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SEATTLE MARINERS
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Acquired OF-L Mallex Smith and RHP Shae Simmons from Atlanta Braves in exchange for LHP Luiz Gohara and LHP Thomas Burrows. [1/11]

Acquired LHP Drew Smyly from Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for OF-L Mallex Smith, IF-R Carlos Vargas, and LHP Ryan Yarbrough. [1/11]

I’m not saying that Jerry Dipoto owes me a beer, but if we ever go out for a drink together he’s buying. Dipoto started his tenure as Mariners general manager around the same time I started my tenure here and we’ve both been busy ever since. Mr. Dipoto has swung around 35 trades of varying size and significance; Mr. Grosnick has ended up writing about some or all of 13-15 of those deals. In fact, my first Transaction Analysis was the move that sent Carson Smith to Boston for Wade Miley. Our careers will forever be intertwined—without that deal, I might never have gotten my shot at BP and to Jerry I’ll always be grateful.

But seriously. Enough is enough. Dipoto and the Mariners are giving me carpal tunnel.

In the span of a few hours, the Mariners’ front office boss swung two deals: the first to acquire fleet outfielder Mallex Smith and hotshot reliever Shae Simmons, the second to flip Smith and prospects to Tampa Bay for starting pitcher Drew Smyly. And, of course, these two moves come on the heels of the two trades that I wrote up earlier this week, in which the M’s brought in fleet outfielder Jarrod Dyson and starting pitcher Yovani Gallardo. As they say: the more things change the more they stay the same.

If the Mallex Smith deal had been made in a vacuum it would’ve been a weird one, but paired with the acquisition of Smyly things start to make sense. The Mariners, despite not having playoff success recently, are in win-now mode. Their best players are veterans with mileage: Robinson Cano, Nelson Cruz, and the elder Seager bro. King Felix may be no more than a paper tiger, but he still reigns atop the Mariners’ rotation and may have fight left in him. It’s time for this team to make a move to try to catch the Astros and Rangers atop the AL West.

Smyly is probably a solid No. 3 starter for a decent team. His strikeout rate is legitimately excellent, and he’s great at getting guys to pop into outs. You may think that his fly ball-heavy approach would be terrific in Seattle, but that ballpark does him no favors due to his southern paw. He’s relatively reliable and undeniably talented, making him a solid fit with the other pitchers in the Mariners’ rotation. Smyly and James Paxton give the team two high-strikeout lefties to complement the guts and guile of the right-handed vets in Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, and (maybe) Yovani Gallardo.

Giving up Luiz Gohara makes some sense for the Mariners despite his high-end velocity and premium talent. If Gohara hits his 80th percentile outcome, then in 2020 he’s a high-strikeout, mid-rotation lefty. In other words, he’s Drew Smyly. Moving Future Smyly (if he gets there) for Current Smyly is a no-brainer given where the Mariners are on the win curve, and getting the high-risk, high-impact relief arm of Simmons in the deal is frosting.

The Mariners’ bullpen is, let’s say, complicated. After the wonderfully vicious Edwin Diaz, there’s not much to dream on. (Sorry, Evan Scribner and Dan Altavilla!) But Simmons has real potential to be a factor if his injury problems are truly behind him. Healthy in 2014, he kept his ERA and DRA below 3.00 while putting the ball on the dirt about 56 percent of the time. His comeback in 2016 didn’t exactly live up to that hype, but a full offseason of recovery and a spring training could show that there’s still that same potential late-inning impact to be had. On the other hand, he might never be the same. (If it weren’t for that risk factor, the Mariners never would’ve been able to get him, naturally.)

Now, after all the moves and deals, we finally see something that resembles a playoff roster in Seattle. Their 25-man boasts depth in both the pitching staff and on the field, with replacements at the ready in case something goes awry. (Unless Seager or Cano bites the dust, then all bets are off.) Smyly reinforces the rotation, Simmons the bullpen (hopefully), and the previous moves provide the depth to sustain a dip in performance or injury in the outfield. This certainly isn’t the best team in the AL, or perhaps even the best Mariners team of the past decade, but trader Jerry has gotten this team to a point where they can bring Seattle to the playoffs again. —Bryan Grosnick

TAMPA BAY RAYS
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Acquired OF-L Mallex Smith, IF-R Carlos Vargas, and LHP Ryan Yarbrough from Seattle Mariners in exchange for LHP Drew Smyly. [1/11]

I told anyone who would listen that the Rays would trade Smyly away before the 2017 season began. It’s not that I’m some brilliant soothsayer or analytics fiend, it’s simple math. Among the Rays’ projected starting pitchers Smyly was the most expensive and money absolutely matters in Tampa Bay. Fortunately, the Rays are well-stocked in terms of rotation depth and could shoulder the loss of one of their rotation stalwarts; unfortunately, the return for the return for the greatest pitcher in team history may underwhelm a fan base tired of uninspiring deals.

Despite a lack of freely available starting talent on the free agent market, the Rays appear to be sacrificing wins today to roll the dice on a pair of prospects and an outfielder with potential. Once a top prospect and now blocked behind the newly-extended Ender Inciarte, Smith would’ve found himself kicked down the ladder after the team’s many prospect acquisitions. No one’s quite sure if he’ll ever really hit, but Smith’s debut was mostly a success while he was on the field. His .255 True Average was hardly earth-shattering, but it’s perfectly acceptable when you pair it with his talent with the glove and with his feet. He earned a few runs worth of FRAA in center field and his baserunning in the minors showed that he could be worth a half-win or more on the basepaths.

The acquisition of Smith is another attempt by the Rays to get six years of cheap team control on a relatively low-ceiling asset. A speed-and-defense center fielder with a questionable feel to hit, think of Mallex as the poor man’s version of the team’s current center fielder in Kevin Kiermaier. Sure enough, Kiermaier is due to get his first arbitration award this coming season, and he’s got four more years of team control. It’s not inconceivable that the Rays could test Smith out as a potential replacement for their defensive anchor over the next year or so, then sell Kiermaier to another team to continue their constant process of shuffling pre-free agency players for more years of young talent.

It may seem counterintuitive for a team to acquire an extra piece and a pair of non-elite prospects for an established mid-rotation starter with team control left, but that’s how the Rays roll. There’s the potential that Smith could access his latent offensive potential and pair that with his other talents to become a quality overall regular or there’s the chance he never makes it as more than a fourth outfielder. Nevertheless, it’s a relatively low-ceiling return for a pitcher of Smyly’s caliber, but the Rays are no strangers to making deals for returns that seem lower than the industry consensus. After all, that’s how Smyly ended up in Tampa Bay in the first place, and look how that turned out. —Bryan Grosnick

A polished lefty, Yarbrough has a back-end starter ceiling. He sits in the low-90s, flashes a plus changeup, and can also throw strikes with his curveball. His delivery is a bit stiff, but he repeats it pretty well and there’s some deception in it. None of this means that he’s a lock to work out of the rotation at the highest level, though. His curve needs improvement, and at his velocity band he’ll need to be very precise with his command to succeed against big-league bats. It’s a workable profile, but you’re more likely to find a guy with his ingredients in Triple-A than a big-league rotation. —Brendan Gawlowski

ATLANTA BRAVES
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Acquired LHP Luiz Gohara and LHP Thomas Burrows from Seattle Mariners in exchange for OF-L Mallex Smith and RHP Shae Simmons. [1/11]

Gohara is a 20-year-old with an electric arm and concerns up and down the profile from there. Let’s start with the good. He comfortably sits in the mid-90s and touches higher with his fastball. Hitters in short-season ball couldn’t catch up to it and he dominated the Midwest League after an early-summer promotion. His curve has somewhat slurvy action, but when thrown right it’s a sharp offering with bat-missing downward action. And while the changeup is still a work in progress, it started to flash for him last summer as well.

Now the bad: While Gohara has most of the ingredients you’d want in a no. 2 starter, he’s not all that likely to reach his lofty ceiling. Stemming from issues with his size and conditioning—the big southpaw is listed at 210 pounds, but is pushing 250—he struggles to repeat his delivery and his command drifts over the course of outings. That may be fixable, but he’s got a lot of work ahead, and whispers about his makeup and effort level grew louder over the past couple of years.

Ultimately, Gohara has a lot of upside and there are a range of outcomes for his career. He could develop more consistency with his command and his offspeed and become a good big-league starter. He may move quickly as a two-pitch reliever. He might also never make it out of Double-A. The asking price for Atlanta was eminently reasonable, but Gohara has a longer development path ahead of him than most guys with his stuff and a brief history of success in A-ball.

Burrows was Alabama’s closer last spring and the lefty pitched well enough for Seattle to pop him in the fourth round. Not surprisingly for a guy who’s had success late in games, he pitches with a lot of confidence and he’s unafraid to challenge hitters with his three-pitch mix. His changeup is capable of keeping righties honest, but it’s the slider, a pitch with sharp dropping action, that he’ll turn to in a jam. He wasn’t throwing quite as hard in pro ball as he did in college, and for a lot of the past summer he sat in the 87-90 mph range. He pitched well anyway and there’s certainly a case to be made that he was just a little tired in the midst of a long season. A few extra ticks on the gun would be a welcome sign this spring. —Brendan Gawlowski