Top 10 Prospects The Mariners Traded Away
Since Jerry Dipoto took over as Mariners general manager in Sept. 2015, the franchise has embarked on a prospect-trading frenzy.
In all, the Mariners have traded 55 prospects in the three-plus years since Dipoto was hired, largely in exchange for veterans as the club tried to end a playoff drought that dates back to 2001.
In some sense, the moves worked. The Mariners won 86 games in 2016 and 89 in 2018, remaining in the wild-card hunt until the end of the season. But each time they came up short, and the franchise’s playoff drought is now the longest in North American professional sports.
In the meantime, many of those prospects Seattle traded have ascended to greater things. With the Mariners' 2019 Top 10 Prospects list dropping today, here is a list of the top players the club has traded away as prospects in the Dipoto era.
1. Freddy Peralta, RHP
The Mariners traded Peralta and fellow righthanders Daniel Missaki and Carlos Herrera to the Brewers for Adam Lind in Nov. 2015. At the time, Peralta was an undersized righthander who had just completed Rookie ball, and Lind was coming off a 20-home run, .860 OPS campaign with Milwaukee. Lind hit just .239/.286/.431 in one season with the Mariners before leaving as a free agent, while Peralta became one of the top pitching prospects in baseball. The 22-year-old rose onto the BA Top 100 Prospects list in 2018, and overall went 6-4, 4.25 with 11.0 strikeouts per nine innings in his rookie season to stabilize the back of the Brewers’ rotation.
2. Ryan Yarbrough, LHP
The Mariners sent Yarbrough, the just-acquired Mallex Smith and minor league infielder Carlos Vargas to the Rays for Drew Smyly in Jan. 2017. Smyly was coming off major shoulder surgery in 2016 and his worst season in 2017, but the Mariners still paid a high price. Smyly made one start for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic in the spring, had Tommy John surgery, and never pitched a game for the Mariners. Yarbrough, meanwhile, emerged as a critical part of the Rays' "opener” strategy in as a rookie in 2018, often following the opener and putting in a starter’s workload. Yarbrough went 16-6, 3.91 with 128 strikeouts in 147 innings for the Rays and finished fifth in AL Rookie of the Year voting. His wins, ERA and strikeouts all would have ranked top three on the Mariners.
3. Tyler O’Neill, OF
Needing arms in part because of all the pitching depth they previously traded away, the Mariners traded the powerful O’Neill to the Cardinals for Marco Gonzales at the 2017 trade deadline. Gonzales delivered a solid campaign in his first full year with the Mariners in 2018, going 13-9, 4.00 and posting a 102 ERA+, essentially a league-average starter. O’Neill made some swing and approach changes under the Cardinals’ watch and re-emerged as one of the top power prospects in baseball, bashing 35 home runs between Triple-A and the majors this year and posting an .803 OPS in his MLB debut.
4. Nick Neidert, RHP
The Mariners struck a deal with the Marlins after the 2017 season, sending Neidert, shortstop Chris Torres and righthander Robert Dugger to Miami for Dee Gordon and international bonus money aimed at the pursuit of Shohei Ohtani. The Mariners failed to land Ohtani, while Gordon turned 30 and had his worst season in five years. Neidert, the top prospect in the deal, continued his ascent up the minors. He went 12-7, 3.21 and struck out more than a batter per inning at Double-A Jacksonville as a 21-year-old, all while maintaining his longstanding plus control. He currently ranks No. 82 on the BA Top 100 and is primed to make his ML debut in 2019.
5. Enyel De Los Santos, RHP
In Dipoto’s first trade involving prospects as the Mariners' GM, he sent De Los Santos and infielder Nelson Ward to the Padres for Joaquin Benoit. Benoit posted a 2.34 ERA the season before and De Los Santos was a late-blooming teen yet to reach full-season ball, so the deal made sense at the time. Benoit didn’t pitch well for the Mariners, however, posting a 5.18 ERA in 26 appearances and was traded to the Blue Jays, for whom he posted a 0.38 ERA in 25 appearances. De Los Santos, meanwhile, kept adding velocity and sharpening his secondaries, emerging as one of the Padres' top pitching prospects before being traded to the Phillies for Freddy Galvis. De Los Santos went 10-5, 2.67 at Triple-A this year while touching 98 mph, made his MLB debut, and ranks No. 97 on the BA Top 100 Prospects list.
Drew Robinson Could Balance Cardinals' Bench
The 26-year-old has started major league games at four positions and could bring a lefthanded option to multiple positions.
6. Luiz Gohara, LHP
The Mariners acquisition of Smyly was two-pronged. First, they had to pry Smith from the Braves in order to include him in the package to the Rays. They did that by sending Gohara, their No. 3 prospect at the time, and lefthanded reliever Thomas Burrows to Atlanta for Smith and righthander Shae Simmons. Simmons, who previously had Tommy John surgery, battled elbow issues and posted a 7.09 ERA in just nine appearances with the Mariners before leaving as a free agent. Combined with Smyly, that leaves the Mariners with nine career appearances from the two pitchers they surrendered four prospects and Smith for. Gohara has struggled with his weight and personal issues, but he’s still a lefty up to 97 mph with a power slider who was in the majors by 21.
7. Pablo Lopez, RHP
The Mariners traded Lopez, outfielder Brayan Hernandez and righthanders Brandon Miller and Lukas Schiraldi to the Marlins at the 2017 trade deadline for David Phelps, a move that raised eyebrows across the industry as a heavy price to pay for a 30-year-old middle reliever. Phelps made only 10 appearances wrapped around two disabled list stints for an elbow impingement, then had Tommy John surgery and missed the entire 2018 season. Lopez, on the other hand, shot from Double-A to Triple-A to the majors as a 22-year-old in 2018. He posted a 1.44 ERA in the minors with sterling control and delivered a 4.14 ERA in 10 starts with the Marlins, earning himself a place in their starting rotation moving forward.
8. Luis Rengifo, SS/2B
The Mariners signed Rengifo for $360,000 as a 17-year-old out of Venezuela in 2014 and traded him just when he appeared to be breaking out in 2017, sending him, lefthander Anthony Misiewicz and a player to be named later (infielder Osmy Gregorio) to the Rays for righthander Ryan Garton and catcher Mike Marjama in August. Garton, a low-leverage reliever, was outrighted off the 40-man roster and didn’t pitch in the majors in 2018. Marjama, a third catcher at best in scouts’ eyes, played 15 big league games before retiring. Rengifo, meanwhile, was traded for a quality everyday big leaguer (C.J. Cron) just seven months later and continued his breakout into 2018 in the Angels' system. He rose from high Class A to Double-A to Triple-A as a 21-year-old, posting a .299/.399/.452 slash line with 41 steals and as many walks as strikeouts (75) while playing a solid everyday shortstop.
9. Paul Blackburn, RHP
The Mariners originally acquired Blackburn with Dan Vogelbach from the Cubs for Mike Montgomery in July 2016. Four months later, they traded Blackburn to the Athletics for Danny Valencia, who only had a year left on his contract. Valencia hit .256 with 15 home runs in his lone season with the Mariners in 2017 before leaving as a free agent to sign with the Orioles. That same season, with the Mariners in dire need of pitching, Blackburn came up and went 3-1, 3.22 in 10 starts for the division-rival A’s, including notching his first career win with 7.2 innings of one-run ball against the Mariners. An elbow injury limited Blackburn to six uneven starts in 2018, but he is in line to open 2019 as a member of the A’s rotation.
10. Paul Fry, LHP
While the Mariners have traded many other interesting pitching prospects who still have a ways to go, their decision to send Fry to the Orioles for international bonus money in April 2017 is what has hurt the most in the present. Fry made his ML debut in 2018 and posted a 3.35 ERA out of the O’s bullpen, working effectively against both righties (.556 OPS) and lefties (.702). Fry’s ERA would have ranked fourth amongst Mariners relievers with at least 25 appearances in 2018 and given them an effective second lefty to pair with James Pazos.
Others of note: OF Boog Powell, RHP Thyago Vieira, OF Patrick Kivlehan, RHP Zack Littell, SS Bryson Brigman, LHP J.P. Sears, SS Chris Torres, RHP Juan De Paula, RHP Tommy Romero, RHP Juan Then, RHP Robert Dugger.