The Seattle Mariners and General Manager Jerry Dipoto made another deal to reshape the club's roster this afternoon, trading for standout defensive center fielder Leonys Martin. The club also received right-handed reliever Anthony Bass in the deal, moving Tom Wilhelmsen, James Jones and a player to be named later.
Leonys was limited to just 95 games in 2015 due to a broken hamate bone in August, and he had some disagreements with Texas late in the year after being left off of the club's playoff roster and refusing to go to the instructional league, but he parlayed strong defense and baserunning in 2013 and 2014 into 2.0+ WAR seasons while serving as the Rangers' everyday center fielder. He has stolen 84 bases and picked up 87 extra base hits in 429 career games with Texas.
Martin -- who will turn 28 in spring training -- is a left-handed hitter who has hit .263/.317/.386 in his career against right-handed pitching but just .233/.274/.298 against left-handed pitching. He has very good speed on the bases and in the outfield to go along with plus range and a very strong, accurate throwing arm. Fangraphs has him graded out as one of the best defensive center fielders in baseball over the last three seasons, a point that Dipoto echoed as he stated that Martin is a player that the club was targeting, "from the get-go." The GM added, “with Leonys Martin, I think we get one of the premier defensive center fielders in baseball. He has a tremendous throwing arm.”
The addition of Martin continues to follow the model that Dipoto has stated he sees as the key to success for Seattle, and it feels a need at a position that the club did not have the ability to fill in-house. And while the cost, particularly in dealing the underrated Wilhelmsen, wasn't cheap, this looks like a move that makes the Mariners a better and more complete club on paper.
Martin doesn't come without warts, as in addition to his struggles against lefties, he is also a bit of a free swinger that has struck out in more than 20.5% of his plate appearances. But Dipoto pointed out that the M's weren't looking for him to be someone he isn't and fill a top-of-the-order role, saying that the native of Cuba will hit down in the order. Martin's familiarity with the division is also a plus, and in his small sample of work at Safeco Field he has managed to hit to a .757 OPS, too.
Bass, a five year veteran who has made 129 appearances including 18 starts in his big league career, is someone who Dipoto says he views as a multi-inning reliever with the potential to fill a swing role or make some spot starts. At the same time, though, he's an arm that the GM says could touch 96-97 in shorter roles. In 2015 the 27 year old had one of the better ground ball rates and HR/RB rates in the AL in 64 innings of work.
Unlike earlier trades made by Dipoto, the Mariners don't pick a lot of service time balance here. Martin and Bass each come with three years of club control remaining while Wilhlemsen is entering his second year of arbitration this coming spring and Jones was controllable through 2021. And for all the hand-wringing around Wilhelmsen at times, he did pitch to a 2.97 ERA and 1.19 WHIP in his 312 1/3 innings over the past five seasons with Seattle, allowing just 6.7 H/9 in that time. Tom's 67 saves are tied for fifth most in franchise history. Jones had just 31 plate appearances for Seattle in 2015 but he led the club by a wide margin in 2014 when he stole 27 bases in 28 tries in an extended audition as the team's center fielder.
But again, Martin is the key here, and he represents a huge upgrade at a clear position of need for Seattle and is a prime candidate for a bounce-back. Dipoto mentioned that being in a buy-low scenario as was the case with Martin certinaly played into his acquisition, but this isn't simply a case of adding a cheap player, as the GM stated, "his athleticism and speed will be strong additions to our lineup as we continue to mold the roster."
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