SHANNON DRAYER

Drayer: Mariners check important box with ‘relatively pain-free’ Hernández trade

Nov 16, 2022, 10:01 AM | Updated: 10:02 am
Mariners Teoscar Hernandez...
Teoscar Hernandez of the Toronto Blue Jays celebrates after hitting a two-run home run against the Seattle Mariners during on October 08, 2022. (Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
(Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)

If you had a trade as the Mariners’ first move of the the offseason, well, you have been paying attention.

If you were getting a little antsy that said trade had yet to be made, well, that’s understandable. Jerry Dipoto and Justin Hollander have important work to do this winter. Gone are the days where the main targets can be the “he can move around the diamond,” or “we’ve identified something in him that we think we can improve,” or “club control was a big factor” guys. Where this team is in its development and goal of sustaining winning and ultimately winning a World Series, it’s time to go after targeted, focused needs.

Wednesday morning they did just that, adding Teoscar Hernández, a move that should set them up well for both the remainder of the offseason and moving forward.

Mariners acquire All-Star OF Teoscar Hernández from Toronto

Like last year, Dipoto and Hollander made an early strike in making a trade.

On Nov. 26 they acquired Adam Frazier from the Padres, a move that some at the time were alarmed that this was THE move.

In reality, it was the first move that gave them both flexibility as Frazier could play the outfield and was insurance that they wouldn’t be left empty-handed should they not be able to land one of the premier middle-of-the-diamond free agents they had their eyes on. This year’s first strike, more targeted. Hernández fills a critical need for the Mariners as an established middle of the order bat.

“We began our offseason with the intent to add impact and length to our lineup,” said Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto in the press release. “In adding Teoscar to an already solid foundation, we feel we’ve become a far more dangerous offensive club.”

The Mariners were able to do so relatively pain-free thanks to a strong farm system as they were able to deal a young starter and replace an established reliever. If you were worried about the lack of Mariners prospects on top prospects list, this better illustrates the health of the Mariners farm system.

Macko, the Mariners’ eighth-ranked prospect by Baseball America, is an intriguing player who was set to make the jump to Double-A as a starter in 2023. His name had been mentioned along with Taylor Dollard, Bryce Miller and Emerson Hancock as sooner-than-later starting pitching depth.

It’s important to note that while I wouldn’t expect the Mariners to part with their top pitching prospects for a one-year bat, in order to make such a deal they had to have the next-level prospect available and they did.

On the relief front, they have even more.

As successful as the Mariners’ bullpen was last season, it would be a stretch to think they could replicate that performance with the same personnel or that they would attempt to.

Erik Swanson was a good piece of that bullpen. It is tough to see him go, but a trade of one of the relievers should not have been unexpected. And they could afford to do so.

Taking a look at what was added to the 40-man roster this week, it’s not hard to see potential replacements or reinforcements. Could Prelander Berroa, acquired from the Giants for Donovan Walton be on the Matt Brash path to the bigs? Could we see Issaiah Campbell who transitioned to a reliever role this year in the minors make the Mariners 4 for 4 in impact to the big league club with their 2019 top four draft picks? The Mariners dealt from an area of strength.

In a year where there is not a strong free-agent outfielder class, the Mariners checked off one very important box in their offseason to do list with this trade. Looking big picture, Hernández under club control for just one year – unless there is an extension in the works – gives them time to further figure out what Jarred Kelenic is at the big league level.

Depending on what they do to fill the middle infield need, it could also give them flexibility to perhaps make a run for Shohei Ohtani.

This is a very strong first move.

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Drayer: Mariners check important box with ‘relatively pain-free’ Hernández trade