Mariners get Teoscar from Jays for pair of pitchers

November 17th, 2022

SEATTLE -- The first blockbuster trade of the offseason has been made, and perhaps fittingly, Jerry Dipoto is involved.

The Mariners’ president of baseball operations and general manager Justin Hollander finalized a deal with the Blue Jays for All-Star outfielder and two-time Silver Slugger Award winner . In return, Seattle sent leverage reliever Erik Swanson and left-handed pitching prospect Adam Macko to Toronto.

Both teams announced the deal early Wednesday morning.

Mariners get:
OF Teoscar Hernández
Blue Jays get: RHP Erik Swanson, LHP Adam Macko (No. 8 prospect, per MLB Pipeline)

“For me, it feels like it's a new chapter for myself,” Hernández said. “And I think I'm going to enjoy it the best that I can. I'm going to give everything that I’ve got to the Seattle Mariners.”

Hernández provides an immediate power upgrade to a lineup that needed it last year, even with a 90-win season that culminated in a playoff berth. He’ll also fill the corner outfield spot that Dipoto was publicly attempting to address after opting not to extend Mitch Haniger a $19.65 million qualifying offer.

“I don't know that it affects Mitch substantially more or less than anything else we might do,” Hollander said. “We felt like a goal that we had in the offseason was we needed to get more dangerous offensively, either by adding length throughout the lineup or adding a middle-of-the-order impact bat.”

Hernández, 30, is entering his final year of arbitration eligibility and is projected to earn $10.65 million, per Cot's Baseball Contracts, meaning that he’ll be a free agent after 2023. Throughout the Mariners’ rebuild, they’ve preferred players with lengthy club control, but that’s changed as they’ve entered a competitive window.

“We felt like the value was worth it because of the difference he can make, even if it's just for a year,” Hollander said. “We hope it's not, but even if it's just for a year, we felt like it was too good an opportunity to pass up on.”

The 6-foot-2, 215-pound slugger slashed .267/.316/.491 (.807 OPS) last season with 25 homers, 77 RBIs, 35 doubles, one triple and 71 runs scored, good for a 127 OPS+, 129 wRC+ (league average for both is 100) and 2.4 wins above replacement, per FanGraphs. He’s hit at least 20 homers in each year since 2018 (other than the COVID-shortened 2020), and if he’s able to replicate that production, it should give the Mariners a big boost.

Seattle ranked 17th last year in slugging percentage (.390) and 10th in homers (197). Most of those were hit by Eugenio Suárez (31), Cal Raleigh (27) and Julio Rodríguez (28), who on Monday was named the AL Rookie of the Year. Aside from those three, however, the Mariners could be boom-or-bust at the plate, especially early in the season.

Hernández crushed two emphatic homers in Game 2 of the AL Wild Card Series against the Mariners, putting the Blue Jays way ahead before Seattle stormed to a historic comeback.

“I kind of see the same thing that was going on in Toronto,” Hernández said, referencing the Blue Jays also emerging from a rebuild recently. “They have a pretty good group of guys that are really special, and I saw what they can do on a baseball field when they beat us in the Wild Card. I think that’s the most exciting part.”

Hernández broke out in 2020, when he hit .289/.340/.579 (.919 OPS) with 16 homers in just 50 games, before delivering an All-Star performance in 2021, when he hit .296/.346/.524 (.870 OPS) with 32 homers. His power will play everywhere, even pitcher-friendly T-Mobile Park.

The guys they gave up

Swanson, 29, will be tough to replace after he emerged as one of the most reliable leverage relievers last year, with a 1.68 ERA, a 222 ERA+ (league average is 100), 70 strikeouts and 10 walks in 53 2/3 innings. He’s entering his first year of arbitration eligibility, meaning he won’t become a free agent until after 2025. Toronto needed relief help, and Swanson certainly represents an upgrade.

Macko, 21, spent all of 2022 at High-A Everett, where he compiled a 3.99 ERA across 38 1/3 innings and eight starts, striking out 60, walking 20 and surrendering just four homers. His season was cut short in late May due to a left elbow strain and a right meniscus injury, and he didn’t return until the Arizona Fall League, where he had one start and six relief appearances.

A native of Slovakia, Macko was highly regarded in Seattle’s pitching-heavy farm system, having increased his fastball velocity by up to 10 mph since being taken in the seventh round of the 2019 Draft.

What’s next

This is likely the first big domino to fall in what should be one of the most busy offseasons yet for Dipoto and Hollander. They would also like to add a middle infielder after losing Adam Frazier to free agency, preferably one who will play second base given their desire to keep J.P. Crawford at shortstop.

It’s possible that they could add a corner outfielder given the uncertainty in left field in regard to Jarred Kelenic, who is looking to consistently produce at the MLB level, and Jesse Winker, who underwent surgeries on his neck and left knee in October.

There’s a strong chance they’ll look to upgrade the bullpen, too, now that Swanson left a significant leverage void and that relievers can be fickle year over year.