Prior to the 2015 season, the Mariners were expected to be a team in contention. However, after a 76-win season and fourth-place finish, it became clear that the Mariners needed a change. In philosophy, in front office, in management, in personnel. Or perhaps in all four areas.
Enter: Jerry Dipoto. Since the beginning of November, the Seattle Mariners and their new general manager have made 11 trades. He's also made significant coaching changes and accrued quite a few free agents. If you're a fan of trades or of team makeovers in general, it seems like Dipoto is your guy.
After leaving the Los Angeles Angels in July because of autonomy issues with Mike Scioscia, it seems like Dipoto is a man on a mission. He had a plan he wanted to execute, and the Mariners seem happy to facilitate that plan.
But has that plan really worked? Or are some of these moves just for the sake of making moves? Let's take a closer look.
As previously stated, there have been tons. The Mariners have traded away 17 players since November. C.J. Riefenhauser was a member of the Mariners for under a month.
Let's break the trades down into two groups: ones that easily make sense, and ones that are more difficult to parse.
First, we've got the trade with the Tampa Bay Rays in which the Mariners acquired Nate Karns, Boog Powell, and Riefenhauser. In exchange, the Rays acquired Brad Miller, Logan Morrison, and Danny Farquhar. Karns is coming off a breakout season in which he posted a 4.09 FIP in 147 innings pitched.
Miller is coming off of a bit of a down year thanks in part to some defensive lapses. Morrison on the other hand has shown his ability to hit dingers well enough, but not with enough regularity. There is no clear winner here yet, but it makes sense from both sides. Especially when we consider Morrison's replacement.
Then we've got the Leonys Martin deal. While his defensive prowess has shone over the past three seasons, his bat has yet to catch up in the majors. Heading into his age-28 season, perhaps a change of scenery will benefit the centerfielder. All-in-all, the Mariners didn't forfeit all that much either.
By packaging up Martin with Anthony Bass, the Texas Rangers got back Tom Wilhemsen, James Jones, and Patrick Kivlehan. This at least seems like the right move for a team that will care about run prevention in 2016.
Dipoto and the Mariners then added Adam Lind to play first base. Lind managed his biggest workload since 2010 this past season, and handled it admirably. Despite handling it well though, Lind is still a glorified platoon bat. His work against left-handed pitching wasn't limited in 2015, and he posted a .257 wOBA in 112 plate appearances. That's 46 percent worse than league average by wRC+.
It turns out, that Lind would have been a spectacular platoon-mate for Mark Trumbo, which brings us to the second group of trades: the ones that don't make as much sense.
Trumbo isn't bad at baseball. In his 2760 career plate appearances, Trumbo has managed a wRC+ eight percent better than the league average. Against lefties, Trumbo has managed to hit 25 percent better than the league average in his career.
Instead of realizing Trumbo's strength, the Mariners seemed to assess him solely as a weakness and shipped him out with Riefenhauser for Steve Clevenger. The 29-year old Clevenger has only had 446 plate appearances and has been worth -1.2 wins above replacement by FanGraphs estimations.
That trade makes very little sense. Other than ridding themselves of a player going into his last arbitration year -- which will end up costing the Orioles $9.15 million -- the Mariners don't really come out ahead here.
Then you've got the Wade Miley deal. Starting pitching depth is always a necessity. In that way, acquiring Miley is definitely a victory. After all, he's pitched more than 190 innings in each of the past four seasons and accrued 10 fWAR in the process.
But giving up Carson Smith seems like a hefty price. Smith finished with the fifth-best FIP of any qualified reliever last season. In the age of lockdown relievers, Smith could be a huge asset. Especially when your bullpen was led by Fernando Rodney and is now led by Steve Cishek.
Of course, there is a chance that Dipoto has recognized that relievers are worth more and is selling high on Smith. When all the trades are considered together, some just look more puzzling than others.
The Free Agents
The big additions for the Mariners amount to Chris Iannetta and Nori Aoki. They also retained Hisashi Iwakuma who very nearly signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers via free agency.
The Mariners definitely needed to assess a weakness at catching. Iannetta -- who played for Dipoto with the Angels as well -- seems to be the answer. Coming off of a pretty bad year at the plate, Iannetta is still a very effective catcher.
Aoki, a master of contact, will look to patrol left field for the Mariners next season. Only 14.1 percent of his plate appearances last season ended in either a walk or a strikeout. And he only hit five home runs. Aoki is the anti-Adam Dunn and there's definitely nothing wrong with that.
Reasons to worry
For reasons that should seem apparent now, moves for the sake of moves isn't necessarily a good strategy. The team is fresh off of an 86-loss season. And they haven't necessarily improved their roster.
By Depth Charts projections, the Mariners are only projected for 83 wins. A season barely over .500 definitely wouldn't right the wrongs of last season.
Reasons for hope
Despite not liking all of the moves, I still think Mariners fans have a lot to look forward to in 2016. That could all start with Robinson Cano and Felix Hernandez having big, bounce back seasons.
In 2015, King Felix and Cano had their worst seasons since 2008 by FIP and wRC+ respectively.
Furthermore, Ketel Marte seems like a promising young shortstop and he will likely be handed the full-time gig right out of spring training.
Even though they've only been projected for 83 wins, the only division-rival that places higher in Depth Charts projections are the Houston Astros. There's a real chance that the Mariners out-perform that and happen into a wild-card or better. And a general manager who seems to be hard-working represents a promising start.