Arizona Diamondbacks Trade For Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte
It didn’t take long for the Arizona Diamondbacks new brass to make a significant change in their roster. New General Manager Mike Hazen acquired right-hander Taijuan Walker and shortstop Ketel Marte from the Seattle Mariners on Wednesday night. This move infuses major-league-ready youth and upside into Arizona’s rotation and middle infield.
What They Got
Walker, 24, was the Mariners’ first-round pick out of high school in 2010, but Seattle’s front office and fans have been frustrated by his lack of consistency. His first two+ seasons in the bigs have been somewhat interrupted by injuries, but he has appeared in 68 games, 65 of which have been starts. He has a career 22-22 record with a 4.18 ERA and a 93 ERA+. These are promising numbers for a 24-year-old starter who is still improving as a pitcher. One statistic that could be a major problem, though, is Walker’s career home run rate. He has allowed an astonishing 54 home runs in 357 career innings, which translates to almost 1.4 homers per nine innings. In other words, he gives up at least one homer in every start. Worse still, he has compiled those numbers while pitching half his games at Safeco Field, one of the best pitchers’ parks in baseball. He will now be moving to Arizona, where the thin air and less spacious dimensions make home runs even more problematic for pitchers.
Walker does have a promising career K/BB ratio, with 8.1 strikeouts per nine innings and just 2.4 walks per nine. If he can learn to tamp down on his gofer ball tendencies, he could be an effective, cost-controlled arm in the Arizona rotation alongside last year’s free agent prize Zack Greinke, former first-round pick Archie Bradley, and bounce back candidates Shelby Miller and Patrick Corbin.
Marte, 23, is also a talented player with two years of experience who has shown flashes, but not yet put his game together. The Dominican shortstop, also signed by the Mariners in 2010, broke into the majors in 2015, playing in 57 games. He was a mainstay in Seattle’s lineup in 2016, playing in 119 games. He hit just .259/.287/.323 with one home run and 33 RBIs. He is a promising switch hitter with a good defensive reputation, though, and like Walker, has youth and lots of cheap service time left, which likely tempted the D-backs into acquiring him.
What It Took
Arizona sent the Mariners a middle infielder of their own in 26-year-old Jean Segura, as well as outfield prospect Mitch Haniger and reliever Zac Curtis, both of whom are major-league ready themselves. Segura and Haniger are former Brewers who Arizona acquired for Gerardo Parra in July, 2014.
Segura has an interesting backstory in this deal. He was originally signed by the Los Angeles Angels, and was traded to Milwaukee in 2012 in exchange for now-D-backs ace Greinke. His defensive reputation is good, if not as good as Marte’s, although defensive reputations and statistics tend to stabilize over time, and Segura has four times the playing time that Marte does. In 632 career games, Segura has hit .280/.319/.396 with 43 homers, 208 RBIs and 313 runs scored. He will likely fit in well at the top of the Mariners’ lineup as a speedy contact hitter with the ability to get on base ahead of fellow infielders Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager, two run-producing machines.
Haniger was a first-round pick by the Brewers in 2012 who has progressed slowly because of injuries. He finally had his breakout minor-league season in double and Triple-A for the D-backs in 2016 at the age of 25. In 129 games, he hit a highly respectable .321/.419/.581 with 25 homers and 94 RBIs. He profiles as either a bat-first fourth outfielder, or a corner outfielder with a plus arm if his bat translates well to the bigs.
What It Means
The Mariners had long been rumored to have been shopping Walker for the right hall of talent, and settled on the D-backs offer of a major-league-established middle infielder in Segura, and a potential solution in their somewhat weak outfield as they search for solutions to their recent mediocrity in a relatively winnable AL West. Arizona cleaned house in their front office after a disastrous 2016, when they finished with only 69 wins, just one game ahead of the last place San Diego Padres in the top-heavy NL West. This was even more embarrassing after they went for it last off-season, trading top prospect Dansby Swanson and others for Miller, who was shelled this season, not to mention giving Greinke the most lucrative contract in baseball history. Between the rotation cataloged above, superstar first baseman Paul Goldschmidt and others, they still have a promising roster, but their fans are impatient, and the pressure is on both of these teams to win now. It remains to be seen if this trade will help them do just that.