Jerry Dipoto’s initial response when asked if the Seattle Mariners would ever consider a “tear-it-down” model to rebuild was that something like that just doesn’t make a lot of sense. In almost the same breath he said players like Edwin Diaz are those you build around, not trade away.
Fastforward to Monday and you’d be hard-pressed to say the Mariners have reassessed, reimagined, taken a step back or anything else Dipoto has coined this young offseason.
This is looking about as tear-it-down as teardowns get – and it’s happening at what has to be some sort of record rate.
After all the sourced reports and speculation over the past week, the Mariners began their anticipated Monday frenzy by announcing they completed a blockbuster trade to send Diaz and Robinson Cano to the New York Mets as part of a seven-player deal..
And the Dipoto offseason trade tracker ticked up to five trades about two hours later when the Mariners officially announced All-Star shortstop Jean Segura had been traded to the Philadelphia Phillies with relievers Juan Nicasio and James Pazos.
Will the last Mariner out of Safeco Field please turn off the lights?
“For those who have already determined that this is what ripping down to the studs looks like, there’s still quite a ways to go to do that,” Dipoto said. “We still have a fair bit of talent on this team.
“I’m really excited about the direction we’re heading as a franchise. And I think all of us here are embracing the idea of taking a step back this year in order to move forward at a quicker pace starting in 2020.”
But, if you’re counting, the Mariners traded 11 collective All-Star appearances between Diaz, Cano and Segura in about two hours.
They also reportedly sent $20 million in cash considerations to the Mets to help offset the five years, $120 million remaining on the 36-year-old Cano’s contract.
In return, the Mariners acquired 31-year-old outfielder Jay Bruce and 33-year-old right-handed reliever Anthony Swarzak from the Mets to go with three prospects: outfielder Jarred Kelenic, right-hander Justin Dunn and right-handed reliever Gerson Bautista.
From the Phillies, the Mariners get veteran first baseman Carlos Santana and 23-year-old shortstop J.P. Crawford.
Bruce is a former three-time All-Star, but he hit .223 with nine home runs in 94 games this past season. The Mariners took on Bruce, Swarzak and their combined $36 million owed as contract swaps in exchange for Cano’s.
It’s been speculated that the Mariners will now get to work on dealing Bruce and Swarzak elsewhere. Bruce said he’s been notified differently ... sort of.
“I’m pretty sure at this point,” Bruce said with a laugh when asked if he expects to be with the Mariners in spring training.
“I know things change and it’s not a certainty until I get there, but what I’ve been told is that I will be a Mariner in 2019. We’ll see. We’ll see. But my plan now is looking for houses in Seattle and Arizona as we speak.”
But the way Dipoto has been working, he was more than likely working on his next trade as Bruce spoke.
Kelenic, 19, and Dunn, 23, are both first-round draft picks and Kelenic was the top high school outfielder in this past draft. Bautista, 23, made his big-league debut this season and can throw 100 mph, though he’s had location struggles.
Kelenic was the No. 6 overall selection in June and started his pro career in the Gulf Coast League hitting .413 over his first 12 games and was promoted to short-season Single-A Kingsport. Some scouts have said he has superstar potential and at the least he’ll be an above-average outfielder.
Kelenic was the Mets’ No. 3 prospect, as ranked by Baseball America, and Dunn was ranked No. 5.
The Mariners need Kelenic to pan out. If Dunn does, too, (he struck out 10.5 batters per nine innings over 15 starts in his promotion to Double-A this past year), the Mariners will win this trade.
That’s why Dipoto was willing to part with a superstar closer to go with Cano.
“This is mostly what we anticipated doing,” Dipoto said. “I would say mostly, because we really did not anticipate moving Robbie Cano, so we did not anticipate moving Edwin. But the rest of it is much by design.
“Edwin is awesome. He’s been awesome. We had discussions with a variety of other clubs just to determine what Edwin’s value on his own would be and effectively how much we would be prostituting putting Edwin in a trade with Robbie. We did our homework. We vetted it. I would say it was probably 10 days ago that we came to the realization that this deal was probably too good for us to walk away from.”
Diaz saved 57 games in 2018. Only one other closer in major-league history had more saves in one year (the Angels’ Francisco Rodriguez in 2008). But it was the way Diaz did it – with 124 strikeouts and a 1.96 ERA. Former Dodgers closer Eric Gagne is the only other pitcher to have at least 50 saves and 100 strikeouts in a season.
The Mariners went 66-0 in games Diaz appeared in. That’s ridiculous. He’s one of the biggest reasons the Mariners were able to win 89 games despite a minus-34 overall run differential (the Astros won the division with a plus-270 run differential).
They might have had to include Diaz in a deal if they were going to be able to trade Cano, who served an 80-game drug suspension this past season.
But Cano still batted .303 with 10 home runs and 50 RBI in the 80 games he played in his age-35 season. He’s signed through his age-40 season.
Over the course of his five years with the Mariners, after he signed a 10-year, $240 million contract to leave the Yankees after the 2013 season, Cano has hit .296/.353/.472. He was the All-Star Game MVP in 2017 and he’s been acquired by new Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen, who was Cano’s representative when he signed that mega Mariners deal.
As successful as Cano was in the middle of the lineup, mostly paired with fellow Dominican Nelson Cruz, the Mariners still failed to reach the playoffs. Now Cano is traded, Cruz is a free agent and the Mariners have gone 17 years without a playoff appearance.
And don’t expect them to break that streak any time soon. To go with All-Stars Diaz and Cano, the Mariners are also announced Monday that Segura is now a Phillie. Before that, ace lefty James Paxton was dealt to the Yankees, catcher Mike Zunino and Guillermo Heredia were shipped to the Rays and right-handed reliever Alex Colome (Diaz’s standout setup reliever) is now with the White Sox.
Of the Mariners’ four All-Stars this past season, only outfielder Mitch Haniger is still on the roster.
And the season didn’t officially end until just over a month ago.
“I can’t say that we’re completely done yet, but I think most of the heavy lifting is done,” Dipoto said. “We’re likely to continue with conversations about the possibility of doing some other things, but I suspect that we’ll be generally quiet until we get to the winter meetings.”