Seattle sent reliever Emilio Pagan and minor league infielder Alexander Campos to complete the trade.
The Mariners have found their starting first baseman for 2018 and possibly beyond.
With the Major League Baseball general managers’ meetings finished in Orlando on Wednesday, Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto didn’t let the three-day affair go by without making a roster move.
Dipoto finalized a trade for infielder Ryon Healy from the Oakland A’s, giving up reliever Emilio Pagan and minor-league infielder Alexander Campos.
“This has been something we’ve talked with Oakland about dating back to the last week of October,” Dipoto said. “This has been in the works for over a month now. For us to put a first baseman in place after going year to year for such a long time, we’re hopeful that Ryon can step in and solve a good deal of that problem. He’s a good offensive player and gives us that right-handed-power element. One of the things we joked about internally is that this keeps him from doing damage against us, which probably makes us a better team.”
Healy, 25, hit .271 (156 for 576) with 29 doubles, 25 home runs and 78 RBI in 149 games last season. It was his first full big-league season. He played 39 games at first base, 34 games at third and 78 games as the designated hitter. Against left-handed pitchers, Healy hit .314 (43 for 137), slugged .526 and had eight doubles and seven home runs.
“He has that gap-to-gap stroke with over-the-fence power from pole to pole,” Dipoto said. “He’s hit in the minor leagues, he’s hit in the major leagues, and he’s hit for power. Those are encouraging things.”
Dipoto was clear that Healy is the everyday first baseman.
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“We are planning on Ryon playing first base in an every-day or near-every-day role or basis,” Dipoto said. “He’s done that over the course of his year and a half in the big leagues. I don’t know that there is a reason why we should stop that. He’s performed quite well against left-hand pitching. You saw a little bit of a dip against righties. But I think that’s the league adjusting to Ryon and now is his chance to adjust back.”
With touted prospects Matt Chapman and Matt Olson slated to man third and first, respectively, for the A’s, Healy’s time would’ve been spent at designated hitter. It also made him expendable for an Oakland team that was desperate for relief pitching.
“I don’t like to use the word surprised, but it was something out there,” Healy said. “Having time to think about it, I’m more and more excited about the opportunity with the Mariners. I’m excited for the opportunity to step in and be someone that can help this team get to the next level.”
A third-round draft pick out of the University of Oregon in 2013, Healy made his major-league debut with the A’s on July 15, 2016 and played in 72 games that season. He posted a .305 (82 for 269) average with 20 doubles, 13 home runs and a .524 slugging percentage, earning All-Rookie Team honors from Baseball America.
He seemed excited about playing in Seattle.
“I love Safeco Field,” he said. “It’s one of my favorite parks to hit at and play at. I feel like it’s very fair and true to the gaps. It may be a little bit bigger of a yard, but it’s homer friendly if you see the number that Nelson Cruz has put up.”
Healy is another controllable asset for Dipoto. He joins Ben Gamel, Guillermo Heredia and Mitch Haniger, who were all rookies last season. He makes the MLB minimum of just over $500,000 and doesn’t reach his first year of arbitration until 2020 and free agency till 2023. Yonder Alonso, Mitch Moreland, Lucas Duda and other veterans were available via free agency, but the cost would have been significantly more. That gives Seattle more money to address other areas, specifically outfield and starting pitching.
“For us, that creates flexibility in other areas,” Dipoto said. “We obviously have a couple of other needs that we’d like to address, not the least of which is adding an element to our outfield and finding ways to add to our pitching staff where it’s possible. Having Ryon and the flexibility and the affordability that he provides to our roster for now and the near and far future gives us the ability to do more creative things in other areas.”
The move to add Healy came with a cost in giving up Pagan, who was a major contributor for the Mariners’ bullpen last season.
Pagan, 26, went 2-3 with a 3.22 ERA with 56 strikeouts and eight walks in 34 relief appearances and 51 1/3 innings. Despite not being invited to big-league spring training, Pagan made the most of the Mariners’ revolving door at the long-relief spot. He made his initial appearances in long relief and graduated to higher-leverage situations.
“I’ve done this a fair amount over the last six or seven years,” Dipoto said of trades. “Some phone calls are tougher to make than others. And that one was tough because of the type of person (Pagan) is. I wish him well. As I said to him, and I meant it sincerely — what he’s done over the last year allowed us to effectively turn Emilio Pagan into what we think is an everyday first baseman, who we think is already a pretty potent bat that had 25 homers at age 25. That’s a testament to what Emilio has accomplished in the last few years.”
Campos, 17, was signed as a non-drafted free agent on July 4, 2016. He played his first professional season with the DSL Mariners in the Dominican Summer League, batting .290 (60 for 207) with 10 doubles, two home runs, 26 RBI, 41 walks and seven stolen bases in 59 games. His primary position is shortstop, but some scouts have projected him as a second baseman.