he be an elite, front-end of the rotation starter? Will he struggle with effectiveness and/or injury? Will he be converted to a reliever at some point? Time will tell; that’s the risk of trading quality prospects, you just never know until it’s too late. But, considering he’s not one of our highest-rated prospects, I’m happy with this sort of risk.

This was sort of sprung on us late, but a Player To Be Named Later was added into the mix, who reportedly is someone the Reds really like, and might help them even out this deal. As it was initially reported (those three so-so Mariners for those two good-to-great Reds), it felt too good to be true, and it turns out it was. We’re told the PTBNL isn’t in the Top 20 or so Mariners prospects, which is good. But, now we have a lot to worry about in the coming days/weeks.

I don’t think anyone is super-jazzed about Suarez. Sure, there’s a ton of right-handed power in that bat. But, he’s also hitting under .200 the last two seasons and is striking out in damn near 30% of all plate appearances in that span. But, he’s averaging over 30 homers in his last five full seasons (not counting the COVID-shortened 2020), with no discernable injury issues.

At first blush, Suarez seemed like a throw-in, or a salary dump by the Reds. But, clearly, with a contract that runs through 2024 (with a club option for 2025), it would appear he’s the everyday third baseman until further notice. People are trying to promote his hot final month of 2021 as reason for hope, but I dunno. He could be washed up; that wouldn’t shock me in the slightest. Extreme pull hitters who’ve been swallowed up by the shift in recent years shouldn’t try to resuscitate their careers in T-Mobile Park.

Finally, I would say it’s a bit of a bummer that we’re only guaranteed two years of Winker’s services. He’s making $7 million this year; 2023 will be his final arb year (which you assume will see him earning a nice raise, if he stays healthy and continues to produce at the level he’s been at). Depending on who that PTBNL is, we could be paying a lot for just two years of a guy, while being saddled with an albatross.

The major downside of this deal is that the PTBNL is a quality prospect, Williamson pans out in a big way, Dunn is a viable starter for many years to come, and Fraley is a fringe N.L. outfielder. The major downside also includes Suarez being finished as a net-positive Major League third baseman, and Winker is just a good platoon bat in the outfield.

The major upside is that Winker is an All Star who helps lead us in the middle of our lineup, Suarez returns to his 2018 form as a right-handed masher capable of 40+ homers, and all the players we sent away were never going to do anything for us anyway.

My expectation is: we’ll be happy with Winker, we’ll be oft-frustrated with Suarez. Dunn will flame out, Fraley will be Just Another Guy, and Williamson will be a good-not-great starter in the next three years (I have no opinion on the PTBNL until that name is released). So, yeah, cautiously optimistic. Like, 51% optimistic, 49% pessimistic. Which is the best the Mariners can hope for from me until they start proving on the field that they’re actual winners, and not just paper champions.

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