Mariners acquire outfielder Martin from Rangers in four-player trade
SEATTLE -- High on Jerry Dipoto's list when he took over as general manager of the Seattle Mariners was building an outfield that was athletic and played to the strengths of their home park.
Finding a center fielder was the priority, and Dipoto accomplished that task on Monday. The Mariners acquired Leonys Martin from Texas as part of a four-player trade that sent right-handed reliever Tom Wilhelmsen to the Rangers.
"I think we get one of the premier defensive center fielders in baseball. He's been among the best in the league over these last three years," Dipoto said. "He's coming off of a down year and frankly that's when you acquire guys. There was a soft spot in the ability to go acquire Leonys and we took advantage of that."
Texas also obtained outfielder James Jones in the deal and a player to be named, while Seattle received right-handed reliever Anthony Bass. It was the third significant trade by Dipoto just in the past two weeks.
Martin signed a $15.5 million, five-year contract with the Rangers in May 2011 that included a $5 million signing bonus. It was one of the largest-ever contracts for a Cuban defector at the time, before deals for guys like Jose Abreu and Yoenis Cespedes.
He defected after playing for Cuba's national team in Japan at the FISU World University Championships in July and August, 2010.
Martin is coming off a down year with the Rangers but is excellent defensively and likely moves into the starting center field role. Martin played in 92 games and hit just .219 in 95 games, missing most of August and September after breaking a bone in his right hand, but still had 13 outfield assists. Martin was left off the Rangers postseason roster and then refused to go to Arizona for workouts.
With Martin out rookie Delino DeShields emerged as the everyday center fielder and Rangers leadoff hitter.
Texas general manager Jon Daniels said Martin's refusal to go to Arizona was something the club could have worked past but could have been a "secondary factor" in the willingness to make the trade.
"If we felt we got value, that it fit for the club, then we were willing to talk about him, but it wasn't something we felt we had to move him," Daniels said.
Two seasons ago, Martin hit .274 in 155 games but his inconsistency at the plate is a concern. Martin struck out more than 100 times in each of his first two seasons. Dipoto views Martin in the lower-half of Seattle's batting order.
"We're going to bring his skill-set on board and allow him to do the things that he does well and we'll take advantage of those things and position him appropriately to do that," Dipoto said.
Wilhelmsen was 2-2 with a 3.19 ERA and had 13 saves after transitioning into the closer's role late in the season. He's pitched in a variety of spots with the Mariners as a starter, long reliever and a closer. Texas views Wilhelmsen as another option in a strong bullpen.
"Power `pen, multiple different looks, multiple guys that can pitch, really in any capacity at the back end and in winning situation," Daniels said. "I really like how that sets us up."
Dipoto said Bass could be an option as a No. 5 starter if needed and fills the need for a right-hander in the bullpen who can pitch in long relief. Bass made 33 relief appearances for the Rangers last season and had a 4.50 ERA.
Jones appeared in 28 games for Seattle last season but hit .103 in just 29 at-bats.