Mariners add outfielder Martin in deal with Rangers
Club lands center fielder, reliever Bass, parts with Wilhelmsen, Jones
By Greg Johns
SEATTLE -- The rapid evolution of the Mariners' roster under new general manager Jerry Dipoto continued Monday, as the club acquired center fielder Leonys Martin and right-handed reliever Anthony Bass from the Rangers in exchange for part-time closer Tom Wilhelmsen, outfielder James Jones and a player to be named.
"The addition of Martin gives us a premier defensive center fielder," said Dipoto. "His athleticism and speed will be strong additions to our lineup as we continue to mold the roster. Bass will give our club added flexibility and depth in our bullpen."
Martin, 27, is coming off a down year with the Rangers, but he was their starting center fielder in 2013-14 before losing that spot to Delino DeShields during an injury-plagued 2015 season. Martin hit .219 with 26 runs, 12 doubles, five home runs and 14 stolen bases in 95 games.
Martin underwent surgery on Aug. 26 to remove the hamate bone in his right hand, then appeared in just one game later in the season. Dipoto said Martin checked out 100 percent medically.
"He's coming off a down year, and frankly, that's when you acquire guys," Dipoto said. "There was a soft spot in acquiring Leonys, and we took advantage of that."
New bench coach Tim Bogar, who was bench coach and interim manager for the Rangers in 2014, and outfielder Nelson Cruz both speak highly of Martin from their time with him in Texas.
"Tim obviously helped a great deal," Dipoto said. "Leonys performed very well for Bogey in Texas, and he knows the player's makeup. Nelson Cruz also had very positive things to say. This is another guy that we've targeted from the very get-go. His down year, some can be attributed to just plain bad luck. This is is a guy that has put up 9 1/2 WAR [wins above replacement] in the last three years, and that's not insignificant. He's a legitimate starting center fielder."
Seattle also re-signed veteran left fielder Franklin Gutierrez to a one-year, $1.5 million deal last week.
"We're starting to see an assemblance of the outfield, with Seth Smith and Guti in left, Martin in center and Cruz in right," Dipoto said. "Now we just need to add some pieces of glue around them."
Dipoto said he's "probably not done" adding to the outfield, looking to bolster right field so that Cruz can again split time between there and designated hitter.
The bullpen also remains under construction. The latest move costs the Mariners an established late-inning reliever in Wilhelmsen, a 31-year-old right-hander who saved 13 games last season after taking over the closer's role from Fernando Rodney. In five seasons with Seattle, Wilhelmsen posted a 2.97 ERA with 294 strikeouts in 312 1/3 innings, while collecting 67 saves.
The Mariners receive a younger right-hander back in Bass, a 28-year-old who posted a 4.40 ERA in 33 appearances with Texas last year. He previously pitched for the Padres in 2011-13 and the Astros in 2014, and he has a career ERA of 4.50 in 129 games, including 18 starts.
"He's not strictly a reliever," Dipoto said. "He has some history as a starter. His big appeal is he's a righty who can go multiple innings, which we really didn't have on staff. He can pitch in a swing role, compete for a fifth-starter spot. And nobody has really tried to unleash Anthony Bass and seen what he looks like in a short role. He can touch 97 mph, but normally sits more around 92, so I'm not sure what the result would be in a shorter sprint. He's flexible and versatile and that's been a theme to our offseason so far."
Dipoto said the Mariners weren't looking to move Wilhelmsen, but the addition of Benoit opened up the possibility to move him for a center-field upgrade.
Jones, 27, is headed to the Rangers after playing 28 games in the outfield for Seattle last year while hitting .103 (3-for-29) in limited duty.
Martin and Bass are both entering their first year of arbitration eligibility and figure to make between $1 million to $1.5 million in 2016. They're both under team control for the next three years. Wilhelmsen took the Mariners to arbitration last year and lost his case, receiving $1.4 million instead of his requested $2.2 million. He figured to land in the $3 million range this coming season, and then he has one more year of control before becoming a free agent.
With 15 homers, 67 steals and a .268 average from 2013-14, Martin has the bat and wheels to make an impact in standard mixed leagues if he can recover from a disappointing '15 campaign. Expected to be the Mariners' regular center fielder, the Cuban native should be among the American League leaders in stolen bases next season. Meanwhile, this trade will have little fantasy impact on the Rangers' organization. Last season, DeShields asserted himself as the center-field starter over Martin, and the right-handed Wilhelmsen will be hard-pressed to see more than the sporadic save chance.