Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto has said he wants to build a roster that is more dynamic athletically and better defensively. Trumbo isn't those things.
Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto refuses to let more than 10 days go by without tweaking his new ballclub. The Mariners have been one of the more active teams this offseason, making a series of trades and signings to reshape a roster that was too slow and prone to the strikeout.
On Tuesday evening, Dipoto continued that makeover by putting together the framework for his fourth trade of the offseason, shipping first baseman/designated hitter Mark Trumbo with another player to be determined to the Baltimore Orioles for first baseman/catcher Steve Clevenger, sources confirmed. The deal was finished pending medical review of the players involved.
On Wednesday, the Mariners announced that the other player is left-handed pitcher C.J. Riefenhauser.
“Adding Steve to our roster further addresses our desire to build depth and balance behind the plate,” Dipoto said in a team statement. “He’s coming off of a season in which his bat clicked at the Major League level the way it always has in the minors.”
Baseball’s deadline to tender contracts to arbitration-eligible players was looming, and Trumbo likely was a non-tender candidate.
According to sources, the Mariners had been in discussions with the Orioles and Colorado Rockies about trading Trumbo for the past two weeks.
Clevenger, who will be 30 on April 5, played in 30 games for the Orioles last season, hitting .287 (29 for 101) with a .740 OPS, including four doubles, two triples, two homers and 15 RBI. He has appeared in parts of five big-league seasons and played in 148 games. He’s a career .228 hitter with a .607 OPS.
At best, Clevenger is a backup catcher that can play first base if needed. He is out of minor-league options, so he’s going to be on the roster behind recently acquired primary catcher Chris Iannetta.
This deal seems to be more about money and organizational philosophy. From the day he was hired, Dipoto said on numerous occasions that he wanted to build a roster that is more dynamic athletically and better defensively. Trumbo isn’t those things. He’s a home-run-launching polar bear that has been bounced around from first base — his first and best position — to the outfield while profiling best as a designated hitter the last few years. Dipoto also wants to cut down on strikeouts and build on-base percentage for a lineup that had issues with both last season. Trumbo has a career strikeout rate of over 25 percent and a walk rate of under 8 percent. But he does have some power. In six big league seasons, he’s averaged 31 homers and 89 RBI. After a slow start following his trade to Seattle on June 3, Trumbo hit .263 with a .735 OPS with 13 doubles, 13 homers and 41 RBI in 96 games for Seattle.
Based on arbitration projections, Trumbo, who was in his final year of arbitration eligibility, is going to make around $9 million. Clevenger is under club control and has yet to reach arbitration eligibility, meaning he’s scheduled to make the league minimum of $507,000. That monetary difference was a reason the Orioles wanted another player from Seattle.
This trade seems pretty lopsided right now. But realistically, you have to look at the roughly $9 million saved and how Dipoto uses it to determine what is being done at first base. Right now, Jesus Montero is the only first baseman on the Mariners’ 40-man roster, and it seems unlikely they would enter next season with him as their everyday first baseman. The free-agent candidates start with Chris Davis, who is likely out of their price range and still being pursued heavily by the Orioles. There also is Justin Morneau, who missed most of 2015 because of neck and concussion issues, and Mike Napoli, who hit well for the Rangers in the final 35 games of the regular season. If the Mariners went via the trade route, a solid target would be Milwaukee first baseman Adam Lind, who hit .277 with a .820 OPS this past season.
The addition of Clevenger means the Mariners can start Mike Zunino at Class AAA Tacoma and let him work on his swing changes without the pressure of performing and putting up results.
The Mariners acquired Trumbo and pitcher Vidal Nuno from the Diamondbacks on June 3 for Welington Castillo, Dominic Leone, Jack Reinheimer and Gabby Guerrero. Now they have only Nuno and Clevenger left.