Seattle Mariners are making all the trades

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 30 (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 30 (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) /

The Seattle Mariners have made three trades in the last week as they swap future talent for players ready to contribute in 2018.

Seattle Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto has been busy the last few days. His first trade of the offseason brought first baseman Ryon Healy to Seattle from the Oakland A’s. He followed that up with a trade of right-handed pitcher Thyago Vieira to the Chicago White Sox for cold, hard cash. Then he traded a pair of pitching prospects, lefty JP Sears and righty Juan Then to the New York Yankees for pitcher Nick Rumbelow.

These aren’t exactly household names to the casual fan, so introductions are in order. The Mariners—White Sox trade was a swap of a big league ready bullpen arm for international slot money that can be used by the Mariners to go after Shohei Ohtani. Thyago Viera is a 24-year-old right-handed reliever who can reach triple digits with his fastball. He’s been in the Mariners organization since 2011, when he was a 17-year-old pitching in the Venezuelan Summer League. He spent two seasons at that level.

In 2013, Vieira pitched in the U.S. for the first time. He spent the season with the Everett Aquasox in the Short-Season Northwest League. He’s moved up steadily since then, finally making his major league debut with the Mariners last August. MLB Pipeline had him ranked as the Mariners’ number eight prospect at the time of this deal. With the trade to the White Sox, he drops to number 20 in their organization. That tells you the difference in minor league talent between the teams.

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Vieira throws hot fire, topping out at 102 mph. He has an 80-grade fastball, which is the top of the scouting scale. The White Sox are hoping he’ll slide right into their big league bullpen to replace one of the many relievers they traded last summer. They are in the midst of a full rebuild and getting high-ceiling talent is a good way to build a team.

The Mariners are in win-now mode and are expected to make a big push for Japanese two-way player Shohei Ohtani. It took some negotiating between MLB, the MLB Players Association and the Nippon Professional Baseball League to clear the hurdles for Ohtani to come to the U.S. Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the MLB owners now have 10 days to ratify the agreement, which means Ohtani could be posted next Friday. The Mariners hope to use the $500,000 they received for Vieira to make a bid on Ohtani.

Two trades in a week just wasn’t enough for Dipoto. He’s like that guy in your fantasy baseball league who makes trades like he’s been drinking Red Bull all day long. He’s making a push to compete next year, which makes sense given the veterans the Mariners have on their roster.

The most-recent trade by the Mariners saw two young pitchers head to New York for a more experienced arm. The Mariners sent JP Sears and Juan Then to the Yankees for Nick Rumbelow. Sears is a lefty who was drafted this summer out of The Citadel in the 11th round. Before the trade, he was the number 21 prospect in the Mariners’ system, according to MLB Pipeline.

Pitching in relief, Sears struck out 22 batters in 10.7 innings with the Low-A Everett Aquasox, then struck out 29 in 17 innings with the A-ball Clinton Lumberkings. That’s 51 strikeouts in 27.7 innings, along with a 0.65 ERA and 0.90 WHIP. He doesn’t have a blazing fastball, but you have to be impressed with his first professional season.

Right-handed pitcher Juan Then is a 17-year-old prospect out of the Dominican Republic. He pitched his first season in the Dominican Summer League and struck out 56 batters in 61.3 innings. At such a young age, he’s a long way from the big leagues, but there’s talent there.

The Yankees’ motive in trading Rumbelow was to open up space on their 40-man roster. They have plenty of highly-regarded prospects who needed to be protected from the Rule 5 draft and Rumbelow wasn’t going to make the cut. The Mariners have space on their 40-man roster and are expecting Rumbelow to be part of their bullpen in 2018.

The Yankees drafted Rumbelow out of LSU in the seventh round of the 2013 draft. He moved quickly and made his major league debut in 2015 when he pitched 15.7 innings with a 4.02 ERA. Then came Tommy John surgery, which wiped out most of his 2016 season.

He came back from surgery and pitched well this year at Double-A and Triple-A, combining for a 1.12 ERA in 40.3 innings with 45 strikeouts. Using a fastball, curve, and changeup, Rumbelow can get strikeouts and avoid walks. In their first two trades, the Mariners dealt Emilio Pagan and Thyago Vieira, two pitchers who could have been part of their 2018 bullpen. In this trade, they got someone back who can take one of those bullpen spots.

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It’s early, but Jerry Dipoto is doing what he’s done since he took over as Mariners GM. He’s made more deals than anyone the past two years and isn’t slowing down. He’s all about winning now, so he’s sacrificing young players who may turn out to be good big league players in the future so the Mariners can make the playoffs in 2018. If it gets the Seattle Mariners into the postseason for the first time since 2001, their fans will be happy.