After waiting for what felt like an eternity, Jerry Dipoto has finally made a deal before today’s trading deadline.
What has been reported as two separate deals breaks down into one, five-player trade between the Mariners and Nationals. In it, Seattle sends two bullpen arms in Roenis Elías and Hunter Strickland to Washington for pitching prospects Aaron Fletcher, Taylor Guilbeau, and Elvis Alvarado.
After being reacquired from the Boston Red Sox for straight cash last year, Elías proved to be a strong addition to a Mariners bullpen that was on the brink of making some big changes. With all the turnover in that unit, Elías stepped into a bigger role and flourished. The 30-year-old now deservingly gets to pitch for a team in the midst of a heated playoff hunt.
The Mariners didn’t have much to offer teams, given some untimely injuries and so forth, but dealing Elías felt like a sure thing. What came as a surprise, however, was their ability to also trade Strickland and get something actually substantial for him. Strickland had been on the Injured List for most of the season after injuring his lat amidst a blown save opportunity versus Boston in the very first series of the season.
As the trade was broken down from earlier reports, Strickland was dealt for Fletcher whereas Elías was dealt for Guilbeau and Alvarado. In MLB Pipeline’s most recent re-rank of each farm system, Guilbeau landed at #15 in the Nationals’ ranks.
Guilbeau has stumbled a bit since being called up to Triple-A, but that’s the PCL, so who cares. Pitching in Double-A, however, Guilbeau dominated in his 35 innings of work, putting up an 11.31 K/9. He sports two plus pitches, a mid-90s fastball and a devastating slider. At the very least, expect him to be on the Mariners’ 40-man roster by September, if not sooner.
Fletcher, 21, was the Nationals’ 14th-round pick of the 2018 draft out of Houston. In 2016, Fletcher underwent Tommy John surgery and has pitched beautifully since his return both at the collegiate and professional levels. He’s already made his way through three different levels of the minor leagues this season, most recently stopping at Double-A Harrisburg. In 32 appearances, Fletcher’s posted a 1.79 ERA with 69 strikeouts and just 15 walks. At this pace, he’ll be in Seattle by this time next year.
Guilbeau and Fletcher may be initially viewed as the prizes of the deal, but Alvarado’s part in it should not be overlooked. The 20-year-old is a converted outfielder who’s now in his second full season as a pitcher, and while his numbers in the GCL (in an extremely limited amount of time, mind you) won’t jump off the page, his arm certainly will. He’s still very much raw, but there’s a lot of intrigue surrounding him and the Mariners clearly feel confident in their ability to help him develop as a pitcher.
Roughly 30 minutes still remain until the deadline and Dipoto is surely still working his phone like mad trying to find deals for Mike Leake, Anthony Bass, and perhaps even Domingo Santana. Stay tuned.