The Seattle Mariners and Tampa Bay Rays completed a sizeable 6 player trade on Thursday, November 5.
The Mariners acquired Starting Pitcher Nathan Karns, left-handed reliever C.J. Riefenhauser, and Outfield Prospect Boog Powell. The Rays, on the other hand, snagged Shortstop Brad Miller, First Baseman Logan Morrison, and Relief Pitcher Danny Farquhar.
Karns, the latest in the Rays’ constant stream of talented Starting Pitchers, took a little longer to get through the minor leagues than his peers did. The Texas Tech Alum sputtered about in the Nationals farm system until February 2014, when he was traded to Tampa Bay in a package deal for Catcher Jose Lobaton. Karns quickly showed he was almost major league ready. He spent most of the year with the Triple-A Durham Bulls.
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The time to shine for Karns was 2015. Injuries to the starters going in gave him an opportunity to show his stuff at the Major League Level, and he did not disappoint. Karns managed a 3.67 ERA and 1.28 WHIP in his first full season. He even struck out 145 batters in 147 innings.
The 27-year-old was not perfect, however. Karns struggled with keeping the ball down as he gave up 19 Home Runs this season. It may have been more without defensive whiz Kevin Kiermaier behind him. Regardless, “The Trop” is nothing compared to the spacious Safeco field. Karns will likely do better keeping the ball in his new bigger park in 2016.
Tampa Bay’s largest gain may be Brad Miller. The shortstop is 26 years old, and is under team control until 2019. He kept a .258/.329/.402 line this season, with 11 Home Runs and 13 stolen bases.
Miller may follow what the Rays seem to like in his defensive versatility. He’s demonstrated a Ben Zobrist-esque defensive prowess, having played Shortstop, Second base, Third base, and every Outfield position in 2015.
A large effect of Miller and the Mariners parting ways is the opening of a door for Ketel Marte. The 22-year-old now has an easier path to playing time, and after a breakout rookie season will look to take the next step in 2016. Marte is known for being a speedster on the basepaths. He also earns good marks defensively at Short.
Tampa looked to be in need of a power hitter, with incumbent James Loney and former stud Third Baseman Evan Longoria both showing signs of aging. Morrison will be entering his physical prime soon, and look to capitalize on an opportunity with a new team.
It wouldn’t be the first time Morrison showed brilliance either. It may be hard for even him to remember, but LoMo’s 2011 and 2012 campaigns with the Florida Marlins were quite impressive. In his first full season, after breaking out as a rookie, the Kansas City native slashed .247/.330/.468. He also hit 23 Long-balls and 25 doubles in those 123 games.
Maybe the team’s identity change messed with Morrison, because with the Miami Marlins and Seattle Mariners he could never quite recover his shine. He did, however, post his second highest HR total last year with 17.
While he may not have any major league experience, Boog Powell’s value in this trade should not be overlooked. Powell has moved around a bit in his young career, coming in from Oakland in the Ben Zobrist blockbuster trade last offseason.
Powell is heralded for his defense in centerfield, as well as having an advanced approach at the plate with impressive discipline. The 22-year-old had a .385 OBP and swiped 18 bags between Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham in 2015.
The pitcher heading back to the Rays, Farquhar had an off year. He had trouble with Home Runs just like Karns did, and struggled to the tune of a 5.12 ERA. The right hander finished last season 1-8.
On the other hand, southpaw C.J. Riefenhauser might be a nice addition to Seattle’s blossoming bullpen. The 25-year-old is still learning how to pitch at the Major League level. He does,however, bear a career 2.77 ERA and 1.09 WHIP in the minor leagues.
At the end of the day, it is difficult to find a clear winner or loser in this trade. It may depend on how well the Rays’ farm system does. Top prospect Blake Snell is a potential Ace, and trading away Karns has cleared up a rotation spot. Only time will tell who made out better.
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