The Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers finalized a five-player intra-division trade that sent center fielder Leonys Martin to the Mariners and power reliever Tom Wilhelmsen to the Rangers on Monday, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Pitcher Anthony Bass joins Martin on the way to Seattle, while the Rangers also received outfielder James Jones and a player to be named later. The deal fills the Mariners’ need for a center fielder and uses the Rangers’ depth in center to round out a roster looking increasingly dangerous as it tries to defend its American League West title.
Martin, 27, came to the Rangers following a defection from Cuba full of trials and tribulations, and after two seasons as Texas’ center fielder, his struggles at the plate and injuries last year forced him to Triple-A. Martin spent most of the past two months on the disabled list after surgery to remove his hamate bone, and the Mariners are banking on his Gold Glove-caliber defense – with arguably the best center-field arm in the game – to carry his bat.
The emergence of Delino DeShields, as well as the breakout season from center-field prospect Lewis Brinson, made Martin a valuable trade chip who drew interest from multiple teams. Wilhelmsen, 31, is a right-hander whose mid-90s fastball is his hallmark and who took a rather arduous path to the major leagues himself.
Texas now has a number of options with its bullpen. It can load Shawn Tolleson, Sam Dyson, Jake Diekman, Keone Kela and Wilhelmsen at the back end and try to play like the Royals, whose power arms helped push them to a championship. Or it could flip a reliever as part of a bigger deal as it looks to fortify a team already with enough redundancies to pull off other deals.
Texas doesn’t have an obvious spot for third baseman Joey Gallo, and Brinson and right fielder Nomar Mazara are blocked for the moment, too. Same goes for Jurickson Profar, whose return in the Arizona Fall League excited other teams enough that he has been a popular trade target.
Even with the loss of free-agent starter Yovani Gallardo, the Rangers’ rotation should be at full strength – and mighty dangerous – come May, with the return of Yu Darvish adding to Cole Hamels, Derek Holland, Martin Perez and Chi-Chi Gonzalez.
Seattle’s overhaul under new general manager Jerry Dipoto is well underway after a trade with Tampa Bay that landed starter Nathan Karns and another with San Diego to acquire Joaquin Benoit. Seattle also re-signed outfielder Franklin Gutierrez to a one-year deal.