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Are Mariners ‘winning’ trades Jerry Dipoto has made since rebuild began?

J.P. Crawford's recent play is making the Mariners' trade of Jean Segura look pretty good. (AP)

Not long after the end of the 2018 season, Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto started hinting that the team was about to embark on a significant change to its roster.

Good luck finding reasons why Servais could lose job during M’s rebuild

The re-imagining, as Dipoto eventually dubbed it, has already resulted in much younger players – some that weren’t even part of the franchise at this time a year ago – assuming starting roles that the M’s expect them to hold for a long time.

While the Mariners are seeing players like shortstop J.P. Crawford, outfielder Mallex Smith and first baseman Daniel Vogelbach play well, they’re still looking at a long road before they can expect to contend in the American League. With that taken into consideration, 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny, Dave and Moore had an interesting question they looked to answer at this stage in the team’s rebuild.

“What are the wins that Jerry Dipoto has had thus far?” asked Danny O’Neil.

The ‘wins’ O’Neil was referring to are the moves that Dipoto has made since Seattle’s roster re-imagining began that can be pointed to as examples where the fan base can feel confident that he has the Mariners on the right track.

Here’s what O’Neil and co-host Jim Moore came up with as they looked at the big trades Dipoto has made since the end of the 2018 season.

The Mets blockbuster

What the Mariners gave up: Robinson Canó qne Edwin Díaz
What the Mariners got back: Jarred Kelenic, Justin Dunn, Gerson Bautista, Anthony Swarzak and Jay Bruce
Additional details: The M’s reportedly sent along $20 million to the Mets to help cover Canó’s remaining contract, which had five seasons at $24 million per year left on it. Swarzak was shipped to Atlanta in May for lefty Jesse Biddle, who has already been DFA’d by Seattle, while Bruce and some more money went to Philadelphia for prospect Jake Scheiner.

This trade is certainly a win for Dipoto, and not just because the 19-year-old Kelenic is rocketing through the minor leagues, but because of how disastrous the deal looks for New York right now. There’s a story currently on Yahoo! Sports with the headline “Acquiring Edwin Diaz and Robinson Cano has backfired on the Mets,” so that gives you a pretty good idea of how it’s going there.

“That Mets trade probably stands out for me because not only did you get rid of Canó – and yeah, it’s a loss losing Díaz – but still you got Kelenic,” Moore said. “Bautista’s been struggling but Justin Dunn is a guy that you look at and you hope will be a part of that rotation in the future.”

As O’Neil points out, the fact that the Mariners haven’t had too many games to save during their ‘step-back’ season has lessened the blow of losing the 25-year-old Díaz, who was electric last year in a breakout season that earned him his first All-Star selection and the AL Reliever of the Year award. And without moving Díaz, who was Seattle’s most valuable trade chip, the Mariners would have never acquired Kelenic, who is Seattle’s No. 1 prospect, ranking 24th in all of baseball on MLB Pipeline.

“They got Kelenic, which more than offsets (the loss of Díaz) because it looks like Kelenic could be a franchise-changing kind of player,” O’Neil said. “It’s not just that they acquired him; it’s that Kelenic was the guy they loved in the (2018) draft. That was the guy who came in and had the workout (at T-Mobile Park) that you’ve heard both (manager Scott) Servais and Dipoto talk about it. They just didn’t get a chance to pick him. If Major League Baseball’s draft allowed trades, which it does not in the first round, then you could have even wondered if maybe the Mariners would have tried to move up to get him.”

The Segura trade

What the Mariners gave up: Jean Segura, Juan Nicasio and James Pazos
What the Mariners got back: J.P. Crawford and Carlos Santana
Additional details: By trading Segura, the Mariners escaped his $14.25 million salary over the next five seasons and bought low on an even younger shortstop with perhaps a higher ceiling in Crawford. They also avoided having to pay Nicasio’s $9 million salary this year and quickly moved Santana to Cleveland in a deal where they added a compensation round draft pick – but also had to then take on Edwin Encarnación’s hefty contract. Earlier this month, the Mariners shed most of the money owed to Encarnación by sending him to the Yankees for pitching prospect Juan Then.

This is another win for Dipoto, but it hasn’t been for that long. Crawford is the key to the deal, and the 24-year-old shortstop started the year at Triple-A and landed on the injured list with a sprained ankle shortly after being promoted to the majors. Crawford has been red-hot at the plate lately, however, and is looking better than he ever did during stints with the Phillies in 2017 and 2018.

“I don’t really feel like I’ve missed Jean Segura,” Moore said. “With J.P. Crawford here, you look at his numbers and you compare them with Segura’s, you’re OK with having Crawford here.”

O’Neil summarized what has become a somewhat complex web of trades since the initial Segura deal.

“Basically what the Mariners did was they traded Segura and the $54 million he was owed for J.P. Crawford, the draft pick that became the pitcher out of Arkansas, Isaiah Campbell, and then Juan Then,” O’Neil said. “The big picture of it is $54 million in future contract savings for J.P. Crawford and a couple of pitching prospects.

“Do you view that favorably?”

Without missing a beat, Moore exclaimed that he sure does.

“Especially now that J.P. Crawford’s come through, I look at that trade and I don’t have a problem with that one at all.”

While the Mets trade may stand out the most, O’Neil said the acquisition of Crawford could end up making this deal the most important one Dipoto has executed.

“The deal for Crawford is probably the best example of the reason that you should feel confident in Jerry Dipoto because it showed an ability to find value.”

The Paxton trade

What the Mariners gave up: James Paxton
What the Mariners got back: Justus Sheffield, Erik Swanson and Dom Thompson-Williams
Additional details: Sheffield and Swanson were believed to be starting pitchers on the brink of contributing in the big leagues, and while both have pitched for the Mariners this season, neither has had a successful 2019 seasons. Sheffield actually has been demoted to Double-A, while Swanson had two strong starts in Seattle but ended up back with Triple-A Tacoma after his ERA ballooned to 8.04. Thompson-Williams is having a nice season at Double-A, however, and Paxton has been OK for the Yankees but also missed much of May due to injury.

It’s hard to call this one a win for Dipoto, but it’s also necessary to consider that Seattle got back three good prospects for just Paxton, who is already 30 years old and will be a free agent after the 2020 season.

“With James Paxton, we all loved him and we all know he was an ace when he was healthy, but he’s had health issues again this year with the Yankees,” Moore said. “You look at what you got for him, maybe Erik Swanson will come through. We saw some glimpses of him earlier this year and he looked like he could be a guy down the road. Justus Sheffield, you still haven’t given up on him but you’re disappointed in what’s happened.”

The final word

“Do you really look at any one of these trades and think, man, that one really stunk?” asks Moore. “I think the worst one right now is the Paxton deal, but even that, you don’t know yet.”

To hear the full discussion between Moore and O’Neil, listen to this podcast.

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