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Heretofore the winter's busiest GM, Jerry Dipoto's latest deal is arguably his best yet.
Martin fell out of favor in Texas following an injury-ravaged season that coincided with Delino DeShields Jr.'s ascendance and concluded with Martin leaving the team after missing the postseason roster. The book on him remains the same: he's a high-quality center fielder with a strong arm who has more than enough speed to provide value on the basepaths. Alas, Martin's offensive production isn't as bankable. He just suffered through the worst full-season performance of his career, and had topped out in the two previous years as a slightly below-average hitter with a concerning platoon split.
So why is this deal so likable? For a few reasons: 1) Martin has multiple seasons of team control remaining; 2) he's in the statistical prime of his career; and 3) even without point no. 2, he seems like a reasonable bounce-back candidate based on a seasonal BABIP that fell more than 30 points south of his career norm. This is, essentially, the exact brand of acquisition that a team like the Mariners—one strapped for budget room and prospects—should be making in order to better itself. The Rangers' side makes sense too, obviously, but in a vacuum it's hard not to favor the M's portion of this trade.
And that's without considering Bass. Now with his fourth team in as many seasons, the most intriguing aspect about his 2015 was his usage. He recorded multiple innings in 20 of his 33 appearances, and averaged nearly two innings per outing—thus cementing his status as one of the few actual long relievers left standing. You wonder if Dipoto wants Bass to reprise that act in Seattle, or if he intends to use Bass in more of a traditional middle-relief role. Either way, expect Bass to come at hitters with a high-tempo delivery and three-pitch mix. The Mariners have two legitimate late-inning arms (Joaquin Benoit and Carson Smith) and a farrago of middle-relief types, so this is unlikely to be their final bullpen-related move of the winter. —R.J. Anderson
At 28 years old, it’s not unreasonable to expect a rebound from Martin in Seattle, coming off a disastrous 2015 campaign in which he earned just $8, finishing as the 50th fantasy outfielder in AL-only formats while hitting a paltry .219/.264/.312 with five home runs, 26 runs scored, 25 RBI, and just 14 stolen bases. The biggest disappointment for fantasy owners this past year, surprisingly enough, came in the stolen base department. From 2013-2014, Martin joined an exclusive club as one of just six hitters to bat .260 with at least 30 stolen bases in back-to-back campaigns. The other five were Jose Altuve, Carlos Gomez, Jacoby Ellsbury, Starling Marte and Rajai Davis.
Clearly, Martin had fallen out of favor in Texas down the stretch last year. The prospect of everyday at-bats in Seattle alone is a huge boost to his fantasy value. While power is never going to be a part of his game (he’s never hit more than eight home runs in a single season in his career) the stolen base upside is real. With speed declining across the fantasy landscape, it makes him an attractive re-draft target in the late rounds of deeper mixed leagues.
Joaquin Benoit, Carson Smith
If there were any doubts that Benoit would inherit the closers role after being acquired by Seattle last week, those should be gone now after the departure of Wilhelmsen, who racked up 13 saves last season. Carson Smith is still lurking in the shadows as one of the games best setup men, but this deal undoubtedly gives Benoit even greater job security by eliminating an option for the Mariners to turn to in the event that he struggles in 2016. —George Bissell
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Acquired RHP Tom Wilhelmsen, OF-L James Jones, and a player to be named later from the Mariners in exchange for OF-L Leonys Martin and RHP Anthony Bass. [11/16]
Jon Daniels' first matter of offseason business? Swapping outfield depth for bullpen reinforcement.
In Wilhelmsen, the Rangers receive an experienced late-inning reliever who has two seasons of team control remaining. Known foremost for his odd backstory—he used to be a bartender—Wilhelmsen has become less reliant upon his second-most identifiable attribute: his signature curveball. Instead he's turned more and more to an upper-80s slider-cutter-thingamajig that he spams right-handed hitters with down and away. The chief negatives with Wilhelmsen remain his struggles to 1) retire left-handed batters and 2) repeat his release point—hence his high intentional and unintentional walk rates. Nonetheless, Wilhelmsen is likely to remain in a high-leverage role for as long as he continues to miss bats and keep the ball in the park. Don't be shocked if he notches some saves for the Rangers in 2016.
Jones is an impressive athlete with two well-above-average tools: near-elite speed that has enabled him to steal 72 bases on 84 tries over the past two seasons, and a strong arm that used to earn him acclaim as a pitching prospect. Yet he's little more than a throw-in here because everything else in his game rates as fringe-average or worse—including his defense, which falls short due to shoddy routes. Jones is a poor hitter, one who marries significant swing-and-miss issues with zero power output. Already 27, his upside is that of a fifth outfielder. Given that Jones has an option remaining, he's likely to spend the season in Triple-A before resurfacing in September as the Rangers' designated pinch-runner. —R.J. Anderson
With the acquisition of veteran Joaquin Benoit from San Diego last week, any chance of Wilhelmsen closing in Seattle all but vanished completely, so the trade to the “Lone Star State” is a positive from that perspective. While there is arguably a greater opportunity for the former Mariner closer to return to the ninth inning if Texas’ current stopper Shawn Tolleson (who converted 35 of 37 save opportunities in 2015) struggles, he will face increased competition from the power arms of Keone Kela and Sam Dyson just to remain in a complementary setup role. —George Bissell
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