DENVER — With Yusei Kikuchi’s deactivation Monday, the Mariners were left without an official participant in Tuesday night’s MLB All-Star Game. But that doesn’t mean the festivities wouldn’t have a distinct Seattle flavor.
No fewer than seven players — four on the National League team, three on the AL squad — have Mariner roots. Six were traded by general manager Jerry Dipoto as part of his frenetic restructuring of the team after taking over in Seattle on Sept. 28, 2015.
The seventh, Nelson Cruz of the Twins, left via free agency after the 2018 season when the Mariners made no effort to retain him. He had represented Seattle in the 2018 All-Star Game and continues to be an elite slugger at age 41.
The other six ex-Mariner All-Stars, in chronological order of their departure:
Freddy Peralta, RHP, Brewers
Signed by the Mariners as an amateur free agent out of the Dominican Republic on April 18, 2013. Traded with Carlos Herrera and Daniel Missaki to Milwaukee for Adam Lind on Dec. 9, 2015.
Peralta, who was 19 and hadn’t pitched above rookie ball when the deal was made, has developed into one of the NL’s best starters. He has a 7-3 record and a 2.39 ERA with 135 strikeouts in 98 innings.
Dipoto, who was less than three months into his job, coveted the veteran Lind’s high on-base percentage and ability to crush right-handed pitching. But Lind had just a .286 on-base percentage in 430 plate appearances with Seattle and was not retained after the season. He played just one more season in the majors.
“I was young, 18 or 19 at the time, and I didn’t understand really much about it (the trade) in the moment,” Peralta said Monday. “But I appreciate the Mariners organization for the opportunity. And I think that they all know that.”
Chris Taylor, INF/OF, Dodgers
Mariners’ fifth-round draft pick in 2012. Traded to Dodgers for Zach Lee on June 19, 2016.
Taylor grappled with Brad Miller, among others, for the Mariners’ shortstop job but never could forge steady playing time. He recently told pitcher Ross Stripling on his “Big Swing” podcast, “When I got traded over to the Dodgers, that was a huge relief for me to kind of get out of the Mariners organization. I just felt stuck there.”
Taylor was initially stuck in the same rut with the Dodgers. But his career turned when he was left off the playoff roster in 2016 and instead worked with hitting coach Robert Van Scoyoc.
“He made some swing changes that propelled my career,” Taylor said Monday. “It was just a lot of the stuff guys talk about now, launch angle and trying to hit the ball in the air.”
Taylor has become a highly productive player for the Dodgers at numerous positions, with two World Series appearances and one ring. He has 10 homers, 46 RBI and an .834 OPS.
Lee, a former Dodgers first-round draft pick, never pitched in the majors for the Mariners and currently is in Triple-A in the Diamondbacks organization.
Andrew Kittredge, RHP, Rays
Signed by Mariners as amateur free agent Aug. 21, 2011. Traded with Dalton Kelly and Dylan Thompson to Tampa Bay for Taylor Motter and Richie Shaffer on Nov. 18, 2016.
A late addition to the AL squad, Kittredge was actually dropped from the Rays’ 40-man roster in the middle of spring training and re-signed to a minor-league contract.
The University of Washington product missed most of the 2020 season recovering from Tommy John elbow surgery but, after bouncing back and forth between Triple-A and the majors in past seasons, Kittredge has become a force in the Tampa Bay bullpen. He is 6-1 with two saves and a 1.47 ERA in 32 games.
Motter, the key piece in the trade for the Mariners, hit .201 in parts of two seasons with Seattle.
Mike Zunino, C, Rays
Mariners’ first-round draft pick (third overall), 2012. Traded with Michael Plassmeyer and Guillermo Heredia to Tampa Bay for Jake Fraley and Mallex Smith on Nov. 8, 2018.
It’s not like Zunino has exploded offensively since he left Seattle. In fact, he has a .174 average in his three seasons with the Rays, compared with .206 with the Mariners. And Zunino comes to the All-Star Game hitting .198 — one of the few position players to earn that honor hitting under .200.
But Zunino has considerable pop — 19 homers and 37 RBIs with a .529 slugging percentage — and remains highly regarded for his defense. He played a major role in the playoffs in leading the Rays to the AL pennant last year.
Reflecting on the trade Monday, Zunino said: “Not that I felt like I needed a new start, but it just sort of rejuvenated me, being able to go there, see some fresh eyes and broaden my horizons of learning the game, instead of just being in one organization. But I was so grateful for what I learned in Seattle, and the experiences I had, and I carry a lot of those over to Tampa.”
Though Smith is out of the organization, Fraley has emerged this year as an everyday outfielder with a keen eye and high on-base percentage.
Omar Narvaez, C, Brewers
Acquired by Seattle in trade with White Sox for Alex Colome on Nov. 30, 2018. Traded by Mariners to Milwaukee for Adam Hill and 2020 supplemental second-round draft pick on Dec. 5, 2019.
Narvaez had a solid offensive season in his lone year with the Mariners, hitting .278/.353/.460 with 22 homers. After slumping to .176 in 40 games last year with the Brewers, Narvaez is hitting .300/.396/.469 for NL Central-leading Milwaukee in 2021, with eight homers and 26 RBI.
“I thought my year with Seattle was one of the best seasons I have had,” Narvaez said. “It was a good time. I enjoyed the city, I enjoyed the team. But God brought me to the Brewers to be a little piece to win a lot of games.”
For the Mariners, the draft pick they acquired turned into Connor Phillips, who is at Class A Modesto in his first pro season.
Taijuan Walker, RHP, Mets
Drafted by Mariners in first round, 2010. Traded with Ketel Marte to Diamondbacks for Zac Curtis, Mitch Haniger and Jean Segura on Nov. 23, 2016. Signed as free agent Feb. 12, 2020. Traded to Blue Jays for player to be named (Alberto Rodriguez) Aug. 27, 2020.
Walker, who is 7-3 with a 2.50 ERA for the Mets, said he was open to a return to the Mariners this season but never received an offer. He wound up signing a two-year, $20 million deal with the Mets.
Dipoto had talked about the possibility of reacquiring Walker when the deal was made.
“They told me about it (possibly re-signing him) when they traded me,” Walker said Monday. “I knew I was going to get traded. But, you know, it wasn’t close to happening, and it just didn’t work out for them. That’s fine with me.”
Rodriguez, a 20-year-old outfielder out of the Dominican Republic, is with Class A Modesto, hitting .222/.358/.403.