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Mariners trade Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte to Arizona for Mitch Haniger, Jean Segura and Zac Curtis
A pretty interesting trade went down over the Thanksgiving holiday that saw the Seattle Mariners send starting pitcher Taijuan Walker and shortstop Ketel Marte to the Arizona Diamondbacks for second baseman/shortstop Jean Segura, outfielder Mitch Haniger and minor league pitcher Zac Curtis. This is a fascinating trade on many levels.
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Walker had an up-and-down season that saw him spend time in the minors at one point, but he ended the season with a 4.22 ERA/4.99 FIP/96 ERA+. He struck out 8 batters per nine and was generally considered to have a bright future. His fastball was beyond strong, but the secondary stuff was the big question mark.
In Marte, the Mariners had a shortstop that was probably struggling due to his being rushed to the big leagues. He made his debut last season despite being only 22 and not having much experience above Double-A. He was a great hitter in the small sample, but without many other skills. His lack of selection and a few injuries caught up to him this year and he managed just a 68 OPS+. He still has upside, but it is not quite known just how much.
The Diamondbacks sent back three players with the big name being Jean Segura. It wasn’t that long ago that Segura was the best return prospect when the Brewers traded Zack Greinke to the Angels. Segura just had the best season of his career with a .319/.368/.499 slash line. The power is the big thing here as he changed his swing to add power and ended up with 20 homers this year. The change seems real as he just got stronger in every month. His first half ISO(lated slugging) was .130 compared to .244 in the second half. The average is boosted by a .356 batting average on balls in play which is hard to see anyone maintaining.
A lot of experts are wondering if Mitch Haniger is the real steal here. He’s a late bloomer, but he also made a change to his swing in 2016 that saw him dominate the minor leagues last season. He walked, didn’t strikeout too much and he hit for power. While those stats didn’t really translate to the majors in his small sample, he didn’t look lost either. His strikeouts didn’t jump and he still managed to hit the ball hard. It could be a small sample size issue. It does look like he could be a potential starter in the majors though.
From Arizona’s side of the equation, the only thing they really need to worry about is continuing to develop Taijuan Walker and working with him to develop his skills. He had three 11-strikeout performances this season. When this guy is on, he’s nearly unhittable. If they can work to develop some secondary pitches they should have a top line starter for years to come.
Ketel Marte is a nice piece to this trade, but he is nowhere near as important to its success as Walker is. Still, he could probably use a stint in the minors to start the season (similarly to what the Mariners did with Mike Zunino this season) to help him develop and rebuild his confidence. Anything they can get out of him should be gravy.
For the Mariners, there is a slightly more pressing issue: Can Jean Segura still play shortstop? Advanced stats showed him to be a slightly below average shortstop in his two plus seasons with the Brewers and his limited time there last year. He spent the majority of his time at second this year which there is usually a reason for. That said, Marte was considered a negative there last season and if he can simply improve on the offense that is an ugrade.
The more interesting question is: What is Mitch Haniger? Between Haniger and Ben Gamel, the Mariners seemingly had the market cornered on underrated but potentially valuable corner outfielders. If Haniger’s changes are for real, the Mariners could see an even bigger boost than they were expecting with the addition of Segura.
Of course, the real question is: How will they replace Walker in the rotation? It seems like they’ll be going outside of the organization to do so, but the free agent class leaves a lot to be desired.
One name I’d like to throw out there is none other than the Diamondbacks’ Zack Greinke. He fits the timeline of the rest of the Mariners’ stars, the Diamondbacks would probably like to get him and Seattle could afford it. There will need to be some salary picked up on Arizona’s side, but this deal could work for both sides. I give the odds of it happening about 10%.
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