A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the Mariners’ need to make the playoffs this season. In that article, I discussed the Mariners’ limited options on the trade market to deal with what is now Robinson Canó’s 80-game suspension. Since then, Dee Gordon hit the DL with a fractured toe. Mitch Haniger and Nelson Cruz have been dealing with nagging injuries.
The Mariners need help, but their historically poor farm system is ill-equipped to provide that help. That is just one of the reasons why this trade is surprising. You rarely see trades like this early in the season.
In case you were not aware, the Mariners acquired Denard Span and Alex Colomé from the Rays in exchange for prospects Andrew Moore and Tommy Romero. The Rays are also sending $4.75 million to Seattle as part of the deal. That will cover roughly half of the salary owed to Span and Colomé this year.
The Mariners bullpen has actually been quite good this year. Their 3.92 RA9 ranks in the top ten in baseball, their 27.1 K% is the fourth-best, and their 7.6 BB% is second best. Colomé does not really add much to it. He was outstanding in 2016. Since then he has a solid but unremarkable 3.97 RA9 with a mediocre strikeout rate. He provides depth more than anything. The good news is that he still has two years left on his rookie deal. The drawback is that he is likely to make quite a bit in arbitration because that system still values “teh savez” for some reason.
Span had a subpar year last season due to the Giants playing him so often in center field, a position he can no longer handle. It is surprising to see that he has a .364 OBP this season after a couple of years of mediocre OBPs. Somehow, some way, after a career of average walk rates, he is walking at a 16.2 percent rate. That is the ninth-best walk rate in baseball! I don’t know how on earth he improved his plate discipline so much after ten seasons and at age 34.
I am very hesitant to say that Span’s improvement in walk rate is real, even considering that true talent walk rates can reveal themselves relatively quickly. Players in their mid-thirties tend not to change very much. I believe that it is safe to say that he will continue to walk a lot, just not so much that he continues to rank in the top ten.
The Mariners’ outfield has a collective .346 OBP, which is the fifth-best in the majors, but if Haniger and Cruz keep missing time, that could drop quickly. Span should be able to provide some insurance in that department.
This trade certainly is not going to have a major impact on the Mariners. It might be worth one win. Still, they did well in acquiring some depth for a couple of low end prospects that they will not miss.
As for the Rays, I cannot figure them out. They looked like they intended to tank going into this season, but they are hanging around at 23-26. Then they trade away two useful players and get back two prospects who are very unlikely to impact their rebuild. Romero was not even able to crack the Mariners top prospect lists at ESPN, Baseball Prospectus, or FanGraphs.
Moore does have some major league experience, but he has performed poorly. Last year he pitched 59 innings over nine starts and two relief appearances. He had a 5.49 RA9 while striking out less than 13 percent of hitters faced. On the bright side, he does have great command. He was considered a top ten prospect in the Mariners’ system, but that is not saying much. His ceiling lies as a back-end starter, and the Rays are really going to need him to hit that ceiling for this trade to be a win for them.
This trade is not going to majorly impact either franchise, now or in the future. The Mariners did well in acquiring some depth for a low cost of talent. The Rays’ return, on the other hand, was a little light. I can understand there not being a lot of demand for Span and Colomé, but there was nothing forcing the Rays to trade them this early in the season. Demand surely would have gone up in a month or two.
. . .
Luis Torres is a Featured Writer at Beyond the Box Score. He is a medicinal chemist by day, baseball analyst by night. You can follow him on Twitter at @Chemtorres21.