Why did Mariners give up ‘a lot’ in Gregory Santos trade?

Feb 8, 2024, 1:01 PM

Seattle Mariners Gregory Santos...

Gregory Santos celebrates the final out in a win over Cleveland in 2023. (Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

(Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

The latest trade in the Seattle Mariners’ busy offseason happened last weekend, and it’s understandable if the move left some fans scratching their heads.

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To acquire hard-throwing relief pitcher Gregory Santos, the Mariners sent the Chicago White Sox a bullpen prospect with a similar repertoire in Prelander Berroa, outfield prospect and 2020 MLB Draft second-round pick Zach DeLoach, and a competitive balance round B pick in the 2024 draft.

If that sounds like a lot to trade for a reliever, well, that’s because it is – at least according to MLB Network insider Jon Morosi.

“They maybe gave up too much. They paid a high price,” Morosi said of the Mariners on Wednesday during his weekly conversation with Seattle Sports’ Wyman and Bob. “If you look at it just talent for talent, future value, the White Sox probably came out ahead on that.”

Does that mean it was a bad trade for the Mariners? Hardly, as Morosi continued to explain.

“Santos was the kind of pitcher the Mariners needed,” he said. “And when when you have made a decision that you are going to try to win and that this player is crucial to your efforts to win that way, you do it.”

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What Morosi meant by that is the Mariners are built around their pitching staff – both a starting rotation that is in the conversation for the best in baseball, and a bullpen that has been strong for three straight years despite a rotating list of names in it. Santos now joins that list, essentially moving into a spot that was opened up a few days prior when Seattle sent Justin Topa, a 32-year-old reliever who had a breakout season for Seattle in 2023, to Minnesota as part of the trade to bring one-time All-Star infielder Jorge Polanco to the Mariners.

“I was actually talking to another executive from a National League team today who said, ‘Seattle’s got the best rotation depth of any team in the game.’ That’s what he said to me – period, point blank, they’ve got the best,” Morosi said. “… You’re not gonna have a lineup of 35-home run hitting guys – this is not like the ’99, ’98 Mariners reincarnate – so you’re gonna have to win a lot of 3-2 games, and you win 3-2 games by protecting leads. It makes sense just given the variability of relievers that you don’t trust the same group of guys in back-to-back years. So you swap out Topa and you bring in Santos.”

Trades like this are ‘what you do’

The 24-year-old Santos himself was a breakout pitcher for the White Sox in 2023, throwing 66 1/3 innings with a 3.39 ERA, 1.296 WHIP, 2.56 FIP and 66 strikeouts to 17 walks. Clearly the Mariners see enough in him to perhaps even overpay in a trade to get him, and Morosi believes Seattle’s track record of identifying bullpen arms should assuage concerns.

“They got someone who I believe can be a closer, and they got someone who has closer upside,” Morosi said of Santos. “I thought he was a breakout performer on a team that we weren’t really watching carefully last year. … He’s been on my radar for a while as someone that can be a breakout performer. I think the biggest thing we have to say, as people who follow the Mariners, is when Seattle’s front office identifies a breakout pitching candidate, we should listen because they’ve earned an amount of credibility here in being able to identify players that are going to break out.”

As for worries that the pieces traded from the farm system could turn into productive players down the line, Morosi provided a reminder that there are multiple reasons to develop prospects.

“This, around the margins, is what you do,” Morosi said of the trade by a team trying to contend now, “and it’s especially realistic when you’ve got this amount of pitching depth in the minor leagues. They’ve done a really good job developing talent, and your reward for developing talent well is that when you have a player that comes along that you like and you have the ability to overpay, you can do that. This wasn’t a massive overpay, this was not a really out of balance trade, but the Mariners gave up a lot to get someone who I believe will help them tremendously during the course of the 2024 season and beyond.”

Another reminder from Morosi: this kind of move could help the Mariners get over the hump a year after finishing just two games back in the AL West of the Texas Rangers, who won the 2023 World Series.

“I think (for) Mariner fans there’s a certain amount of frustration that they didn’t spend a ton on free agents, and I get it. But this is how they had to build the team to make it a more competitive version of the team that came within a game or two of finishing ahead of the club that eventually won the World Series last year. This team is not that far away.”

Listen to the full Wyman and Bob conversation with MLB Network insider Jon Morosi in the podcast at this link or in the player near the top of this post.

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Why did Mariners give up ‘a lot’ in Gregory Santos trade?