Mariner’s GM Jack Zduriencik, was poised to trade Michael Saunders, who was productive but injury-prone.
On Wednesday, Saunders was sent to the Blue Jays for pitcher J.A. Happ (now he can hit Yankees’ batters as a Mariner,) an interesting trade between two teams who seem eager to climb the AL ranks in 2015.
The Blue Jays, are happy to take Saunders off the Mariners’ hands, since Colby Rasmus and Melky Cabrera will most likely be lost to free agency. The Blue Jays still need starting pitching to complement their offense, but Happ won’t be a major loss. Happ had a 4.22 ERA last season, going 11-11.
Jay’s GM Alex Anthopoulos already scored this offseason acquiringJosh Donaldson from Oakland, thanks to Brilliant Beane. Getting Saunders isn’t as huge. But The jays did improve with this deal.
J.A. Happ is the Mariners’ return for in the trade with Toronto. (USA TODAY Sports)
Saunders, 28, hit eight homers with a .791 OPS in 78 games for the Mariners in 2014. Despite injuries, his 2.4 Wins Above Replacement were third among Mariners offensive players, according to Baseball Reference. He’s also Canadian, and we know how much Blue Jays fans appreciate that.
Happ, meanwhile, is a bit of a journeymen. He had a pretty good rookie season in 2009 with the Phillies, winning 12 games with a 2.93 ERA and two shutouts. But Happ, 31, hasn’t been that great ever since, pitching for the Astros and Blue Jays.
On the surface, getting Happ doesn’t make much sense for the Mariners, whose rotation is topped by Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma, then filled in by a number of young pitchers including James Paxton and Taijuan Walker.
The trade could, however, be setting up the Mariners to move one of their young pitchers in a trade. They’ve been linked to Matt Kemp, Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton. The price for any of them, most insiders figure, includes one of Seattle’s promising young starters.
The Mariners now have a more glaring need in the outfield and an extra starter on their roster. Perhaps moving Saunders was just phase one of Zduriencik’s plan.