'Tough day' trading Lewis for C/OF Hummel

Mariners deal 2020 AL ROY to D-backs ahead of non-tender deadline

November 19th, 2022

SEATTLE -- The Kyle Lewis era in Seattle is officially over, as the Mariners announced on Thursday that they’ve traded the 2020 AL Rookie of the Year Award winner to Arizona in exchange for catcher/outfielder Cooper Hummel, a one-for-one deal.

Mariners receive: OF/C Cooper Hummel
D-backs receive: OF Kyle Lewis

"It's a tough day for us, the day we moved Kyle, because he's always been a Mariner," president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto said Friday.

The move came 24 hours ahead of the MLB non-tender deadline, at which point the Mariners -- operating with a full 40-man roster -- would’ve needed to decide on whether to tender a 2023 contract for Lewis, who was limited to 18 games last year and struggled to a .143/.226/.304 (.529 OPS) slash line. His availability was limited to DH after returning from the third surgery on his right knee in his pro career, though he did play three games in the field.

Lewis then suffered a concussion after four games that sidelined him nearly two months, after which he went 4-for-41 with 18 strikeouts. He was eventually optioned to Triple-A Tacoma, where he finished the season.

Even after the Mariners acquired former All-Star Teoscar Hernández from Toronto on Wednesday, their outfield composition still carried uncertainty, and Lewis was perhaps the biggest question mark given that he only played the field in an MLB game thrice since suffering a torn right meniscus on May 31, 2021, which required surgery and wound up ending his season despite multiple comeback attempts.

"He is a wonderful human being who had some really difficult circumstances to deal with and adversities over the course of his time with the Mariners," Dipoto said. "We thought that this was the right thing to do for both parties. I think Kyle needed a fresh start, something new."

Lewis' inconsistent availability in 2022 made his roster spot a liability -- especially as the Mariners battled for a postseason berth. That quandary would’ve only continued heading into Spring Training, where Lewis would’ve already been behind Jesse Winker, Jarred Kelenic and Sam Haggerty for outfield playing time. At DH, the club wants to rotate players to build in rest rather than use one player for that role.

For rebuilding Arizona, which needs righty-hitting outfielders, Lewis should have a clearer role.

"Where we are in our development and where we believe we are on the win curve, we needed some certainty headed into the year, and we didn't feel like we could get that in betting on Kyle in this situation," Dipoto said. "But we'd love to see him go out there and tear it up."

As for Hummel, his profile fits what Seattle’s front office covets. He switch-hits and offers defensive versatility in a unique way as a hybrid outfielder and catcher, the latter being a work in progress after he moved into Arizona’s backup role there to finish 2022. But the club challenged him to better his craft recently in the Arizona Fall League.

"The catching data is pretty positive," Dipoto said.

As was the case during his time with the D-backs, backup catching is probably the clearest path for Hummel to contribute in Seattle. Cal Raleigh is firmly the starter after a breakout 2022, and he should be recovered from offseason surgery on the torn UCL in his left thumb by Spring Training. Tom Murphy should also be back after undergoing season-ending surgery to repair a dislocated left shoulder in June. And Luis Torrens was among three players non-tendered on Friday.

It all points to Hummel -- who isn’t eligible for arbitration until after 2025 and free agency after 2028 -- having a chance to play his way into playing time this spring.

In 66 games in 2022, when he made his MLB debut, Hummel hit .176/.274/.307 (.580 OPS) with three homers, three triples, eight doubles and 17 RBIs for a 66 OPS+ and 65 wRC+ (league average for both is 100), and he was worth minus-0.8 wins above replacement, per FanGraphs. Over parts of six Minor League seasons, the 27-year-old carries a .264/.397/.445 (.842 OPS) slash line, headlined by that huge on-base percentage.

"He does a lot of really interesting things in the batter's box," Dipoto said. "We very much value the the ability to manage the strike zone and he does that about as well as you can do it in the Minor Leagues for sure. And a lot of that, at least from a discipline standpoint -- taking your walks, swinging at the right pitches -- translated at the big leagues. Now, it's just a matter of giving him enough runway."

The Mariners recently had success with a late-blooming catcher in Austin Nola from 2019-20, who at age 29 debuted and emerged as a key contributor during their rebuild and who was the centerpiece of a 2020 Trade Deadline deal that netted Ty France, Andrés Muñoz, Taylor Trammell and Torrens from San Diego.