Mariners Grade a Trade: Mike Leake for Jose Caballero

SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 5: Starter Mike Leake #8 of the Seattle Mariners delivers a pitch during the fifth inning of a game against the Houston Astros at T-Mobile Park on June 5, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. The Mariners won the game 14-1. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - JUNE 5: Starter Mike Leake #8 of the Seattle Mariners delivers a pitch during the fifth inning of a game against the Houston Astros at T-Mobile Park on June 5, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. The Mariners won the game 14-1. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images) /
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The Seattle Mariners made a few trades on deadline day (for our count 3 of them) including swapping out veteran right-handed pitcher Mike Leake. While Leake wanted out, how did the Mariners do in their return?

Grading trades are always difficult because we are working off partial information. Did the Mariners take the best offer? Were there even any other offers for Leake? According to the Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto, there was almost no action on Mike Leake:

"“It picked up with less than 20 minutes left to the deadline… Rumor has it that we clicked send and confirmed the deal with everybody with about 68 seconds left.”"

With that little action on Leake, almost any trade for Leake may be a good one. We know the team appeared to have the framework of a deal in place in early June to send Leake to Arizona before it was reportedly nixed by ownership. Could that deal have been better? Perhaps. But probably not significantly.

The lack of interest isn’t because Leake is a bad pitcher. He’s not. By just about any set of numbers you want to use, Leake is league-average or slightly better. And while that does have value, that value basically becomes void when you factor in Leake’s contract.

Teams willing to add expensive pieces mid-season are typically playoff teams. Playoff teams likely have at least 3 starters better than Leake. In the playoffs, 3 is all you need. Instead of adding major payroll for a player who may not make your playoff roster, why not go acquire some bullpen arms? Ideally, Leake may only make 1 playoff start so a team can easily cover 9 innings with their stud bullpen.

Ironically, when the Mariners acquired Leake, they traded a low minor infielder Raydar Asciano for Leake and cash. Now, just under 2 years later, the Diamondbacks made the same trade. Jose Caballero is an infielder in High-A with some interesting stats but a less than stellar profile.

Caballero has good speed and can steal bases, but doesn’t have elite speed. He shows some pop but doesn’t hit many home runs. He is a solid defender at short and third but doesn’t really have the arm to handle those spots in the big leagues.

Ultimately, Caballero is likely just organizational depth, similar to Jake Scheiner. But if everything hits and reaches his ceiling, he could be a similar version to former Astros LF/2B Tony Kemp. So how do we grade this deal? The Diamondbacks get Mike Leake, the Mariners get Jose Caballer and save about $6 million in payroll savings.

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Overall, it’s not an exciting trade, but it doesn’t matter. Jerry Dipoto did about as well as anybody could have reasonably expected under the circumstances. We will see in Caballero ever wears a Mariners uniform, but for now, we give Dipoto a solid B.

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