In a rare and rather surprising trade between a pair of disputed division rivals, the Mariners have changed more Kendall Graveman and recently designated for assignment Rafael Montero to the Astros in exchange for a young infielder Abraham Toro and right-handed veteran Joe smith, according to both clubs. The exchange is even more revealing when you consider that the two clubs are preparing to play each other in the second game of a four-game set tonight.
Trading Graveman on all records is a moderate surprise, given the Mariners’ recent rise in the rankings and declared desire to improve the 2021 roster. To see him traded to the division-leading Astros as the two squads play each other is downright jarring. That said, Graveman is a free agent at the end of the season, and in Toro, the Mariners are gaining four and a half seasons of control over an infielder who has been considered one of Houston’s most promising young prospects in recent years.
Speaking to the media about the trade, Seattle CEO Jerry Dipoto clearly acknowledged that, as a standalone transaction, it is a head-scratching move. But Dipoto also emphasized some patience, suggesting that this move is just one of a sequence of exchanges designed to improve the Mariners’ chances both in 2021 and long-term into the future (Twitter thread via Daniel Kramer of MLB.com). Dipoto suggested that a subsequent trade or exchanges could happen as soon as tonight or in the next few days, but it appears this is just one of a series of moves the Mariners are looking for; time will tell what the movements will look like when they are all together.
Toro, 24, has yet to rebuild things in limited Major League action, but has decimated Triple-A pitchers (.392 / .497 / .600 in 33 games) and posted solid numbers in setups of Pitcher-friendly Double-A (.282 / .369 / .468 in 148 games). The ambidextrous Toro gives the Mariners a possible long-term option at third base, but he has also racked up considerable time at second base, another area the Mariners have been known to seek help in. However, that long-term adjustment probably doesn’t matter much to the clubhouse and, unsurprisingly, divine. tweets that the decision to trade Graveman to his main division rival was not well received by the Seattle players.
That’s understandable on Seattle’s part, given how dominant Graveman has become since transitioning to the bullpen late in the 2020 season. The former Athletics starter bounced back from an injury-lost 2019 season to emerge as one of the top players. most effective relievers in the American League. In 33 innings this season, Graveman has thrown to a 0.82 ERA with a strikeout rate of 28.1 percent, a walk rate of 6.6 and a shooting rate of 53.9 percent. Since his move to the bullpen in 2020, he has compiled 43 innings with a 1.47 ERA.
Graveman is likely to be even more attractive to the luxury-conscious Astros because of his affordable salary. He’s playing a one-year, $ 1.25 million deal. The incentives have already increased that base salary by $ 400K, and the overall contract contains a total of $ 3M in achievable incentives. That being said, $ 1.5M of them is committed to finished games, and the manager Dusty baker has already indicated that Ryan pressly it is likely to continue as your closer. Graveman could still collect six more finished lost games to reach his first of three possible $ 500K bonuses tied to finished games, but it is unlikely that he will reach the 30 and 40 finished games needed to unlock the next pair of $ 500K bonuses. In total, the contract is likely to exceed paying him somewhere in the $ 2.65M range based on incentives tied to days on the roster, games finished, and total innings pitched.
Montero’s inclusion in trade is probably a pure accounting measure. Montero and Graveman’s combined salaries should sit somewhere in the same ballpark as Smith’s $ 4 million salary and the luxury tax hit, though depending on the status of Graveman’s incentives, the Astros could come out a bit lower. in front of or behind where they were previously projected.
Montero started the season as the closer in Seattle, but struggled early and has been embroiled in a catastrophic crash of late, giving up 16 runs in his last 11 innings. The ‘Stros may have their own ideas about how to help a reliever who was pretty good with the Rangers in the 2019-20 season correct course, but the inclusion of Montero doesn’t seem like a key part of the trade. At best, it’s a roll of the dice, and at worst, it’s a financial counterweight that you could quickly let go of if your problems persist.
The same is largely the case with Smith, who opted out of the 2020 season after signing a two-year contract in Houston and has been beaten with a 7.48 ERA in 21 2/3 innings this year. Some of that has been attributed to a soaring .413 batting average on balls in play, but Smith has a career-low strikeout rate, a shot-through rate that is well below his all-time highs and has also been quite prone to home runs. As with Houston and Montero, the Mariners may have an idea or two on how to get the veteran right-hander back on track, but the trade has much more to do with Graveman and Toro than it does with the struggling relievers accompanying those two players. .