Curious Happenings in Seattle

Photo Credit: hj_west | Flickr

By: Eric Boston @EricBoston3

The Seattle Mariners remained in the American League playoff picture for most of the 2018 season.

Even though they ultimately missed the playoffs, the team still finished with a solid 89-73 record, playing nearly identical ball on the road as they did at home.

One would have thought going into the off-season that Seattle would be a team who would look to be adding to a roster that made a run in the AL West division. Perhaps a bit surprisingly, the M’s front office has actually gone the opposite way to this point.

The team seems to be looking ahead further into the future than 2019.

Everything began with a five-player trade that sent starting catcher Mike Zunino from Seattle to Tampa Bay. 

Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto said that he was working on “re-imagining” the roster while remaining competitive…whatever that means. Zunino is a solid defensive catcher who displays plus power with the bat, a combination that is not easy to come by with game callers. To top it off, Zunino still has two years of team control left before reaching free agency. Dealing the backstop at this point makes it difficult to see the “remaining competitive” part from where I sit.

The main piece that came back to Seattle in this deal is OF Mallex Smith who is seemingly going to take over in center field. This would mark an acknowledgment that moving Dee Gordon from second base to center last season did not work out. To be honest, the numbers back that statement up. Gordon rated as one of the poorest CFs in baseball last season. It is also telling that the team moved Gordon, last off-season’s prized acquisition for the M’s, back to second when Robinson Cano missed time due to suspension.

Smith is a speedster with little power but an ability to get on base and swipe bags. My question will be how Seattle will replace Zunino. Right now 29-year-old David Freitas projects as the team’s starter, but my guess is that will change in some form or fashion before spring training.

That leads us to this week’s trade and hands down biggest move of the off-season so far.

Seattle dealt LHP James Paxton to the New York Yankees in exchange for the Yanks’ top prospect Justus Sheffield.

The reactions to this deal have been a bit all over the place. Some people believe the Yankees fleeced the M’s for a front-end starter. Others think that Seattle got the best of the deal based on Paxton’s spotty past. Myself, I fall right in the middle.

New York certainly got a pitcher (the team’s biggest need this off-season) who, when he is on, can be one of the best in the game. The question will be can he stay healthy and give the Bombers the much-needed firepower they are looking for in the rotation. Remember, 2018 was Paxton’s most productive season, but he still only tossed 160 innings.

If New York only requires 5-6 IP from Paxton, and with their stacked bullpen they definitely could make that happen, then he can be the perfect fit with Luis Severino at the top of the rotation.

For Seattle, getting a young LHP in Sheffield (who is 22) projects as a longer-term investment more than a player the team will build around in 2019.

Sheffield still has plenty of growth ahead of him. If he can refine his skills he could eventually anchor Seattle’s rotation, but there is always a good deal of uncertainty that goes along with any promise.

Even so, it was a smart move for the M’s who dealt Paxton (who like Zunino has two years of team control remaining) for a player who can be a leader on the team when the window to compete in the AL West opens wider.

Dipoto did say this week that the team was focused on the 2020-2021 window to compete.

While the team performed above expectations and the numbers in 2018, doing so in 2019 will be a difficult challenge.

I would expect Dipoto to look to continue moving veteran assets for players who will be ready to help the team compete 2-3 years from now. Forget the term “re-imagining” and embrace this for what it is, a rebuilding of a roster that is not ready to hang with the Houston Astros for at least a couple more seasons.

Names like Cano, Gordon, and even Felix Hernandez should be more than available at this point for anyone who wants to reach out to Dipoto in the front office. 

If I were a Seattle fan I would temper my expectations for what will take place in 2019 but would be getting excited for what the long-term future of the team is beginning to look like.


What do you think Seattle fans? What do you expect to happen for the rest of the off-season? Are you behind the moves Dipoto is making and when do you think your team will contend? Let us know in the comments below!

Check out the thoughts of a Yankees fan on the Paxton deal as Nate Shelton discusses the trade on the Bronx Bomber Beat podcast.

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