The Seattle Mariners made an absolutely shocking trade that was reported on late on Sunday, December 3. The Mariners traded away former top five prospect in baseball Jarred Kelenic, former Gold Glove award winner Evan White, and left-handed starting pitcher Marco Gonzales. Seattle received two pitchers in return: right-hander Jackson Kowar and righty prospect Cole Phillips.
This is a shocking trade because Jarred Kelenic was once considered untradeable. In 2021 he was ranked ahead of Julio Rodriguez on the Mariners MLB Pipeline prospect rankings. Clearly, things have gone differently for those two players but Kelenic was considered a future superstar. Now, he is traded away in what looks to be a salary dump move. This isn't very reassuring for many Mariners fans because Kelenic was supposed to be a high-level prospect just a few years ago.
Evan White and Marco Gonzales being dealt away by the Mariners is unfortunate because they are both incredibly great guys and awesome community members in the Seattle area. However, they are being dealt away in this deal because the Mariners want to lose their salaries. Gonzales is scheduled to make $12.5 million in 2024 and has a $15 million club option that is almost certainly going to be declined.
White was signed to a long term contract before he had even made his MLB debut and has struggled with staying healthy. He played in 54 games during the 60 game covid season in 2020 and struggled offensively. He hit .176/.252/.346 and then had similar numbers in 30 big league games in 2021. Then he only played in 28 AAA games that season and has only played in 30 games in the minor leagues the last two seasons.
The first baseman is slated to make $7 million in 2024 and is going to make $8 million in 2025 and then if his options are not picked up, which is likely, he will make an additional $4 million in buyout money. Trading these players away saves Seattle nearly $20 million in 2024, $8 million in 2025, and $4 million over the following three seasons. This is no small chunk of change, but it is sad that the Seattle Mariners are in the business of making salary dump trades.
The totality of this trade tells me that there has to be another move coming, or many more moves. The Mariners can't be trying to save $20 million and not use that money elsewhere when they are supposed to be competing for a playoff spot. Kelenic has not lived up to the high expectations that were placed on him, but he started to look like a quality big leaguer in 2023 and he was hopefully going to be even better in 2024.
It is incredibly surprising that the Mariners have used Kelenic, theoretically, one of the Mariners better trade chips to acquire a prospect and a middling reliever. Judging the Mariners offseason based on this snapshot in time is not the way to go about this, but it certainly doesn't look great now. If the Mariners can use this money to sign Shohei Ohtani I don't think Mariners fans will complain, or if they sign Yoshinobu Yamamoto. But if they cut payroll I don't know if Twitter/X could handle it.
Overall, this trade came as a complete surprise to many fans because unloading White and Gonzales's contracts seemed like an impossible task. It also seemed unlikely that Kelenic would be shipped out of town. For both of those things to happen together, it is a shocker. Hopefully, there are bigger and better moves to come, it will be interesting to see how the rest of the winter plays out, stay tuned in to SoDo Mojo and we will keep you up to date on all the moves the Mariners make.