Mariners get 2 RHPs from Braves for Kelenic, Gonzales, White

December 4th, 2023

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Mere hours after Jerry Dipoto and the rest of the Mariners’ front office touched down in Tennessee for the Winter Meetings, Seattle’s president of baseball operations had executed the first trade at baseball’s premier offseason event. 

And it was as eye-opening as it was confounding.

Mariners receive:
Braves receive: OF Jarred Kelenic, LHP Marco Gonzales, 1B Evan White, cash considerations

Seattle shipped three well-known players, headlined by Jarred Kelenic, to the Braves in exchange for a promising pitching prospect and a mid-to-low-leverage reliever. It also sent cash considerations to Atlanta in the latest move to reallocate the offseason budget.

Also heading to Atlanta are starting pitcher Marco Gonzales (owed $12.25 million in 2023) and first baseman Evan White (owed $7 million in 2023 and $8 million in 2024 with a $2 million buyout after). Kelenic, who isn’t eligible for arbitration until 2025, will earn close to the league minimum.

“There's the obvious, which is that it creates a good deal of payroll flexibility that we do intend to go out and put to immediate use to make our team better,” Dipoto said. “And we're nothing if not industrious in trying to figure out ways that we can improve, and this was one of the things that we needed to make sure we put in place to let that happen.”

It’s unclear how much cash the Mariners sent Atlanta, but by freeing up close to $11 million by trading Eugenio Suárez to Arizona and not extending the $20.325 million qualifying offer to Teoscar Hernández, the Mariners have dipped down to around $116 million for 2024, per Cots Baseball Contracts, down from around $140 million last season.

In a tenuous offseason where fan frustration has reached a fever pitch, Dipoto was again asked about payroll -- specifically if the Mariners are in a position where they must trim.

“Our payroll is very likely to be higher than it was a year ago,” Dipoto said. “So to that end, no. But we needed to create flexibility if we wanted to do things that could make us meaningfully better.”

Asked if he feels that the roster is better than on the final day of the season, both Dipoto and GM Justin Hollander scoffed.

“No, not today,” Hollander said. “Obviously, the offseason doesn't end on Dec. [4]. But not today. We need to go out and we need to get better. And I think before you can do that, you have to create pathways to go do that, and this just opens up more pathways for us to do that.”

So, what’s next -- particularly now that the departure of Kelenic and Hernández leaves the Mariners without the two corner outfielders whom they used most regularly?

“We'd like to add multiple bats to our lineup and continue,” Dipoto said. “We have a really good core on this team, an excellent and deep pitching staff. Certainly, in the early weeks of the offseason, we have taken something away from our team. Now, it's on us to go out and put it back.

“We're not limited to the corner outfield -- just a bat. And if that bat DH's, if that bat subs in as part of an outfield group, we just want to help the offense get better.”

Kelenic was once considered the face of the Mariners’ rebuild, and his acquisition in the blockbuster trade that sent Robinson Canó and Edwin Díaz to the Mets -- coincidentally in a salary dump -- spearheaded Dipoto’s efforts to overhaul an aging roster five years ago.

Kelenic showed glimpses of greatness over parts of three seasons in Seattle but they were often overshadowed by inconsistencies. His temper also came to the forefront, most notably when breaking his foot in July after kicking a Gatorade cooler that sidelined him nearly two months. The Braves are clearly banking on the 24-year-old playing to his full potential.

White was also among the faces of the early rebuild, and the Mariners were so bullish on his upside that they signed him to a six-year, $24 million extension in 2020 before he’d debuted. But multiple core and leg injuries have sidelined him from MLB action since May 2021.

Gonzales was Seattle’s lone holdover from before the rebuild and the club’s longest-tenured player after being acquired in 2017. He missed the final four months of 2023 due to a nerve issue in his pitching elbow that required surgery, though he’s begun his throwing program and is expected to be full-go by Spring Training.

As for the return, Kowar is a former first-round Draft pick whose production hasn’t lived up to that billing since he was selected by the Royals in 2018. Last season, he had a 6.43 ERA with 29 strikeouts and 20 walks in 23 outings.

Phillips, who was the Braves’ No. 7 prospect by MLB Pipeline and who has yet to throw a professional pitch due to Tommy John surgery before the 2022 Draft, is the primary return.