The Seattle Mariners aren’t afraid to risk it all. Since Jerry Dipoto became the GM, the club has been willing to make bold deals. Earlier in the offseason, they traded off the promising 24-year-old pitcher Taijaun Walker, and last year they gave struggling outfielder Leonys Martin a chance.
In a shocking move, in exchange for outfielder Seth Smith, the Mariners have added Yovani Gallardo, a pitcher from the Baltimore Orioles. Seattle will also be receiving money for the deal, though the exact amount is currently unknown.
On the surface, this seems like a strange choice. The Mariners were heading into the season with a questionable back-end, but it’s not clear whether or not Gallardo helps.
2016 was a mess for Gallardo. While his strikeout rate came back slightly, he walked 11.6% of the batters he faced, a career-high. Home runs became a major issue, as Gallardo allowed 16 in only 118 innings. His 5.42 ERA was the worst of his career, and his 5.04 FIP wasn’t any better. It’s tough to look over Gallardo’s 2016 stat line and find a positive.
However, the Mariners are still giving him a shot as the fifth starter. Now that Gallardo is away from Camden Yards, his rate of home runs should drop. Though his numbers have been dropping for years now, he only truly collapsed last season. Gallardo’s injury in 2016 may have led to his struggles. And he did see his strikeout rate increase a little.
It’s possible that the Mariners saw those factors and thought Gallardo could bounce back as long as he stays healthy. While pitching in Texas in 2015, his strikeout and walk rates weren’t great, but he still managed a 3.42 ERA.
Hopefully, they made the right choice, because Seth Smith is still a very useful player. It’s tough to be upset over losing a part-time 34-year-old outfielder, but Smith succeeds in the role. He hardly ever hits high averages, but he’s able to post solid on-base percentages with modest power. Smith will certainly help Baltimore in 2017.
The Mariners likely made a good salary out of the deal. Smith and Gallardo are currently under team control, but Smith comes at a lower price. He will make $7 million in 2017, and Gallardo will make $11 million. Gallardo will have a team option of $13 million for 2018, but only if he bounces back.
The Mariners need more depth in the back-end, but it’s unclear whether or not Gallardo is the right answer. And while Smith isn’t a major loss, he still gives them some value.
As Dipoto has shown in his time with the club, he’s not afraid of taking chances. Gallardo is not only the most recent but may be the biggest risk Dipoto has taken thus far.