The Seattle Mariners executed a trade on Thursday morning, shipping off fan-favorite third baseman Eugenio Suárez to the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for catcher Seby Zavala and pitcher Carlos Vargas.
Suárez, who has one guaranteed year left on his contract, along with a club option for 2025, is coming off a down offensive season in which he slashed .232/.323/.391/.714 with 22 home runs and a 102 wRC+. That is a step back from where he was in 2022 when he posted a 130 wRC+.
That being said, Suárez still finished with over three fWAR this past year due to the best defensive numbers of his career. He was a stalwart at the hot corner and had a real case to be a Gold Glove finalist. For the year, he corralled 11 OAA, ranking in the 97th percentile in all of baseball and tied for the third most among all third basemen.
Above all, he was beloved not just in the city but very much so by the surrounding guys in his own clubhouse, constantly providing beams of energy and positivity. The reactions from his teammates following the trade speak for themselves:
While it is unlikely the two players the Mariners got in return will move boulders, there are things about both Zavala and Vargas that fit what the team is looking for.
Zavala is touted for his plus defense behind the plate. He posted 7 blocks above average, ranking in the 85th percentile of the league (per Baseball Savant). He is also considered an above-average pitch framer. For a club in need of a backup catcher, given the probable departure of Tom Murphy, Zavala fits the mold with his glove, which is the more important asset for a backup catcher. The only issue is his bat.
In 2022, Zavala held his own at the plate, hitting .270 with a 110 wRC+ and walking above 9% of the time. Those numbers will play. But the .171 clip and 45 wRC+ he posted across 73 games in 2023 are a much tougher pill to swallow. The Mariners are clearly buying into the potential of another bounce-back candidate in hopes that he can find his best self with a change of scenery and a brand new ballclub.
Vargas has barely thrown any big league innings (4.2 to be exact), but there are aspects of his profile that do stand out.
The 24-year-old possesses a 4.82 ERA in the minor leagues across 90 appearances, and he has had control issues, as evidenced by his 1.553 WHIP. Still, he has big-time stuff that could help him develop into a back-end reliever.
Vargas throws four pitches: a fastball, cutter, sinker and changeup. His fastball topped out at 101 MPH while averaging over 99 MPH in each of his five big league outings last year. And the pitch gets swings and misses. The question now becomes whether the Mariners can mold him into an effective reliever.
Not every hard-throwing arm finds success. But it’s common knowledge that Seattle has been a bullpen factory since 2021 and has churned out dominant arms. They clearly feel they can do the same with Vargas.
However, as the Mariners currently sit, their roster is worse than it was at the end of the 2023 season. While Suárez and Teoscar Hernéndez were prone to strikeouts, they were still often impact bats.
Now, the team has two fewer of those bats, and that is in addition to the departure of reliever Isaiah Campbell, who put up a 2.83 ERA last year. He was flipped to the Red Sox for Luis Urías this past weekend. So far, neither of the two trades the Mariners have made have moved the needle to make the team even marginally better.
If a ball rolled down to third base at this moment, it would be Urías manning the hot corner, a guy who had a forgettable 2023 campaign with an 83 wRC+ at the plate and -3 OAA in the field. That does not feel like a good long-term solution for a team that claims to be contending for a World Series.
Where does that leave Seattle? With the need for three impact bats this winter.
Before the trade of Suárez, many would say they were in need of two. But between needs at DH, at least one outfield spot, and now third base, there is a trio of positions that the team could fill with a true thumper. Their offense before this trade wasn’t exactly world-beating, and it certainly is not now.
In terms of clubhouse chemistry, the Mariners have traded two staples down to the desert over the last four months in Suárez and Paul Sewald. We know how outspoken Mariners players were at the end of the year about ownership and the front office needing to commit the dollars to turn the team into a World Series contender. It’s hard to imagine this latest trade inspired the clubhouse, to say the least.
Ultimately, this is likely a precursor to more moves for Jerry Dipoto and crew. Still, the front office is going to have to prove capable of executing game-changing acquisitions.
When all is said and done, this could very well be one step back to take two steps forward, but at the moment, this trade has certainly not created “Good Vibes Only,” as Eugenio Suárez famously hollers.