Welcome back all! I know it’s been a while (or, at least, it feels that way to me) but I’m back, on the heels of the first deal of the 2015-16 offseason (at least, the first deal involving major league players) which was completed sometime yesterday by the Seattle Mariners and Tampa Bay Rays.
As some of you may know, the Mariners fired General Manager Jack Zduriencik after a disappointing seven-season stretch in which the Mariners compiled a 506-595 record. In Zduriencik’s first season as GM, the Mariners won 85 games, a number which wasn’t matched until the club won 87 games in 2014. The Mariners started 2015 with a lineup featuring names such as Robinson Cano (who Zduriencik signed to a 10-year, $240 million deal before 2014), Kyle Seager (7Y, $100M from 2015-21), and Nelson Cruz (4Y, $57M, 2015-18) as well as a rotation led by the likes of [King] Felix Hernandez and followed by Taijuan Walker and Hisashi Iwakuma. However, the team limped to a 60-69 record through August 28, when Zduriencik was fired (for what it’s worth, the club went 16-17 after Jack’s departure).
Ultimately, none of this has to do anything with the trade made yesterday. Whoops. However, it does have to do with the fact that the Mariners now have a new GM – Mr. Jerry Dipoto, hired on September 28th. That has more to do with yesterday’s deal, as Dipoto was (obviously) the one who made the trade on the Mariner’s side. Dipoto is the MLB’s newest GM (newer than Boston’s Mike Hazen by a whole four days), and he made the first trade of this year’s offseason. This is a positive – it shows that Dipoto is serious about making changes to his team, hopefully with the intent of making them better. Whether or not he accomplished that remains to be seen, but the intent is there.
Similarly, Tampa Bay Rays GM Matt Silverman has just completed his second season, and the Rays finished with a losing record for the second straight season. After four straight 90-win seasons under former GM Andrew Friedman, the Rays organization are struggling to find the winning recipe again under new leadership. Silverman hasn’t been too active in the trade market in his tenure, with his biggest move being the sale of Ben Zobrist and Yunel Escobar for John Jaso and a pair of minor leaguers (Boog Powell and Daniel Robertson). Silverman’s most important acquisition was Erasmo Ramirez, who he acquired from the aforementioned Zduriencik and the Mariners in March 31 in exchange for young LHP Mike Montgomery. This time, Silverman picks up even more talent from Seattle, with the goal of trying to return to the Rays to the success they enjoyed under Friedman’s leadership.
Have I even mentioned who got traded yet? That’s probably a little important. The Mariners swapped 1B/OF Logan Morrison, UTL Brad Miller, and RHP Danny Farquhar for RHP Nate Karns, LHP C.J. Riefenhauser, and Minor League OF Boog Powell.
Let’s break this down, looking at the individual players each team acquired and what we might expect them to contribute to each team come next spring.
Nate Karns, 2015: 7-5, 3.67 ERA, 1.279 WHIP, 147.0 IP, 132 H, 56 BB, 145 K, 107 ERA+, 4.09 FIP
Karns’ 2015 was an interesting one for sure. He didn’t allow many hits, struck out a fair amount of batters, and walked a fair amount as well. This is something that might work for someone with a 95 MPH fastball, but Karns’ average velocity this year was a modest 91.6, nothing special from a righty. However, in 24 innings prior to 2015, Karns posted an average velocity over 93. Early in the year, Karns’ average fastball dipped a bit, but then rose to closer where it had been before – hopefully, this was a one-time consequence of going through his first full season in the majors. However, Karns was pretty susceptible to the home run ball in 2015, allowing 19 home runs on the year. This wasn’t just an early-season thing either, as he allowed dingers in 8 of his last 10 starts (10 total). I think if Karns can limit his vulnerability to the longball in 2016 (which is definitely a possibility, as Safeco Field is an even better pitchers’ park than Tropicana Field) while maintaining his low H/9 and high K/9, he can be a serviceable #3 or #4 starter for the Mariners in the future.
C.J. Riefenhauser, 2015: 1-0, 5.52 ERA, 1.500 WHIP, 14.2 IP, 15 H, 7 BB, 7 K, 73 ERA+, 6,27 FIP
Riefenhauser is a bit more a question mark heading into this offseason, as he posted pretty poor numbers in 2015 with the Rays after enjoying some success in AAA. Riefenhauser all suffered when he reached the majors, (8.83/4.30 K/9, 1.82/4.30 BB/9, 0.26/1.84 HR/9 in AAA/MLB respectively) so it remains to be seen which player he will be in the future. He’s a “soft lefty” who throws more sliders than fastballs, and hardly breaks 90 MPH when he does throw the straight ones. That’s not to say he can’t be successful (just look at J.P. Howell, another soft left with initials as a first name), but it’s much harder to predict. I expect Riefenhauser to likely start the year in AAA, and Steamer projection system thinks that Riefenhauser will only see 10 IP in the majors next year.
Boog Powell, 2015 (AA-AAA): 552 PA, .295/.385/.392, 66 R, 131 H, 16 2B, 9 3B, 3 HR, 40 RBI, 18/32 SB, 61 BB, 79 K
Powell is also a question mark in this deal – it’s tough to tell what kind of major league ballplayer he’s going to be in the future. However, we look at what he’s done in the minors and we can tell what type of guy he wants to be. Owner of a career .308 BA and .401 OBP in the minors, we can see that Powell is a good contact hitter who draws a lot of walks. Powell also doesn’t strike out much, and that’s carried over all the way up to AAA – a good sign. He doesn’t get a lot of extra-base hits, and isn’t the best base-stealer, but he’s only 22 and he plays pretty good defense to boot. I don’t expect to see Powell in the majors next year (at least, not before September), but if he can sustain his good BA and OBP over a full season at AAA he might be an interesting look for 2017.
Tampa Bay Rays
Logan Morrison, 2015: 511 PA, .225/.302/.383, 47 R, 103 H, 15 2B, 3 3B, 17 HR, 54 RBI, 8/12 SB, 47 BB, 81 K, 92 OPS+
Morrison’s 2015 season was certainly a disappointment, to say the least. After hitting .262 and compiling a 111 OPS+ in his first year with the Mariners in 2014, Morrison regressed in his first season with more than 400 PA since he was 23 years old, with Florida (now Miama) in 2011. However, there may be a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel – in 2015, Morrison’s BB%, K%, and HR% actually al improved. However, he suffered from a horrifically low .238 BABIP (batting average on balls in play) in 2015 after posting a far more favorable .287 mark in 2014. Steamer projects Morrison to progress back towards the mean in 2016 in this regard, thus helping out his BA and OPS numbers. I expect Morrison to be a fairly solid contributor for the Rays in 2016, either in the corner OF or at DH.
Brad Miller, 2015: 497 PA, .258/.329/.402, 44 R, 113 H, 22 2B, 4 3B, 11 HR, 46 RBI, 13/17 SB, 47 BB, 101 K, 106 OPS+
Miller is a guy whose value is pretty much undetermined at this time due to a set of interesting circumstances. First, the fact that he really doesn’t have a position – he came up as a shortstop, but his defense at the position was pretty poor. In 2015, he saw action at shortstop, center field, left field, second base, DH, right field, and third base (in descending order of frequency). He also hit over .260, had an OBP of over .315, a SLG over .400, and an OPS+ over 105 in his rookie season as well as 2015. However, 2014 was quite poor, hitting .221/,288/.365 for an 88 OPS+. It can easily be dismissed as a “sophomore slump”, but it still happened and draws back from Miller’s value because he hasn’t shown consistent results in back-to-back season yet. Thankfully, he’s young (will be entering his age-26 season in 2016) and has time to prove his identity in the field and his consistency at the plate. However, Miller most likely fits in with the Rays as a SS after the likely departure of Asdrubal Cabrera via free agency. As I am with Morrison, I’m optimistic about Miller’s future, and I think he can be serviceable enough as a defensive SS and an above-average offensive SS.
Danny Farquhar, 2015: 1-8, 5.12 ERA, 1.373 WHIP, 51.0 IP, 53 H, 17 BB, 48 K, 74 ERA+, 4.60 FIP
At 28, Farquhar is the old man of this trade, and he’s coming off a down 2015 campaign which saw his ERA nearly double from 2.66 in 2014. Farquhar’s velocity dipped a bit from 2014 to 2015, but not enough to warrant the nearly 2% decrease in his K% and a nearly 1% increase in HR%. Farquhar simply didn’t have “it” in 2015, and I believe part of that may be because of the diversity of his repertoire. Normally, having lots of different pitches is a good thing, but as a reliever you usually only need three good ones – in 2015, Farquhar threw six pretty mediocre ones. In 2014, he threw well over 50% cutters, and then a healthy amount of curveballs, four-seams, two-seams, and changeups (in descending order of use). In 2015, he threw far fewer cutters (638 vs. 332), fewer curveballs, and more changeups and four-seams. He also threw a very low number of two-seams. In turn, his performance suffered. I think if Farquhar can regain whatever he had in 2014 he’ll be an important asset in the Tampa Bay bullpen in 2016 alongside closer Brad Boxberger and setup man Jake McGee. However, if he against struggles to find the right mix of pitches, I could see him struggling again.
Overall I think that both teams got what they wanted from this trade – the Mariners added a solid middle of the road starter and a couple young guys with potential, and the Rays got two solid MLB hitters and a possibly above-average bullpen arm. Neither team gave up too much, either, as they both should be able to fill whatever holes are left in their rosters fairly easily.
Thanks for reading along guys – I hope you enjoyed. With any luck, there will be a lot more of this coming as the offseason progresses and we get into free agency.