Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto continued his extraordinarily busy offseason on Wednesday, reaching a deal with the Braves for the second time in less than eight weeks.
The Mariners traded lefthander Luiz Gohara, their top pitching prospect and No. 3 overall, and recent draft pick Thomas Burrows to the Braves for righthanded reliever Shae Simmons and center fielder Mallex Smith.
The trade kept with Dipoto's offseason theme of trading talented players far away from the majors for players who could help win now. Neither Gohara nor Burrows have pitched above low Class A, while Simmons and Smith both have major league experience.
“As we continue to construct a deep and flexible roster, Shae and Mallex add to our potential big league mix," Dipoto said in a statement. “Shae has had success pitching at the back end of games in the minors and has shown strikeout ability at all levels. Smith adds to our growing inventory of multi skilled, athletic outfielders. Both players are young, controllable and have bright futures."
Mallex Smith, of
Smith at one point appeared to be the Braves center fielder of the future when they acquired him from the Padres in the Justin Upton deal after the 2014 season, but the athletically gifted outfielder struggled with injuries and his offense in his major league debut season and saw himself get squeezed out with Ender Inciarte signing a five-year contract extension to man center field. Smith is one of the fastest runners in the game, with 88 stolen bases in the minors in 2014, 56 in 2015 and 16 in his 72-game big league debut in 2016. He also uses that speed to play elite defense in center, to the point he has been projected as a potential future Gold Glove winner. His offense is his biggest question mark, with his lack of power making his success fully dependent on his ability to make frequent contact and work counts. He was successful doing that in the minors (career. 296 AVG, .382 OBP) but looked overmatched in his first taste of the majors. Still just 23 and with exciting ability on the basepaths and in the field, Smith has the potential to grow into an everyday center fielder and can serve as a valuable fourth outfielder even if his bat never comes along.
|Shae Simmons, rhp
Simmons took the majors by storm in his 2014 debut, flashing a 96-98 mph fastball and upper 80s slider and changeup and looking like the Atlanta's heir apparent at closer to Craig Kimbrel. Instead, Tommy John surgery and related setbacks wiped out the second half of his 2014, all of 2015 and much of 2016, too. He returned to the majors in September 2016, his first appearances since July 2014, and gave up one run in six outings while showing he still has his 96-98 mph stuff. If healthy, Simmons joins Dan Altavilla and Edwin Diaz to make one of the hardest-throwing bullpen troikas in the game, but his health will always be a question mark.
|GCL Braves (R)||0||0||6.00||3||3||0||3||2||0||2||5||.167|
Luiz Gohara, lhp
Gohara signed with the Mariners for $800,000 as a 16-year-old in 2012 out of Brazil, but substandard work ethic and conditioning prevented him from progressing. Sent to extended spring training for the fourth straight season in 2016, Gohara finally got the message and dropped 30 pounds, resulting in an uptick in his stuff across the board and his durability. His fastball now sits 94-97 mph and touched 100 in the Arizona Fall League, while his slider is a swing-and-miss offering that was rated the best in the Mariners organization. It sits 84-87 and scrapes 90. His changeup is a work in progress but he has made strides in keeping the same arm speed, helping it become a possibly fringe-average to average pitch in time. His control also took a leap forward this year with his improved fitness allowing him to better repeat his delivery and arm slot. Gohara has pitched more than six innings only once in 48 career starts. His durability, changeup development and continued devotion to his fitness will determine if he reaches his ceiling as a hard-throwing midrotation starter. He is likely to start at high Class A in 2017.
|Thomas Burrows, lhp
Burrows became Alabama's all-time saves leader in the spring and the Mariners drafted him in the fourth round, No. 117 overall, last June. Burrows' fastball sat 93-94 mph at Alabama but backed up to the high-80s in his pro debut, which Mariners officials said was the result of fatigue. Still, Burrows flashed a hard slurve and changeup that both got swings and misses and allowed him to excel in his pro debut nonetheless. The quality of his changeup allows him to handle righthanded batters as well as lefties, giving him the upside of a valuable late-inning reliever who is more than just a matchup guy. He will likely begin at low Class A Rome in 2017.