So there was some confusion on trade deadline day as to whether or not the Seattle Mariners made one big deal with the Nationals or two smaller deals. But ultimately, it doesn’t really matter.
At the end of the day, we are breaking this deal down into two separate Mariners trades, but ultimately it does not matter. At the end of the day, after just 4 appearances in a Seattle uniform, long-time San Francisco Giants reliever Hunter Strickland is off to a new team.
Just minutes after the news of the Roenis Elias trade broke, the Mariners and Nationals made another deal, swapping Strickland with left-handed reliever prospect Aaron Fletcher. When you consider how little Strickland contributed to this season, getting anything for him seems like a good idea.
But the Nationals are not dumb. Strickland is still arbitration-eligible so he is controllable until after the 2021 season. So he’s not a rental, but also has no guaranteed money on his deal. Seattle could have easily kept Strickland and attempted to raise his trade value for the off-season.
But GM Jerry Dipoto got a deal he liked and he took it. Fletcher is an interesting prospect and the 23-year-old could be up with the big club as early as 2020 if he sticks in the bullpen. The lefty has found good success at 3 different levels this year, working his way through the Sally League and the Carolina League on his way to AA, dominating the A-ball levels along the way.
Fletcher has a chance for 3 quality, above-average offerings, and the slider has flashed plus for extended periods. The delivery is fluid but offers a lot of deception by hiding the ball for an extended period of time. It is possible that Fletcher may be able to transition to the starting rotation, but it would push his ETA back 2-3 years and his upside would be as a #4 or #5 starter.
Assuming Dipoto decides to keep Fletcher in the bullpen, he should move quickly. He has the potential to dominate lefties and his changeup is advanced enough that he should be able to handle righties on a consistent basis.
Thus far, he has shown an ability to not only miss bats, but also get a lot of groundballs, giving him a chance to be a high-leverage option in a few years, and one who could go multiple innings as well.
So, what grade do we give Dipoto for finding this potential reliever for Strickland? Well, if you can’t tell, I’m quite high on Fletcher. His ability to cover multiple innings, miss bats, generate ground balls, with a small chance to become a starter or a high-leverage reliever is well worth what was likely going to be just 2 months in Seattle. This is the best deal of the deadline, so we give Dipoto an A+