Mariners Acquire Danny Valencia For Prospect, Blackburn
The Mariners have taken care of one of their concerns this off-season: who will play first base. In a trade with the Oakland Athletics, the Mariners have acquired utility player, Danny Valencia in exchange for a former top-twenty prospect, Paul Blackburn.
This move is probably not a surprise for fans of either organization.
For the Mariners, they have been trying to fill one of their biggest lineup holes: the first base position.
As for the Athletics, they not only found Valencia to not be statistically worthy of a lineup spot, but they knew he had been part of some clubhouse friction with his teammate, Billy Butler that escalated to a physical confrontation. That negativity was only going to bring bad mojo to the team.
Nevertheless, Valencia had told the Mercury News that he’d:
"“like to think I’ve cemented my position here [in Oakland] for next year.”"
And his numbers suggest that maybe he should’ve been right. Playing at over five different positions last season, Valencia hit .287 with seventeen home runs (one shy of tying a career-high) and added sixty-six RBI (his second best of his career). So where did he go wrong?
Well, this past season he played a career-most one hundred and thirty games and he couldn’t set any career-bests, except in one category: strikeouts. Unfortunately, during the long season, Valencia struggled at the plate like never before.
Only once before in seven years had the utilityman recorded over eighty strikeouts, and that was in his sophomore campaign. In 2016, Valencia was fanned one hundred and fifteen times.
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But, over his career, Valencia has been a reliably average player -he has a batting average of .271. and his numbers the last two years are showing a positive upswing.
His power numbers over the past two seasons have been good too. His thirty-five homers in the past two years are only two fewer than his previous total in all of his other years combined. Also, only three times has Valencia smacked in over fifty RBI and two of those times came the past two seasons.
So things look promising for the Valencia and the Mariners, but was it worth giving up a former top-twenty pitching prospect in Paul Blackburn?
It is impossible to tell how Blackburn will do in the major leagues -he hasn’t even made his MLB debut yet. But, if we look at his minor league stats, we see a young pitcher that has plenty of potential.
Blackburn was a top prospect for the Chicago Cubs a few years back, but they thought he was dispensable and shipped him to the Mariners around the 2016 trade deadline with the M’s other right-handed first baseman, Dan Vogelbach.
Blackburn was working his way through the minors and was posting very respectable numbers. His hard breaking sinker powered him to a 29-17 record and 3.24 ERA over five seasons. Those are solid numbers, but the question is: when he eventually does make his MLB debut, will his game translate at the next level?
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Whether or not Blackburn shines in the league though is irrelevant at this point. GM, Jerry Dipoto has made his move. Now Mariners fans must hope that Valencia breaks out of this mediocre run he’s been on the past seven years, and shock the league with his talent.