Mariners' trade of J.J. Putz is the gift that keeps on giving
Just receiving Franklin Gutierrez would have made the J.J. Putz trade a good one for the Mariners. But Seattle also got several talented youngsters in the deal.
Seattle Times staff reporter
PEORIA, Ariz. — A hustling Jack Zduriencik had to scramble Tuesday for a firsthand look at all the fruits of a trade gift that keeps on giving.
There was much ground to cover on various fields at the team's training complex if Zduriencik wanted to view all his trade receipts just 14 months after the swap that brought him Franklin Gutierrez and several players in exchange for a package centered on J.J. Putz. Gutierrez's reputation has grown such that it might today take that entire package of outward-bound players just to secure his services and yet, there are still plenty of other pieces to that deal materializing in Seattle's favor.
Zduriencik blanches about any declarations of a one-sided rout.
"I don't ever want to walk away from a deal, I don't ever want to approach a deal thinking, 'I'm winning this thing,' " he said Tuesday, after Seattle completed its final intrasquad affair ahead of Wednesday's Cactus League opener against the San Francisco Giants. "I want the other club to feel this is the right thing for them and for us. Because we're going to deal with each other for years to come and it's all about honesty and credibility and reputation."
Diplomatic words, to be sure. But if this trade was a Little League game, the mercy rule would have been invoked months ago.
Seattle landed center fielder Gutierrez, 27, from the Cleveland Indians and outfielder Endy Chavez, left-handed pitcher Jason Vargas and reliever Aaron Heilman (later flipped for lefty pitcher Garrett Olson), first baseman Mike Carp, outfielder Ezequiel Carrera and pitcher Maikel Cleto from the New York Mets. In exchange, Seattle sent Putz to the Mets with reliever Sean Green and outfielder Jeremy Reed while infielder Luis Valbuena went to the Indians — who also got reliever Joe Smith from New York.
All of the players Seattle received are still here except Chavez, recovering from a midseason injury and on a minor-league deal with Texas.
Gutierrez had the best defensive rating of any outfielder in baseball in a number of metrics, while Chavez was a regular contributor until his injury. Vargas, Olson and Carp all saw time in the majors last season.
Cleto had visa problems last year but is one of the hardest-throwing arms in Seattle's system, while Carrera was a Class AA all-star who hit .337 and is now in the big-league camp.
On the flip side, Green is the only player still with the Mets after an inconsistent season in which lefties posted a .784 on-base-plus-slugging percentage (OPS) against him. Putz suffered elbow problems all year and is now with the Chicago White Sox, while Reed is with the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Indians played Valbuena, 24, in 103 games, though he had a sub-.300 on-base percentage. Smith, 25, made 37 relief appearances and posted a 3.44 earned-run average with 30 strikeouts and 13 walks in 34 innings.
Still, those returns are pretty slim if Gutierrez keeps progressing.
The Mariners are looking at Olson and Vargas for their fifth-starter vacancy or a long-relief job. They have Carp as first-base insurance, though he'll likely start in Class AAA.
"I've been working at improving all aspects of my game," Carp said. "I made it to the majors last year, which was my goal. Now I need to build on that. My defense is something I'm working on a lot. They have (Casey) Kotchman now and I'm watching a lot of what he does because he's so good with the glove."
But the best guys, other than Gutierrez, might be the ones yet to reach the majors. Carrera, 22, had an .857 OPS, won a batting crown and played three outfield positions in his first Class AA season. He's on the 40-man roster and walked and scored the decisive run of Tuesday's intrasquad game.
And then there's Cleto, 20, a Dominican with a mid-to-high-90s fastball, whose visa problems limited him to just 25-1/3 innings of low Class A ball last season. But he struck out 24 batters during those innings and now, visa issues resolved, is ready for a full season. He threw a solid bullpen session watched by Zduriencik the other day.
Zduriencik insists trades like these can't be evaluated by looking at all teams the same way.
"I think that any of these deals you make, the other club knows what it wants," he said. "The Mets wanted to contend and had J.J. Putz stayed healthy and had Sean Green did what he was supposed to do there, it would have helped. It's unfortunate, but who can predict an injury? If one or two of our guys go down this year, does that mean it was a bad deal for us? Of course not."
But for Mariners fans still haunted by past trade fleecings, having this deal stare them in the face all spring long sure doesn't hurt.
Geoff Baker: 206-464-8286 or email@example.com.
Read his daily blog at www.seattletimes.com/Mariners
When vice president of Sub Pop Records Megan Jasper isn't running things at the office, she's working in her garden at her West Seattle home where she and her husband Brian spend time relaxing.