The roster reformation for the Mariners under new general manager Jerry Dipoto continued on Monday afternoon with his third trade of the offseason.
The roster reformation for the Seattle Mariners under new general manager Jerry Dipoto continued Monday with his third trade of the offseason.
Dipoto completed a five-player trade with the Texas Rangers, acquiring outfielder Leonys Martin and right-handed pitcher Anthony Bass for reliever Tom Wilhelmsen, outfielder James Jones and a player to named.
“We’ll do this every couple of days it seems,” Dipoto joked about a media conference call to discuss the trade.
Martin is the obvious centerpiece of the trade for the Mariners. They addressed a serious need by adding an everyday center fielder.
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“With Leonys Martin, I think we get one of the premier defensive center fielders in baseball,” Dipoto said. “He’s been among the best in the league over the last three years. This a guy we targeted from the get-go.”
The ultra-speedy Martin, 27, was the Rangers’ everyday center fielder for the 2013 and 2014 seasons. He had an Ultimate Zone Rating (a key defensive metric that measures overall outfield play) in center of 14.3 and 10.7 in those respective seasons, both great numbers. His Defensive Runs Saved were 13.4 and 12.0 (average per season). This past season he posted a 14.3 UZR and 12.0 DRS in center field for Texas.
However, his continued struggles at the plate in 2015 lost him his starting job to Rule 5 draft pick Delino Deshields, who converted to the outfield from second base.
Martin hit just .219 (63 for 288) with 12 doubles, five homers, 25 RBI, 14 stolen bases and just a .264 on-base percentage in 95 games last season, mostly as bench player. He was optioned to Class AAA Round Rock in early August.
“He’s coming off a down year, and frankly that’s when you acquire guys,” Dipoto said. “There was a soft spot in the ability to acquire Leonys, and we took advantage of that. His down year some of that can be attributed to plain bad luck. He didn’t not have a very high batting average on balls in play (.270), which is typically an indicator that it will turn around. He’s healthy, and he’s ready to go. This is guy that has put up about a nine and half WAR the past three years, which is not an insignificant number.”
Martin’s season essentially ended when he suffered a fractured hamate bone in his right hand Aug. 13 playing for Round Rock. He had surgery on the hand Aug. 26 to remove the hamate bone. He was activated from the disabled list Sept. 20 and appeared in one game with the Rangers as a call-up.
“He checked out great,” Dipoto said of the injury. “Our medical peopled looked through it very closely. The hamate bone is different than dealing with any kind of ligament or internal structure issue. He checked out healthy. We were very satisfied with the medicals.”
Martin has struggled with contact, striking out in almost 20 percent of his at-bats in 2013 and 2014 and posting a sub. 330 on-base percentage both seasons.
“He’s an aggressive hitter that’s not your normal top-of-the-lineup skill set,” Dipoto said. “He’s best served in the latter third. He’s got a good swing with plus-plus bat speed. You can always improve as a player. Leonys is going to be 28 years old, and this is the time you want to have players. The strikeout is always going to be part of his game. It’s a quick bat, and it’s in and out of the strike zone a little bit. But he does impact the game in other ways. You aren’t always going to find perfect players that check every box, but he checks some pretty significant boxes.”
Even with the struggles at the plate, Martin’s defense is still the most important aspect. Dipoto also consulted with new bench coach Tim Bogar, who served in a similar role in Texas in 2014, and Nelson Cruz, who was teammate of Martin for several seasons.
“Tim helped out a great deal, and Leonys obviously performed very well for him in Texas,” Dipoto said. “I spoke to Nelson Cruz about Leonys, and he had some very positive things to say.”
Martin defected from Cuba in 2010 and established residency in Mexico with Mariners pitcher Roenis Elias. Martin signed with the Rangers as a free agent.
Bass is a versatile reliever who appeared in 129 big-league games, including 18 starts. Last season he appeared in 33 games for the Rangers, going 0-0 with a 4.50 ERA. He had 15 multi-inning appearances and struck out 45 batters in 64 innings.
The Mariners give up one of their more versatile relievers in Wilhelmsen. He started the season in middle relief and finished as the team’s closer — a move marking the erosion of the bullpen. The 31-year-old appeared in 53 games, posting a 3.19 ERA while going 2-2 with 13 saves in 15 opportunities. He’s been a part of five big-league seasons with the Mariners, posting an 11-10 record with 67 saves and a 2.97 ERA in 267 games. Wilhelmsen was in second year of arbitration eligibility and was projected to make approximately $4 million this season after losing his arbitration hearing last season.
Jones spent most of 2015 with Class AAA Tacoma, hitting .272 with 12 doubles, seven triples, a homer, 28 RBI and 25 stolen bases in 72 games, despite missing time because of a concussion and a broken toe. He appeared in 28 games with the Mariners, hitting .103 in three call-ups.