The Seattle Mariners are deadset on making sure nobody can predict what they’re going to do next this offseason. Less than an hour after acquiring Mallex Smith from the Atlanta Braves, the Mariners flipped Smith, minor league shortstop Carlos Vargas, and left-handed pitching prospect Ryan Yarbrough to the Tampa Bay Rays for lefty Drew Smyly. The trade was announced via the Rays official Twitter account.
#Rays have acquired OF Mallex Smith, minor league SS Carlos Vargas & minor league LHP Ryan Yarbrough from SEA in exchange for LHP Drew Smyly
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) January 11, 2017
Mariners Flip Mallex Smith for Drew Smyly
Earlier today, the 23-year-old Smith was one of the Atlanta Braves top prospects. He hit .296 with 229 steals over the course of five minor league seasons, and had already displayed that speed and good defense in the outfield at the major league level. While his bat has yet to truly adjust to MLB pitching, he showed signs of figuring it out at various points last year. Still very young, Smith should develop his approach and become a solid contributor for Tampa Bay.
Vargas is just 17 years old and played his first minor league season in 2016. A native of the Dominican Republic, Vargas hit .242 with seven home runs in 62 games at the Rookie level. Yarbrough, 25, has played three seasons of minor league ball and made it to Double-A in 2016. For his career, he owns a 3.09 ERA with 245 strikeouts in 267.2 innings. Last season was perhaps his best; he pitched to a 2.96 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP, while striking out 99. If he continues that development, he could be a good seventh inning guy for the Rays one day.
The Mariners, in return, received Smyly. The 27-year-old came up with the Detroit Tigers in 2012, and became a member of the Rays during the 2014 season. He was converted into a full-time starter in 2015. That year, he was on his way to posting a career-best season before injuries derailed that particular train. Across 66.2 innings, he had a 3.11 ERA, a 1.17 WHIP, and 77 strikeouts. Unfortunately, though he was able to make 30 starts in 2016, he did not find the same success. The strikeout numbers were still there, if down slightly, but he allowed 32 home runs and saw his ERA balloon to 4.88.
Smyly is still young and has the potential to turn it around as he enters what should be his prime. In the immediate future, he should slot in as the Mariners fourth starter, behind Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, and James Paxton. Yovani Gallardo, also recently acquired, should become the fifth starter. The Mariners rotation now appears set for 2017.