Mariners Intrigued By Toolsy Outfielder Johermyn Chavez

SEATTLE — The Mariners weren't crazy about the idea of parting with 2006 first-round selection Brandon Morrow when they traded with Toronto for reliever Brandon League. But getting outfielder Johermyn Chavez in the deal helped soften the blow.

It's not that the 20-year-old Chavez, a four-year pro, is likely to have any immediate impact at the big league level. But he has the build to put up some hefty offensive numbers, and general manager Jack Zduriencik likes the potential he sees.

"Like any kid you trade for in A-ball, you have to keep your fingers crossed a bit," he said. "But he's a big kid who has put up pretty good numbers and has won a couple of Toronto minor league MVP awards. We like him."

Chavez is 6-foot-3, 225 pounds and is coming off an impressive year with low Class A Lansing in which he hit .283/.346/.474 with 21 homers and 89 RBIs. That's the upside. The downside is that he struck out 173 times in 134 games.

Still, the Mariners see plenty of potential in Chavez, who is playing winter ball in Venezuela

"For him to have hit 20 home runs at 20 years old in the Midwest League, that's very impressive," Zduriencik said. "We had a couple of different guys see him and we ran the numbers on him.

"There were a number of other guys we talked about (in addition to League), but when it came down to it, we thought he was a guy we might find some success with down the line."

Chavez has mostly played right field in the minors, and he'll continue that this year, probably at high Class A High Desert. And the move will be worth watching because unlike the Midwest League, the California League generally favors hitters, with its long, warm seasons, cozy ballparks, hard-packed infields and strong winds.

Signed by the Blue Jays in 2005 out of Turmero, Venezuela, Chavez was Toronto's minor league player of the year while playing for the Rookie-level Gulf Coast Jays in 2007. He  batted .301/.389/.494 with six homers and 21 RBIs in just 50 at-bats.

A second award followed in '09 as he finished second in the MWL in homers and third in RBIs.

"We were hoping for a prospect with some upside, and we think we have one with Chavez," Zduriencik said. "All the reports we've had on him are good. As with any prospect, you keep your fingers crossed a bit, but it's a good gamble."


•  Catcher Josh Bard and righthander Chad Cordero signed minor league contacts with the Mariners in late December.

• Chavez was a key addition for the Mariners in part because the club had traded outfielder Tyson Gillies to the Phillies in the Cliff Lee deal. That trade also cost righthanders J.C. Ramirez and Phillippe Aumont, a 2007 first-round pick.