A Fresh Look at the Prospects in the Mets-Mariners Trade

As of Saturday evening, the Mariners-Mets deal that will send Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz to Queens and a bevy of players to Seattle appears to be done, pending physicals. The trade is expected to be officially announced Monday, but the pieces are known. Below are scouting reports on the trio of prospects acquired by the Mariners, as well as thoughts on the new state of the Mariners system and their desired competitive timeline.

Jarred Kelenic, CF

Kelenic was ranked eighth on our 2018 pre-draft rankings, and 86th when we last updated our overall rankings. He (or Cardinals first rounder Nolan Gorman) was generally viewed as the top high school hitter available in the draft, and he was the first one taken at sixth overall.

Advanced bats don’t typically come out of Wisconsin, but Kelenic hit consistently throughout high school against the best pitchers in his peer group. Teams leaned heavily on their summer showcase looks at Kelenic because during the spring, he didn’t play high school baseball. Instead, he played for a travel ball team called Hitters, which played weekend double headers in Kenosha and Cedar Rapids against uneven competition.

Kelenic is a stocky, physically mature 19-year-old. He currently runs well enough and has sufficient instincts for center field, but it’s possible that he’s a better fit in a corner at some point, perhaps even in his early twenties. Even if he moves to a corner, he has enough hit/power to play every day, but Kelenic would probably have to develop a plus-plus bat to be a star away from center. Because his track record of hitting is so strong and he’s so technically proficient, he was considered one of the higher-probability bats from the 2018 class, though he also likely also comes with a narrower, relatively modest band of potential outcomes. He’s advanced enough in skill and age to begin 2019 in the South Atlantic League.

Justin Dunn, RHP

Dunn was a 45+ FV on The Board when the season wrapped and will likely be on our offseason top 100 as a 50 FV player. A college reliever until midway through his junior year at Boston College, Dunn’s repertoire has developed quickly and he now has four above-average pitches. Both of his breaking balls (a slider in the mid-80s and an upper-70s curve) work because he has terrific command of both, almost always locating them down and to his glove side in places that are enticing but unhittable. This wanes when he’s pitching from the stretch.

His fastball command is below average but he throws hard enough to get away with mistakes, sitting 92-95 and touching 97. His changuep came on late in the year and will flash plus. It’s firm, 85-88mph, but some of them have a lot of arm side movement and will still miss bats. Dunn finished 2018 at Double-A and has a shot to debut next year, but more likely sees Safeco in 2020.

Gerson Bautista, RHP

Acquired from the Red Sox in the Addison Reed deal, Bautista threw four big league innings in 2018, scattered through odd appearances in April, May and June, but he spent much of the year at Triple-A Las Vegas, where he struck out 54 hitters in 39.2 innings. He then went to the Arizona Fall League. Bautista sits 95-98 and will touch 100 with his fastball. He has a fringy breaking ball that had better depth later in the fall than it did when he arrived in Arizona. His changeup is below average. He profiles as a middle reliever.

So how much have the Mariners added to their farm system this offseason? We can look at that in a few different ways. Here is a list of the players Seattle has acquired so far, along with their approximate FV. Keep in mind that we haven’t written up the Mariners system yet, so these are subject to change this offseason, though those changes will likely be minor.

Mariners Farm System Additions
From To Name Pos FV Date Headliner
NYY SEA Justus Sheffield LHP 50 11/19/18 Paxton
NYM SEA Jarred Kelenic CF 50 11/30/18 Cano
NYM SEA Justin Dunn RHP 50 11/30/18 Cano
NYY SEA Erik Swanson RHP 40+ 11/19/18 Paxton
NYY SEA Dom Thompson-Williams OF 40 11/19/18 Paxton
ATL SEA Ricardo Sanchez LHP 40 11/28/18 Cash
NYM SEA Gerson Bautista RHP 40 11/30/18 Cano
TBR SEA Jake Fraley RF 35 11/8/18 Zunino/Mallex

From a competitive timeline perspective, the Mariners have added two potential above-average starting pitchers who are likely to debut at some point over the next two years (Sheffield probably next year; Dunn possibly next year, but more likely in 2020) as well as near-ready backend starter type in Swanson, who has outperformed his stuff and may have some underlying trait that make him better than that. Kelenic’s skillset indicates he, too, might come pretty quickly. This tracks with the organization’s stated goal of re-entering competitive play in 2020 and 2021.

From an asset value standpoint, the Mariners had the least valuable farm system in baseball, based on the combination of our Mariners evaluations and Craig Edwards’ study on prospect values, coming in at $43 million. Based on Craig’s math here, Seattle has added $78 million in asset value to their farm system via these trades.

Of course, they’ve also parted with and acquired other talent. A lot of cash has moved around. But the farm system is not the worst in baseball any more and, based on the asset values of the players acquired and changes to our own evaluation of players in their system (I’m higher on Evan White now than we were in our last update, for example), the system is resting just shy of the big league median now. Here is what I think the top of the system looks like currently. It may be more instructive to look at these as tiers rather than firm rankings, as this list was not collaborative and the ordering may change as my thoughts and notes co-mingle with Kiley’s and the industry’s when we write up the Mariners system.

The Top of Seattle’s System
FV Name Pos
50 Justus Sheffield LHP
50 Jarred Kelenic CF
50 Justin Dunn RHP
50 Evan White 1B
45 Logan Gilbert RHP
45 Julio Rodriguez RF
40+ Noelvi Marte SS
40+ Kyle Lewis RF
40+ Sam Carlson RHP
40+ Erik Swanson RHP

We hoped you liked reading A Fresh Look at the Prospects in the Mets-Mariners Trade by Eric Longenhagen!

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Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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Francoeurstein
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Francoeurstein

I just don’t understand this trade – from either side.

asuray
Member
asuray

It seems pretty straightforward from the SEA perspective — save $60M+ of the Cano contract, get two reclamation projects that, best case recover enough value to be traded and, worst case are off your books by 2021. Lose an elite reliever, but a reliever nonetheless. Gain two very good prospects and take a flyer on a live-arm. I doubt Diaz would’ve commanded much more than Kelenic + Dunn + Bautista if traded alone. That’s more than CIN or NYY got for Chapman or than SD got for Kimbrel. It’s probably a bit less than NYY got for Miller (Frazier and Sheffield were BA #44 and #88 that year — if you told me that Kelenic and Dunn were going to be #44 and #88, respectively in the BA mid-season Top 100, I wouldn’t be that surprised). Cano’s market value is probably really close to the $66M that NYM will be paying him (maybe a little less). The only confusing part is why NYM felt the need to trade for an elite reliever and a short-term star. I usually think of that as something a team that is an obvious contender does at the deadline.

Red
Member
Member

I agree with basically everything else you wrote, but there’s no way Kelenic + Dunn + Bautista > Gleyber Torres

asuray
Member
asuray

I disagree. Torres was the #41 prospect at the time he was traded. He’s improved now, but that’s irrelevant to the discussion of what NYY got for Chapman when looked at through the lens of 2015. Frazier and Sheffield was a far superior return than Torres plus spare parts at the time each of those deals was completed.

Red
Member
Member

Well, he was ranked where he was ranked the previous offseason, which took place before Torres continued his trajectory by continuing to show a broad set of tools as a 19 YO in over 400 PA at high A.

“MLB.com ranked Torres the 17th-best prospect in baseball at midseason, though prospect gurus Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo believe he will be among the top five prospects in the game when they post their annual top-100 list in a few weeks.”

All that changed between the time of the trade and the next round of pre-2017 prospect lists was 31 games with the Yankees high A affiliate, and then being named the AFL MVP. The preseason rankings the following season were BP #3, MLB #5, BA #6, FG #7. I don’t think this supports that Torres was viewed as merely the #41 prospect in baseball at the time of the big trade.

Factor in that Chapman was under control for 2 months, as opposed to Miller for 2.5 years and Diaz for 4, and I don’t think there is anything approaching the return on the Chapman trade. Like I said, Kelenic is a fantastic get for Seattle, but no one in baseball would take the three new Mariners prospects over 19 YO Torres, more than holding his own in high A.

DAMellen
Member
DAMellen

No, he wasn’t. He was ranked in the top 10. He may have been top 5. As a Cubs fan, i’m almost certain of that.

asuray
Member
asuray

I agree that getting Torres for a few months of Chapman looks great in hindsight, though.

Red
Member
Member

I don’t mind getting downvoted, but this is what Craig Edwards’ prospect valuation research from last month says:

60 FV POS ($55m) > 50 FV POS ($28m) + 50 FV P ($21m) + 40 P

Granted, Kelenic isn’t out of rookie ball yet, and he’s 19. Certainly fair to assert he could ascend higher as soon as a half year from now, which would tip the scales.

Chapman trade clearly outlier as others have asserted. I think it’s worth reiterating that the prospect rankings here and elsewhere aren’t linear; there aren’t equal increments of drop off between each specific ranking throughout anyone’s list.

I think most teams are going to pick a 60 FV, if he’s available, over the majority of packages offered. Admittedly, there’s hindsight in beating the drum on the specific positive outcome of Torres.

Thecul
Member
Thecul

Diaz got more than Kelenic + Dunn + Bautista because I don’t think Bruce + Swarzak + $20m covers the Cano liability. Love this for the Ms basically.

Shalesh
Member
Shalesh

The relevant Diaz comparison is to the Kimbrel trade which returned FV55 Margot + FV45 Asuaje + 2 FV40’s. Craig’s math shows Margot = $43M > Kelenic + Dunn = $21M + $17M.

Seattle definitely could have done better trading Diaz separately. I think the Mets could trade Diaz even 2 years from now and get two FV50’s.

3 months of Chapman returning an FV60 like Torres is a ridiculous outlier that shouldn’t be comp’d to any other deal.

sadtrombone
Member
sadtrombone

I keep wondering: What would happen if the Mets decide to trade Diaz after deGrom’s contract is up? Barring injury or the yips, at the minimum he would return a Kelenic-level prospect, but possibly more. I’m not very high on Dunn compared to Eric, but even so I strongly believe that if the Mets go that route they could get a 50, a 45, and a 40 back. And that’s how you know you got a good deal: When you get a guy for two years during a contention window, and can imagine that you can flip him for similar value when you’re ready to rebuild.

rosen380
Member

“The relevant Diaz comparison is to the Kimbrel trade which returned FV55 Margot + FV45 Asuaje + 2 FV40’s. Craig’s math shows Margot = $43M > Kelenic + Dunn = $21M + $17M.”

Add to that math that Kimbrel had three years left and Diaz has four…?

goyo70
Member
goyo70

I think the Mets don’t see themselves being that far away. The rotation, as is, is pretty great. They just got significantly better at 2B and closer, they can pivot McNeil to 3B. SS and 1B are highly prized prospects that should mature. Depending on whether Conforto is or should be your CF, you need some flavor of outfielder with good defensive range. That’s attainable.

johansantana17
Member
johansantana17

If the Mets follow this up by signing Grandal, Pollock, and Robertson (or trading for comparably valuable players), they could be competitive in the NL playoffs.

Groundout
Member
Groundout

I agree. The only way it makes sense to me is if SEA ownership is insisting on cutting payroll. Keeping Cano and just paying out his salary seems to be so much better. Who is he blocking? Don’t they have fewer other options at 1B/2B in the majors and upper minors than basically every other team? What else are they going to spend their money on? This is why the Tigers aren’t trading Miggy and the Angels aren’t trading Pujols. Holding Cano and getting a better haul for Diaz just … makes more sense.

asuray
Member
asuray

I seriously doubt they’d get any more for Diaz than they did. As has been discussed below, this is arguably the most a team has ever gotten for a reliever in trade (two Top 100 guys plus a throw in). Maybe Diaz would return a bit more at the deadline, but it’s just as likely that he pitches more like 2017 Diaz and returns less. The Angels aren’t trading Pujols because no one wants that contract. Cano is still a good player. He’s just going to be overpaid relative to his production over the next 5 years. Pujols is sunk cost. He has produced sub-replacement level output over the past 3 years. NYM are taking on like $66M in Cano’s salary. He’d likely get that much on the open market. Pujols wouldn’t get a contract on the open market yet he’s owed $72M through 2021.

Scalious
Member
Scalious

I don’t like it mainly because Diaz is pre-arb. Seems like contract situations are secondary when it comes to teams trading for RP in comparison to other positions.

As in if they trade him a year later. The return is probably the same. Of course he’s a pitcher, so ya know. Injury risk. So I get it.

Given WAR/$$$ figures. Shedding Cano serves better in terms of profit margins than talent equity given its only 64 M net clear. Its a net gain towards open market..but not a ton WAR wise.

fjtorres
Member
fjtorres

Keeping Cano meant playing Cano.
If the Mariners look to be contenders in ’21 and beyond, how much of a contributor would he be then?
They’re looking to use the roster spot and ABs to develop somebody who’ll help those teams. Maybe they find him, maybe they don’t, but that is how rebuilds work: set a date and look for a group of players who’ll be contributors then.

johansantana17
Member
johansantana17

They could always release Cano if they don’t want him. Still have to pay him, but they don’t have to waste a roster spot on him too.