So, I guess the Danny Valencia/Yonder Alonso experiment is over. They were both thrilling and aggravating, but ultimately not a very major reason why the Mariners failed to make the playoffs in 2017. They’re now free to return to the Oakland A’s, or any other team they see fit.
Speaking of the Oakland A’s, the Mariners traded with them again. To bring in another first baseman again. For the third time in a row. Ryon Healy is his name, which isn’t a totally annoying way to spell the name Ryan, but that’s neither here nor there. He’ll be 26 years old in January and has spent the past season and a half in the Big Leagues. In that time, he’s been solidly productive:
- .282/.313/.475/.788 with 38 homers, 49 doubles, a whole mess of strikeouts and not very many walks
Without knowing how good he is defensively (I assume he’s fine), this feels like a quality addition to the right side of the plate. More importantly, the Mariners don’t feel like they’ll have to platoon him, which should free up a roster spot on the bench. I suppose that spells doom for Dan Vogelbach’s future in a Mariners uniform, but more than anything he feels like trade bait for one of the 50 other deals Jerry Dipoto is going to do between now and the end of the year.
Another cool thing about this deal is that Healy is still two full seasons away from being arbitration eligible. The Mariners, if things go well, should have him for 5 full seasons before he’d earn any sort of significant money! And, if he’s already flashing this type of power and batting average as a second year player, one would think the sky is the limit.
He’s going to fit in quite well in the 2018 batting order, too. Check out my way-too-early projection:
- Segura (SS)
- Haniger (RF)
- Cano (2B)
- Cruz (DH)
- Seager (3B)
- Healy (1B)
- Gamel (LF)
- Zunino (C)
- Heredia (CF)
I highly doubt that’ll be the Opening Day 9, but you get the idea. Bank on the top 6 guys being THE guys. Toss in Zunino in the bottom third with one, maybe two new outfielders, and you’ve got yourself a lineup.
I think my favorite part of this deal is that the Mariners won’t be subjected to a first base retread. I don’t have to worry about the return of LoMo, for instance, who was a name being bandied about when people discussed possible solutions to this first base quandary. Same goes for Justin Smoak (though, I have to figure Toronto is pretty happy with him after last year), Brad Miller, and the duo from last season. Danny Valencia is a nice player, and it was awesome to have his defense over there, but he is who he is. He’ll have hot streaks and cold streaks and he’ll struggle quite a bit against right handed pitching. Yonder Alonso, I think, is more flash in the pan than player on the rise. Before 2017, his season high in homers was 9; last year, he hit 28. I’m not going to bring steroids into the conversation, because I think the league has done a pretty good job to test those drugs out of the sport, but it does feel like an unsustainable leap. Also, not for nothing, but the bulk of his damage last year was done pre-All Star Break (where he made his first-ever All Star Game). He fell off a pretty mighty cliff and never really righted the ship after he was traded. His on-base ability was a breath of fresh air, but the M’s didn’t bring Yonder Alonso over to walk guys in.
And that’s where I think we get a little too in the weeds with on-base percentage. Sometimes, you just want a guy to mash you a 3-run homer. Yeah, if you can, get you a man who can do both, and hold onto him for the duration of his career. But, if I had to choose what I want out of my first baseman, batting out of the 6-hole? Give me doubles n’ dingers.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about who the Mariners gave up: Emilio Pagan and minor leaguer Alexander Campos. Pagan, you may recall, was a rookie last year and one of our very best relievers. Long relief, late in games, high leverage situations, extra innings, you name it and more often than not he came through the trials with flying colors. Considering how cheap he is, and how much team control he has left, that’s a guy you could see anchoring your bullpen for many years to come. But, if he can get you a starting first baseman – and not just for a season or two, but for up to 5 years or more, if you opt to extend him long term – that’s a no-brainer. I mean, let’s face it, odds are Emilio Pagan won’t be the next Mariano Rivera. Duh. I would also say the odds are we’re trading him at his very highest value. If we’d kept him even one more year, and he struggled, he couldn’t be traded for much more than Jack Squat (see: Vogelbach).
As for Campos, he’s a 17-year old infielder. We almost certainly won’t read about him ever again. And, if we do, it almost certainly won’t be for at least 3-5 years, and by that point I hope to be long dead, having probably never again seen the Mariners in the post-season.
I will say that it’s a little scary to trade from a position of weakness (pitching) to further bolster a position of strength (hitting). To say nothing of the issues with the rotation, how good will this bullpen be when you trade away arguably your 2nd most talented reliever after Edwin Diaz? I know, Nick Vincent will likely start as your 8th inning guy, but I don’t know if I buy him having back-to-back amazing seasons. And, besides that, you need more than two quality relievers to win games consistently. Aside from David Phelps when he was healthy, and our lefties Pazos and Scrabble, I didn’t see a lot of uber-promising young talent coming through Tacoma into the Bigs last year. With the minors as depleted as they are, I don’t think you’re going to see a lot of impact trades for pitching, unless you’re cool giving up on Ben Gamel (who I ASSURE you will not bring back the type of prize Mariners fans would expect from someone who looks like he could be a solid starter for many years to come; so be ready to be VERY disappointed at some point this offseason).
All that being said, I think this is a great trade, and it’s a deal I would do again and again in a heartbeat. If I’m being perfectly honest, aside from maybe re-signing Jarrod Dyson, I don’t think I’d do very much to turn over the offense. I like our outfield! I like Haniger and Gamel and the combo of Dyson and Heredia! That’s great defense across the board, with solid plate production and speed on the basepaths. It’s unrealistic to believe that the hitting/defense side of the game is going to stay as is, especially with Dipoto running the show, and especially since we’re almost certainly going to have to trade from that position of strength (hitting) to improve our pitching. But, whatever you do, you’ve got to keep that outfield defense as a strength, without sacrificing too much in the way of hitting. Edgar Martinez can’t do it all!