Don't have an account?
Join the Best Live Fantasy Chat Community!

Lost password? [X]

Receive free daily analysis:


Already have an account? Log in here.


Forgot Password


Mariners on the Rebuild - Fantasy Impact

Over the weekend, the New York Mets and the Seattle Mariners closed a long-gestating agreement to exchange money, pro talent, and young assets.

The M’s continued their descent into “Tank City” by unloading slugger Robinson Cano and his $120 million contract along with cheap All-Star closer Edwin Diaz in exchange for less expensive but less good slugger Jay Bruce, more expensive and way less-good reliever Anthony Swarzak, outfielder Jarred Kelenic, and pitching prospects Justin Dunn and Gerson Bautista.

That’s a whole lot of movement with a lot of implications to break down, and Rotoballer will be unpacking each angle from a fantasy perspective. Here, we’ll explore players coming to the Mariners, what it means for other Seattle assets, and how this will impact the 2019 season.

Editor's Note: Get any full-season MLB Premium Pass for 50% off, with exclusive access to our season-long articles, 15 in-season lineup tools and over 200 days of expert DFS research/tools. Sign Up Now!


Big Trade, Small Return

Seattle fans are probably bummed, and they probably should be. After all, trade returns for top relievers have been incredible over the last few seasons. Three seasons ago, the Cubs gave up uber-prospect Gleyber Torres for Aroldis Chapman, and Andrew Miller cost the Indians’ two of their top prospects in Clint Frazier and Justus Sheffield. Two seasons ago, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle were dealt for a package that included Blake Rutherford, then considered a top-30 prospect. Even last year, though returns were down, saw Brad Hand and Adam Cimber netting the Padres catcher Francisco Meija, one of the best catching prospects in the last 20 years. So to say that Diaz, either the best reliever in baseball or number two to Blake Treinen depending on who you talk to, would be dealt along with an aging slugger for two prospects that are maybe at the back end of the top 100 prospects in baseball and financial relief is probably a tough pill to swallow for M’s fans.

The two big leaguers, outfielder Jay Bruce and reliever Anthony Swarzak, are here more as line items on a budget than as clubhouse assets. Swarzak, for example, is almost worthless as a fantasy player thanks to a propensity to having his pitches hit hard and far. The two-year contract that the Mets gave Swarzak was almost immediately a disaster, as the then 32-year-old was paid thanks to a career year in 2017 that saw him generate 2.2 WAR. Of course, he had only generated 1.2 WAR over the first eight seasons of his career, but recency bias is a thing. Sure enough, the Mets expecting a pitcher in his 30s to replicate a career year didn't work out so well, and Swarzak's injury-filled 2018 ended with ghastly 6.15 ERA and a career-worst hard hit percentage of 34.3%. Whatever he had in 2017 was gone, and there is little evidence that it'll return. The Mariners are already going to run out a reliever reclamation project in Juan Nicasio. There's little chance that Swarzak sees high-leverage innings, and thus can be avoided and ignored in all fantasy leagues.

Which brings us to Bruce, the most impactful player coming back to Seattle in terms of the upcoming 2019 season. The 31-year-old is the dictionary definition of a replacement level player, save for a 2017 season which saw him put up a .254/.324/.508 with a career-best 36 home runs. He was a better fantasy player than real one, as anyone that can launch 20-30 home runs per season has a place in lineups. But Bruce is kind of like the Blake Bortles of baseball, good counting numbers despite playing all around bad baseball. He's never been a good hitter, and that distinction came to a head in 2018 when his power abandoned him. An ugly .223/.310/.370 with just nine home runs and a career-worst .147 ISO. As soon as Bruce lost the ability to pop the ball off the bat, he became worthless.

Of course, there's always the chance for the aging veteran to get enough run that he becomes valuable, and it's in this context that Bruce is most interesting. It's way too early for reliable ADP data, but don't expect him to show up on many top 300 lists. He'll either be undrafted or a final round selection in 2019, and with results like he had last season, I can't really argue. But Bruce's fat contract all but guarantees that he'll be a Mariner for the next two seasons, and with Seattle tearing it down to the studs they likely won't be a competitive team in 2019, leaving all of those at-bats to Bruce. In fact, they may try to feature him in hopes of him hitting enough to trade, an unlikely outcome. But despite Bruce's replacement-level reputation, this is a guy who has hit 20+ home runs in eight of his 10 seasons in the bigs. It's unlikely that all of that pop just went away, meaning there is a chance to grab a 20 home run outfielder for almost nothing. You'll want to make sure to use him exclusively as a platoon bat, but if he can produce anything close to his .256/.330/.486 against righties, he could be a real bargain.


Seattle's Plan (They Have One, Right?)

But make no mistake, the crux of this deal lies with Seattle’s ability to develop outfielder Jarred Kelenic and starter Justin Dunn. Both players were first-round picks of the Mets from 2018 and 2017, but their lofty draft status covers up less than ideal scouting profiles for both. Kelenic was drafted eighth overall and was considered the most advanced high school bat available. He plays center now, but isn’t likely to stick there long term. Unlike many highly drafted high school bats, however, the 19-year-old lacks the loud tools common among the more exciting prospects in the game. Kelenic’s ceiling is lower, but the feeling is that his floor is high. He’ll very likely be a big leaguer, but just how good of a big leaguer is entirely dependent upon him developing better game power.

As far as 2019 is concerned, the only name to know from the Seattle perspective is Dunn. College relievers tend to move quickly as long as they continue to develop and their stuff plays, and both are true in Dunn’s case. The 23-year-old has a 93-97 mph heater with good movement, two above-average breaking pitches, and a developing but potentially nasty changeup. Some scouts think that three of his pitches, specifically the fastball, changeup, and curveball, could be legitimate out pitches, which gives him a larger repertoire than most relievers. He has strong command of all of his pitches, and he struck out more than 10 batters per nine in 134.4 innings last season across high A and double A. And all that is great, but Dunn may be a better asset for deep keeper and dynasty leagues. Seattle is firmly entrenched in a total teardown and, if Dunn turns out to be a high-value reliever as the Mariners certainly hope, there’s no reason to move start the service time clock earlier than they need to. At this point, Dunn is a name to watch for late 2019 and nothing more.

Unfortunately for M’s fans, a “low-ceiling, high-floor” high schooler and a potential backend reliever are pretty light returns for Diaz, who is under team control for the next four years and will make just $570K in 2019, which is also 16 times what Swarzak will make. Had the Mariners waited until the trade deadline to deal arguably the most valuable reliever in baseball, they might have received a similar haul to what the Cubs sent the Yankees during the 2016 season. If I were an M’s fan, I’d be furious over this deal. Of course, none of that matters for your fantasy team, so I’ll get down off of my soapbox now.


Bottom Line

In terms of the fantasy impact for 2019, you can expect many more Mariners to get dealt as the off-season drags on. Shortstop Jean Segura is already expected to be dealt to Philadelphia in exchange for J.P. Crawford and other prospects. Along with catcher Mike Zunino, starting pitcher James Paxton, utility outfielder Guillermo Heredia, reliever Alex Colome, players like Mitch Haniger, Nelson Cruz, Marco Gonzales, Juan Nicasio, Dee Gordon, and perhaps even Felix Hernandez should expect to spend all or parts of 2019 with a different organization.

That leaves a metric ton of holes in the lineup, and you might have heard that Seattle had the worst farm system in baseball before the Diaz deal. With a desire to clear as much salary as possible and no incentive to promote their few good prospects, it is unclear who will be filling all of these vacancies. It is most likely that a mix of inexpensive veterans such as Denard Span or Cameron Maybin, both of whom finished last season in Seattle, and more limited prospects like designated hitter Dan Vogelbach, middle infielder Donnie Walton, and starters Rob Whaley and Max Povse. Expect to see a lot of names that you’ve never heard from getting at-bats.

Of course, this creates an opportunity. Every team that runs out older and less regarded prospects to “see what they have” occasionally runs into a player that becomes genuinely useful in fantasy. Players like Tommy Pham, Jose Pirela, Ryan O’Hearn, and Jake Cave became important contributors on fantasy championship teams over the last few seasons despite receiving little to no buzz when they were called up. Baseball is littered with success stories that scouts never saw coming. Whether or not Seattle will run one of these surprises out and who that will be is anyone’s guess, but you can count of Rotoballer to keep an eye out.

More Recent Articles


Thursday Night Football Matchups Analysis - Week 11

Thursday Night Football came down to the wire in Week 10, with Melvin Gordon looking like his old self while rumbling for 108 rushing yards and a score on 22 carries. Unfortunately for the Los Angeles Chargers, poor clock management from Philip Rivers stymied any hope of surmounting a late Oakland Raiders 18-yard rushing touchdown... Read More

Keep Stashing Running Backs the Right Way

Hells to the yeah, my fellow #AllBenchRB truthers. For those of you who don’t know what #AllBenchRB is, let me give you a short recap before I get to the goods. #AllBenchRB is a strategy I’ve coined where you fill your bench with, as the name implies, only RBs. Or at least as many running... Read More

Warning Signs: Saquon Barkley, David Johnson, Aaron Rodgers

Another week, another bout of crazy results. While survivor pools came to a screeching halt with the Saints and Colts losing, there were also some worrying situations that crept up for fantasy teams. This week brings many questions. What should we do with the Atlanta run game? The answer there is nothing. How do we... Read More

NFL Survivor Pool Picks (Week 11) - Targets and Avoids

Doomsday finally arrived. The Falcons' domination of the Saints eliminated the majority of remaining entrants in survivor pools. If you avoided the Saints, odds are you took the Colts in the late game. Of course, the Dolphins beat them as well. More upsets were found as the Titans beat the Chiefs, the Steelers manhandled the... Read More

Quarterback Leaderboards At Midseason - NFL Next Gen Stats

We've consumed our first "double-digit week" set of games. That means we've entered the final part of the season and, in fact, the fantasy football playoffs are closer than you may realize. There are just three more weeks to go until we hit Week 14 and celebrate our presence in the run for the chip,... Read More

Fantasy Football Disaster Recovery: Cooper Kupp

Welcome to Disaster Recovery, where each week I'll examine why your studs played like duds. This isn't a place to find out why you should have sat a player for somebody else on your bench. Disaster Recovery is here to examine the guys who you didn't think twice about starting and to help you decide if you should... Read More

The Tape Tells All - Christian Kirk Fantasy Analysis

Welcome to another edition of "The Tape Tells All," where I break down some film of an NFL's player performance and try to draw some fantasy football conclusions from that film. This week, I'm looking at Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Christian Kirk, who broke out in Week 10, catching three touchdowns. Kirk seems to have... Read More

Fantasy Football Risers and Fallers - Darius Slayton, Christian Kirk, Kareem Hunt

Whether due to their own play, the play of others, or injuries, players' stock increases and decreases on a weekly basis. Perhaps more than any other, the NFL is a league that experiences ups and downs at a rapid pace. With only 16 games, there’s little room for error and seemingly endless opportunities for improvement.... Read More

FAAB Bidding - Week 11 Waiver Wire Targets

Assisting our famous waiver wire pickups list, and our weekly waiver wire columns by position, this column focuses on suggested waiver wire bidding percentages for fantasy football owners in leagues using a Free Agent Acquisition Budget (FAAB). As a caveat, these prices do not by any means indicate how much these free agent players will... Read More

Week 11 Waiver Wire Pickups & Adds

It's crunch time, with precious few games left before the fantasy regular season ends. There aren't many new names emerging on the waiver wire at this juncture but the RB situations in Atlanta and Detroit bear watching, while the Jets passing game has shown signs of life. No, really. Each week, we will advise you... Read More

Deeper League Free Agent Pickups for Week 11

Rotoballers, if you're not active on the waiver wire this time of year, there are only two reasonable explanations: 1) You're sitting at 3-7 (or worse) and don't find it enjoyable to play spoiler to your league mates, or 2) You're 8-2 (or better) and have nothing but matchup-proof studs on your starting lineup and... Read More

Week 11 Defense (DEF) Streamers and Starts - 2019 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

Below are RotoBaller's Week 11 defense tiers and rankings, or which defenses to stream, start and target off the waiver wire for Week 11 of the NFL and fantasy football season. In case you missed it, this is our seventh year now writing this weekly column. Our weekly tiered defense rankings are a guide to making waiver... Read More

Week 11 Kicker Streamers and Starts - 2019 Fantasy Tiers, Rankings

It's Week 11, and we're getting closer and closer to the fantasy football playoffs. The consistent options are getting more and more clear, especially at the kicking position. We're also going to start dealing with everyone's favorite factor, which is inclement weather, especially up north. The margin for error in these weeks is slim, and... Read More

Week 10 Surprises? We Must Overreact Immediately!

In Week 10, Christian Kirk, Darius Slayton, Tyreek Hill, and Michael Thomas all had beatable cornerback matchups and finished as the top-four wide receivers in PPR scoring. At running back, Derrick Henry exploited a poor Chiefs run defense and rumbled for 188 yards and two touchdowns, finishing as the No. 1 running back on the week. Ronald... Read More

The Cut List - Players on the Chopping Block (Week 11)

This is your weekly list of players to drop. I will do my best to limit this list to injured players and players you might consider holding. If you roster pure handcuffs or backups, obviously you can let them go at any time. The players on this list will, ideally, be guys that aren't clearly... Read More