Seattle Mariners: Carlos Santana Trade Profile, Minnesota Edition
The Seattle Mariners aren’t done making trades. Perhaps the next name on the block is recently acquired first baseman, Carlos Santana. There are a handful of teams that make some sense, including the Minnesota Twins.
The Twins are a team that makes for an interesting fit with the Mariners. They haven’t dived into the rebuilding end of the pool and have no real money tied up long-term. They can easily afford a big contract like Santana, but still, don’t have the endless pockets of Los Angeles or New York.
The Twins also recently acquired C.J. Cron and already have Tyler Austin who got some decent run over the last few weeks of 2018. He seemed to excite some, but Austin’s swing-and-miss is a lot to take. If the Twins want to challenge the Indians in the Central, or challenge for a Wild Card, they’ll be looking to upgrade at first base.
The trick is finding a deal where the Mariners get some salary relief and a prospect that makes it worth their while. Unlike our article discussing the Indians fit with Santana, there isn’t an easy salary swap to work off of.
The best option is likely relief pitcher Addison Reed. After signing a 2-year deal with the Twins worth $16 million in the winter of 2017, Reed was a major disappointment for Minnesota. In 2018, he posted a 4.50 ERA, a 1.43 WHIP, a 5.11 FIP, and a 7.1 K/9, well below his career mark of 9.5 K/9 from 2011-2017.
Perhaps the reason for this steep decline was due to the average fastball velocity dropping from 92.8 MPH in 2017, to just 91.3 in 2018. Reed did land on the DL in July with a strained triceps, which may help explain the velocity drop. Overall, Reed is set to make $8.5 million in 2019.
Santana is slated to make between $17.5-$20.8 million in 2019 and 2020 (there is some confusion about who is paying his bonuses). Adding Reed to the deal makes the salary bump for Minnesota at about $12 million in 2019.
The Twins would probably like to make Santana a $10 million AAV player. So in year 1, the Mariners would need to send about $12 million to the Twins over the 2-year span to make it happen.
So now that the money is figured out, it is time to identify the other player coming back to Seattle. Here is our proposal:
There were 3 prospects that I liked and considered in this deal: Zack Littell, Luke Raley, and Jordan Balazovic. Littell was a Mariners prospect before. GM Jerry Dipoto traded him to the Yankees in 2016 for James Pazos, then the Yankees traded him to the Twins for Jaime Garcia.
Littell is big league ready with 3 average offerings and above-average control. But with his potential as a #4 starter and his proximity to the big leagues, Minnesota might balk at the idea.
Raley might be my favorite. A high minor league producer with average or better tools across the board, the 24-year-old seems like a Dipoto type of player. He can handle both corner OF spots and first base well. However, the unfavorable K: BB ratio makes me hesitant to believe Dipoto like Raley as much as I do.
That left us with the prospect furthest away from the big leagues, but perhaps the one with the highest upside: Jordan Balazovic. The now 20-year-old RHP spent his entire age-19 season in A ball and more than held his own. In 61 innings, he posted a 3.94 ERA with 78 strikeouts and just 18 walks.
His fastball sits in the low-to-mid 90’s and he can touch 96 at times. He threw a curveball in high school but ditched it for a slider. Despite only throwing the pitch for a few years, it already shows good 2-plane movement and should become another above-average offering. The changeup lags behind and could be a game changer.
If he can turn the changeup into an average offering, he might just become a #3 starter in a few years. There is still projection left in his game, as the slider continues to improve. If he doesn’t turn the changeup into a useful offering, he has the potential to become a late-inning, high-leverage reliever. At just 20-years-old, there is plenty of time to see Balazovic develop and fits perfectly with Dipoto’s stated timeline.
Overall, in this proposal, the Twins get the first base upgrade they need at a discounted salary. The Mariners get another veteran reliever to throw into their bullpen and hope for a rebound season. Plus a 20-year-old pitcher with a chance at 2 plus pitches who can rocket up prospect ranking boards quickly.