The Arizona Diamondbacks have acquired Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte from Seattle in exchange for Jean Segura, Mitch Haniger, and Zac Curtis, both clubs announced. [embedit snippet=”1″]
24-year-old Walker is the big addition for Arizona’s new front office regime, having endured quite the struggle with Seattle. A former first round pick, Walker put together a 4.18 ERA during his four years with the Mariners though he was never able to live up to all the hype. Seattle rushed the young right-hander up to the major league level when he made his debut back in 2013 at just 20. Walker’s first outing of his career came on August 30 in Houston when he tossed five innings while giving up one run on two hits to the Astros.
The only season in which Walker had a winning record was 2015 when he went 11-8 but had a 4.56 ERA, sitting among the worst of any AL starter who threw over 160 innings. That year he gave up 25 homers, but that increased to 27 in 2015 despite starting four fewer games. Both Walker and the Diamondbacks will be hoping that a new environment and new direction can help Walker deliver the potential that has always been promised.
Should Arizona decide to hang onto Shelby Miller, Walker will likely start as the team’s fourth starter behind Zack Greinke, Miller, and Robbie Ray, with a variety of others coming to spring training with the hopes of rounding out the rotation.
The other pick up for Arizona is 23-year-old shortstop Ketel Marte who has already played 176 games at the major league level despite being so young. Injury hampered part of his 2016 campaign after spraining his left thumb, though he would go on to hit .259 with 21 doubles and 33 RBIs with 11 stolen bases in his 119 games. That came after Marte made his debut the year prior when he hit .283 with a .753 OPS in 57 games.
With Segura going back to Seattle in the trade, Arizona seems to have found a shortstop they can stick there and develop. Nick Ahmed started 80 games at short while Chris Owings was in the lineup on 65 occasions, but now that pair instead figures to move over to second base and partner Marte, who has less experience at second base.
A switch-hitter, Marte has a rather significant preference for right-handed pitching. Throughout his career, he has a .287 average against righties, but that drops to .233 when facing southpaws. Given his age, Marte isn’t an option to use as part of a platoon, but that split is certainly worth keeping an eye on moving forward.
Speaking of moving forward, Seattle will do so with Jean Segura at shortstop for the 2017 season. Segura showed a lot of promise during his four years in Milwaukee including being nominated for the 2013 All-Star game, but the Brewers moved him on to Arizona last offseason. The right-hander hit .319 last year with 20 long balls, 64 RBIs, and a .867 OPS, as well as a team-leading 41 doubles and 33 stolen bases.
Segura started 133 games at second base last year, but with Robinson Cano entrenched at that position in Seattle, the 26-year-old will slide back over to shortstop where he has played more than 4200 innings during his five years in the big leagues.
Seattle also brought in center fielder Mitch Haniger and left-handed reliever Zac Curtis in the trade. Haniger played 34 games with Arizona last season, hitting .229 with five homers and 17 RBIs while striking out in almost 22% of his plate appearances. According to MLB Pipeline.com, he was the D-Backs 21st best prospect and can play all three outfield positions capably. He’ll likely begin the year at triple-A, though the Mariners may opt to use Haniger as a fifth outfielder and allow him the chance to develop at the highest level.
Curtis meanwhile pitched in 21 games between late April and the end of July last season before spending the rest of the year at double-A. In 13 1/3 MLB innings, Curtis was rocked for 10 runs on 13 hits, two of which were homers. He also walked 13 and struck out just 10. Seattle could potentially allow him to fight for a spot in the bullpen this spring, though it seems inevitable that he’ll begin the year honing his stuff in the minors.
The move seems to suggest the Mariners are in a win-now mode with slugger Nelson Cruz entering the third year of his four-year contract. Segura is three years older than Marte and is entering the prime of his career.
Though he has certainly endured a few ups and downs, Seattle is hoping that he can provide the offense that he had with Arizona last season. Segura can also hit at the top of the lineup where Seattle lost Nori Aoki earlier this offseason.
Many will wonder why Seattle gave up so much for a 26-year-old shortstop, but it seems clear that they want to end their postseason drought while the likes of Cano, Cruz, and Kyle Seager are hitting in the middle of their lineup.
That opportunity only presents itself for a few more years before Cruz re-enters free agency, so they’ll be hoping Segura can help them compete with the likes of Houston and Texas in the AL West. Segura too has only two years before he becomes a free agent. Thus the clock may be ticking for Seattle to make something happen.