Evaluating the D-Backs and Mariners Swap

Late on Wednesday night, the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Seattle Mariners agreed on the most notable trade of the offseason to date.

Mariners receive (from D-Backs): IF Jean Segura, OF Mitch Haniger, and LHP (Reliever) Zac Curts

D-Backs receive (from Mariners): RHP (Starter) Taijuan Walker and SS Ketel Marte

In my opinion the trade is a pretty solid deal for both sides; the D-Backs get a solid arm for the starting rotation and a young shortstop who still has a lot of  upside due to his speed, and the Mariners get an all-star SS in addition to a right-handed outfielder (a huge need for them considering their projected starting outfield was all lefty) and a lottery ticket reliever.

The D-Backs still have plenty of infielders, so this trade didn’t thin their infield out. In a way, they were dealing from an area of depth/strength. Entering 2017, assuming they don’t make any more moves, they’ll have Jake Lamb at third, Brandon Drury at second (he can also play third), Nick Ahmed at short (Ketel Marte will presumably start there because Ahmed is a  terrible hitter) and Chris Owings who can play at any of 2B, SS or CF (though he only logged 2 innings at 2B in 2016 because of Segura).

Let’s just quickly go around the horn for the D-Backs. Jake Lamb projects as the D-Backs opening day 3B in 2017. In 2016 he hit a career-high 29 HR, OPSed .840, walked 10.8% of the time and posted 2.5 fWAR,  even with a negative defensive WAR. The newly acquired Ketel Marte will likely take over everyday SS duties for the D-Backs. He hasn’t been spectacular in his big league career, slashing only .267/.309/.349 over 656 PA, but he has above-average speed (scouts grade it as a 65 on the 20-80 scale) and has flashed some of that in his brief time in the majors. He’s a solid get for the D-Backs and if his defense improves (which it should with MLB experience) and his OBP rises a few points, he will be a force at the top of the D-Backs lineup.

The D-Backs can then choose either Brandon Drury (.282/.329/.458, 16 HR in 499 PA in 2016) or Chris Owings (.277/.315/.416, 21 SB in 466 2016 PA) to man the keystone. Perennial all-star and MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt will obviously play first next year for the D-Backs.

Arizona’s starting rotation is where they were having issues, so the acquisition of Walker helps them greatly in that area. Walker was ranked the 3rd-best pitching prospect in all of baseball after the 2013 season, but hasn’t really lived up to his pedigree just yet. In 357 major league innings, Walker sports a 4.18 ERA and 1.21 WHIP and he accrued these numbers while pitching for the Mariners, whose home park is one of the most notoriously pitcher-friendly parks in all of baseball. The move to Chase Field, the second-most hitter friendly park in the bigs (behind Coors Field in Colorado), likely won’t help Walker’s numbers, but Walker’s presence makes the Arizona rotation much deeper. After Walker and former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke, the D-Backs have LHP Patrick Corbin, RHP Rubby De La Rosa, RHP Shelby Miller, RHP Braden Shipley, strikeout machine Robbie Ray and former top prospect Archie Bradley to compete for the remaining three rotation spots, and I expect them to try to shop Miller and the two guys who don’t make the rotation for relief help.

While the trade was a solid deal for both sides, I think the Mariners got the short end of the stick by just a bit. Segura was great last year, and no doubt he is the best player in this deal on either side, but last year’s numbers were a flash in the pan. He hit a career-high .319/.368/.499 but that was aided by Chase Field and a BABIP 40 points higher than his career mark. His walk rate and K rate improved marginally, and he made a lot more hard contact, but I’m going to chalk that up to luck and hitting environment as opposed to actual improvement. Even with that luck, he socked a career-high 20 HR, all of which had the distance to be homers in Safeco Field (the Mariners home park) in 2016. With all that said, Segura’s infant son died in 2014 while he was still in Milwaukee, so there is a chance that all he needed to succeed was a change of scenery. Segura will slot in at the top of a potent Mariners lineup which includes all-stars 3B Kyle Seager, OF/DH Nelson Cruz, and 2B Robinson Cano.

The Mariners entire projected starting outfield (Cruz is project to slot in at DH) is left-handed, so the right-handed Mitch Haniger, who slashed a ridiculous .341/.428/.670 with 20 HR in 312 PA at AAA (but was far less effective in the majors, slashing only .229/.309/.404 in 123 PA) will likely be a platoon partner for some of the lefty OFs, or if his bat breaks out, an everyday starter.

Zac Curtis is the last guy in this deal and he basically amounts to a throw-in for the Mariners. He was expendable for the D-Backs, and he wasn’t particularly good last year in the majors, sporting a 6.75 ERA in 13.1 innings. He spent most of the 2016 season in the minors where he wasn’t spectacular but wasn’t bad either: 3.90 ERA, 1.333 WHIP and a 15.6 K/9 mark. He has enough strikeout upside to end up a solid middle relief piece, but until he reaches that point he’ll likely be reserved for long-relief duty and blowout games.

When all is said and done I like the D-Backs side of the trade better, but neither team got fleeced. The trade still can’t be evaluated entirely until we see what Marte, Haniger and Curtis end up being in the majors, so until that point I’ll tentatively give the D-Backs the win in this trade.

(Image Credit: USA Today Sports)

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