When I wrote about this trade initially, there was a lot going on. Honestly, it’s a deal that requires multiple posts to really dig in and assess everything.
For instance, we have more information. We knew it was a Salary Dump, but we didn’t necessarily know why it was so. It’s also interesting to see where the players involved ended up, as two of the three Mariners we shipped off were subsequently flipped. To be fair, it really feels like everyone ended up where they were supposed to. Marco Gonzales was traded to Pittsburgh. Evan White was sent to Anaheim. And the guy with the most upside – Jarred Kelenic – remains in Atlanta.
I couldn’t tell you for a million dollars if Pittsburgh will be any good in 2024; they finished 4th in the NL Central last year. If I had to guess – based solely on reputation – I would say they’re a young team with lots of prospects getting chances to play at the Major League level, and were in need of a calm, veteran presence in their rotation to eat innings and be a guiding force for the rest of the pitching staff. I didn’t even need to look it up to know that the Braves would also be sending money to the Pirates to complete the deal, and the least surprising thing of all is that the return is a Player To Be Named Later.
This is, frankly, ideal for all involved. Pittsburgh gets a solid vet who will probably be at least a little rejuvenated by pitching in the NL again (even if the pitchers no longer hit, I think it’s safe to say most of the hitting talent resides in the American League). Marco gets a chance to be a starter, after effectively losing his rotation spot in Seattle with his injury last year. It’s low expectations, so he’ll most likely have a longer leash. And, the Mariners don’t have to worry about a potentially-disgruntled presence languishing in the bullpen and costing us games because that role is nowhere near his forte.
As for Evan White, his career could go any number of directions. He could immediately get injured again, and that will just be his destiny until his contract runs out. He could recover and be an okay player (great defensively, not so hot hitting). Or, he could come back stronger than ever, put it all together at the plate, and be an All Star for years to come. In which case, OF COURSE he’s an Angel. OF COURSE they would pick up our scraps and turn him into a weapon we have to face a dozen times a year.
The Angels can easily afford to take this project on. They just lost Ohtani, so it’s not like people are really expecting much out of this team. They can keep him in the minors for at least another year, to let White build himself back up. And I’m sure, as they continue to underwhelm in the standings, White will get a Major League opportunity sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, the Braves got back a useful player while never having to try to work White into their system. And, as for the Mariners, we get to move on from another injury-riddled disappointment, without pouring good money over bad to try to make him a thing here.
The ultimate kick in the ass, though, is likely to be Jarred Kelenic. He stays with the Braves. They, obviously, took on a lot of salary to make this whole thing go, so it’s only fair for them to have the highest-upside share of this deal.
I would say it’s still fair to question Kelenic’s ceiling. The guy has obvious holes in his swing. He strikes out a ton. He has a decent eye at the plate, but that’s not going to prevent him from going chasing more than he should. He’s also a pretty big headcase, and I don’t know if that’s ever going to mature out of his personality. I’m sure if he actually achieved real, sustained success at this level, it would do wonders for his psyche. But, it’s also fair to wonder if that was ever going to happen in a Mariners uniform.
We already knew that Kelenic didn’t like the Mariners organization. They dicked around with him, waiting to call him up until after he got to a point where we’d have another season of team control. They offered him an Evan White-like contract when he was still in the minors, that he saw as a lowball slap to the face, and then effectively held him hostage by telling him he could come up to the Major Leagues sooner, only if he signed the deal. And I don’t know what he thought about his usage when he finally did get the call-up, but immediately putting him in the upper third of the lineup seemed like a mistake, putting immense pressure on him, when he would’ve been better served starting out at the bottom of the order.
If it wasn’t clear he hated the Mariners before, literally every statement and interview he’s given since the deal with the Braves has only cemented the notion.
I don’t see Kelenic as the type of player who’s going to tank his own development just to get out of an organization, but if I had to bet on it, I’d say he was never going to fully blossom with the M’s. With this fresh start, this new team, new ballpark, and new set of eyes coaching him up, I fully expect Kelenic will really take some huge leaps forward. There’s no doubt about it in my mind: the Braves are the superior baseball organization in every facet of the game. If they can’t turn Kelenic into a star, no one can.
There’s still risk, of course. I’m not saying it’s a done deal that he’s going to be an All Star with the Braves. But, the likelihood goes up tenfold with him there over him still being here.
The pressure’s completely and totally off now. He has no choice but to start out near the bottom of the order; they have one of the most stacked lineups in all of baseball. They also have their share of outfielders, so they can even afford to platoon Kelenic if need be.
On the one hand, it’s a bummer, because I did have really high hopes for Kelenic. A potential outfield with an elite Kelenic playing alongside Julio for a decade would’ve been a real treat!
But, on the other hand, I dunno, is Kelenic kind of an asshole? Or, at the very least, so intense that he’s no fun to be around? Is this a situation where, for this team at least, it’s addition by subtraction? The Mariners Roundtable on the Mitch Unfiltered Podcast made an interesting point; when were the Mariners at their very best and hottest last year? In late July and August. Between the time Kelenic went out for kicking a water cooler and the time he returned, the Mariners went 32-16; when he returned, the Mariners went 9-10 overall (5-10 in the games Kelenic appeared in). No one is necessarily saying that Kelenic is the reason we were mediocre – and the absence of Kelenic was the reason we were red-hot – but I’m also not totally ruling it out. He seems like a Dark Cloud walking around on a regular basis; who needs that kind of energy in their lives? Not even a team FULL of Eugenio Suarezes could counterbalance Kelenic’s unrelenting angst!
All that being said, though, as a Mariners fan, you’d like to think we could get more for him. You’d like to think he’s worth more than simply shedding however many millions of dollars from our current and future payrolls. In a good and decent world – where the Mariners aren’t owned by tight-fisted old misers – I would expect, at the very least, a prospect or two we could all be excited about.
There’s no “winning” this trade for the Mariners. At best, I think we have to hope everyone else loses. But, just know that I’m mentally preparing myself for the time when Kelenic becomes a legitimate star in this league. It almost seems destined at this point. And, if Evan White turns his fortunes around, you’re going to see quite a bit of the erstwhile Mariners Future out there performing for other teams, while the Actual Mariners remain in Seattle wasting all of our fucking time.