We continue to look at the Mariners 2018-2019 off-season and grade their obvious rebuild moves strictly based on 2019 production. Today, we continue our absurd experiment.
Thus far, we have looked at the Mariners trades from the last off-season and discovered that based on WAR output, GM Jerry Dipoto actually “won” the 3 trades we have reviewed for 2019. The three deals we have covered are the Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano trade, the Alex Colome trade, and the Jean Segura trade.
In all three cases, the Mariners actually gained WAR for the 2019 season by making these trades. Now, we have covered this in every article but it does bear repeating: our methodology is flawed. We are attempting to decide winners of a trade based on one season and without much context.
Ordinarily, we would never evaluate trades like this. But as the hot stove season is still a few weeks away, we have some time to kill. Plus, one of the most common questions we get is “what if the Mariners had gone for it one more time in 2019 and not made all those trades?”
Well, so far, the team would have had a nearly identical record. In fact, based on the cumulative WAR of all three trades we have looked at, Seattle has gained between 1-2 wins as a result. But again, we aren’t actually declaring winners and losers of trades after one season (except for the Mets trade, that was a win for Seattle the minute it happened), so there is really no need to fuss.
But enough about embracing the silliness of this exercise. Instead, let’s actually complete this exercise by looking at our next trade: Mike Zunino, Michael Plassmeyer, and Guillermo Heredia for Mallex Smith and Jake Fraley.
Taking a look at the Rays side of the deal and it wasn’t exactly a great return for them. Zunino once again struggled at the plate, missed time with an injury, and was more or less replaced as the everyday option in Tampa. The struggles were real for Zunino who finished the season with a -0.1 bWAR.
Heredia actually found some success as a weak side platoon bat in 2019, slashing .281/.339/.456 against left-handed pitching. Unfortunately, he was unusable against righties and was able to get just 289 total PAs on the season, posting a 0.3 bWAR as a result. Plassmeyer didn’t throw a pitch for the Rays in 2019 so he doesn’t factor into this equation.
Now, you may be looking at the meager 0.2 bWAR produced on the Rays side of the deal and assume it was an easy victory for the Mariners. Well, guess again. Mallex Smith was really bad in 2019, slashing .227/.300/.335 with some mediocre defense which gave him the same bWAR as Zunino, -0.1.
As for Jake Fraley, who had a terrific year in AA and AAA, his real opportunity in the big leagues was derailed by injuries and personal issues, so he never really got a great chance to show what he could do. He got just 41 PAs and struggled, as rookies do, and posted an abysmal -0.8 bWAR.
So, in this battle of heavyweights, the Rays got the better end of this deal in 2019, with a whopping 0.2 bWAR. Obviously, the history of this deal is largely unwritten and the overwhelming likelihood is that this deal will be a home run for the Mariners in 2020 and beyond. But for 2019, it was a pretty big flop.
For the record, if you are more of an fWAR guy, Zunino posted a 0.3 fWAR and Heredia posted the same 0.3 fWAR as well. Meanwhile, Smith produced a 0.0 fWAR, while Fraley posted the same -0.8 fWAR that baseball reference calculated.
Any way you slice it, for the first time in our little experiment, a trade Dipoto made last winter cost the Mariners WAR in 2019. While there is little doubt this deal will be one of Dipoto’s better in Seattle, we still have to mark it a failure in our little experiment. Dipoto is now 3-1.