The Mariners just keep winning in the Jose Caballero for Mike Leake Trade
Let's hop in the Wayback machine. It's the trade deadline of 2019. The Mariners had started off hot, going an insane 13-2 to start the season. Then... they went 55-92 the rest of the way. They were 39-60 on July 17th, coming off a 1-9 stretch, and that's when you knew for certain the season was over. They were going to be sellers at the deadline, and Mike Leake was a prime candidate.
He held a 4.27 ERA before the deadline and was showing a strong capability of going 6 or more innings whenever he started. He was exactly what a playoff team was looking for from a third starter, and Arizona was the perfect match. He wanted to be there, as he had a family issue there where he would prefer to stay close, and they were hovering around .500. Could he push them into a WC berth?
The Mariners traded Mike Leake (and cash) for Jose Caballero
Mike Leake would go on to make 10 starts for Arizona, sporting a 4.35 ERA but a 6.26 FIP. He was good enough but was getting hit hard. Arizona would get to 85-77, but fall short of the playoffs. That would be the last time Mike Leake would pitch. The shutdown occurred prior to the next season starting, and Leake would be the first MLB player to opt-out. The Mariners covered some of his salary, but it's a bit tough to nail down exactly how much due to opt-outs and a declined option in 2021.
In return, the Mariners received a High-A utility player by the name of Jose Caballero. Just 22, he wasn't anything special, and would need to take some decent size jumps in his skill and stats in order to smell the majors. Wherever he went, he continued to hit in the mid-to-high 200s, with no pop, but showing late speed once he got to Arkansas in 2022.
Without much experience under his belt, the Mariners threw him into Tacoma to start 2023. Sporting a strong slash line of .333// through ten games, they called him up when injuries presented a need at second base. A feisty attitude (bring it, Maldonado), taking full advantage of every plate appearance, some timely hitting, and surprising speed (88th percentile) has Caballero earning a spot in many fans' hearts so far in his limited time. The .273/.324/.364 is nothing special, but still pretty good for a slappy rookie. He's also held his own on defense so far.
Unlikely to be a starter, Caballero is trying to find that same spark that fans had last season with Sam Haggerty. He's done better against lefties, slashing .294/.368/.412 in 17 ABs. That's exactly what the Mariners should be looking for, and they may have found it in someone who was essentially a toss away by the Diamondbacks in order to get Mike Leake. If you go by bWAR, Caballero has already accumlated 0.5 more than Leake did for Arizona (0.2 comparedc to -0.3). If Caballaero can get a little more comfy, the Mariners are going to have a fun UTIL player on their hands.
It's not always the big trades that have the biggest impacts. Having a feisty, give up nothing, fight for every inch player like Caballero can be exactly what a team needs. Who knows, maybe he will be the one that gets this team going. Telling the big-bad catcher from Houston where to stick it can do that for a team. Once again, it seems like Dipoto found something that few others saw, and the Mariners are taking advantage of it four years later.