BY Jim Caple 08:01AM 10/11/2019

The Mariners who made the playoffs elsewhere

As the Johnny Appleseed of MLB, the Mariners scattered 16 players throughout the postseason. Whether their turn comes is anyone’s guess.

James Paxton became the Yankees’ No. 1 starter. / Alan Chitlik, Sportspress Northwest

As the sports world knows, the Mariners haven’t been to the postseason for 18 years, an absence longer than any current franchise in baseball, football or basketball. But at least 16 of the players they have traded or let go the past couple years reached the postseason this month, including several for the first time.

At least some people with Seattle ties are enjoying personally the MLB postseason.

Begin with the Tampa Bay Rays, who had the most former Mariners on their postseason roster. That includes pitcher Ryan Yarbrough, whom general manager Jerry Dipoto traded to the Rays in January 2017 (along with Mallex Smith and Carlos Vargas) for starter Drew Smyly. He had shoulder issues in Seattle and never pitched here.

In 2018, Yarbrough went 16-6 with a 3.91 ERA, and this year 11-6 with a 4.13 ERA. He also got the Game 4 win in the ALDS against Houston by pitching two scoreless innings.

That’s something Felix Hernandez never got to do.

Last winter the Mariners also traded Mike Zunino and Guillermo Heredia to the Rays. While on the postseason roster, Zunino did not play in the wild card game against Oakland, or when Tampa Bay lost in the five-game ALDS. Which is not surprising since Zunino played only 90 games and batted just .165. (Heredia was not on the postseason roster.)

Others on the Rays include Ji-Man Choi, who signed as a free agent with Seattle in 2008 but never made the majors with them. He homered in the first game Tampa Bay won against Houston. Emilio Pagan went 2-3 with a 3.22 ERA in his only season with the Mariners in 2017 and then was traded to the Athletics. With the Rays, he didn’t allow an earned run in his postseason relief appearances. Chaz Roe spent one minor league season with the Mariners in 2010 but left the team as a free agent and pitches for the Rays, though he didn’t have a good ALDS.

Meanwhile, the Mariners re-obtained Smith in the Zunino trade, along with Jake Fraley. Smith hit .227 with six home runs this season but did steal a league-leading 46 bases. He also is a very fun guy. Fraley hit just .150 in 40 at-bats with the Mariners after playing mostly in the minors.

The next team with several former Mariners are the Yankees. Last winter Dipoto traded to them James Paxton, the Mariners’ best pitcher the previous two seasons. He went 15-6  with a 3.82 ERA for New York and also started Game 1 of the ALDS against the Twins, whom the Yankees beat in three games. Although no eagle landed on his shoulder that game.

In exchange, the Mariners received Justus Sheffield, who was 0-1 with a 5.50 ERA in eight games, Erik Swanson, who was 1-5 with a 5.74 ERA in 27 games, and Don Thompson-Williams, who batted .234 at AA Arkansas.

Their acquisitions were not about 2019.

Edwin Encarnacion also is with the Yankees. The Mariners took on his big contract last winter but dealt him to New York in June though he was leading the league with 21 homers. He hit 13 more homers with the Yankees and batted .308 in the ALDS.

Cameron Maybin, who played with Seattle in 2018, was let go during free agency and signed with New York. He homered the last inning of the final game against Minnesota. J.A. Happ was traded by the Mariners to Pittsburgh in 2015. He threw one scoreless inning in the opener against Minnesota.

Next are the Twins.

DH Nelson Cruz, whom the Mariners did not re-sign last winter despite averaging about 40 home runs and 100 RBIs, with three All-Star appearances, in four seasons with Seattle, signed with the Twins. He hit .311 with 41 home runs and 108 RBIs. This was his first postseason since 2014, and also hit a home run.

Zack Littell was traded to the Yankees after the 2016 season for James Pazos and now plays for the Twins. He was the losing pitcher in Game 1.

By the way, the Twins lost their 16th consecutive postseason game, the longest losing streak in playoff history, with 13 against New York. Perhaps Minnesota should watch the Mariners’ famous 1995 playoff series against the Yankees and learn how to beat them. And maybe sign Edgar, Junior and Randy Johnson.

Reliever Hunter Strickland, whom the Mariners signed as a free agent in January, was traded to the Washington Nationals July 31. He wasn’t healthy or good with the Mariners – 0-1 with an 8.10 ERA in four games – nor did he have a good postseason, allowing four runs in two games. Still, he might get to pitch in the upcoming NLCS.

(Roenis Elias also was in that Strickland trade after he had gone 4-2 with a 3.64 ERA in 44 games last year with Seattle. He did not make the postseason due to an injury.)

Seattle got minor leaguers Elvis Alvarado and Aaron Fletcher from the Nationals, along with Taylor Guilbeau, who pitched 17 games with Seattle and had a 3.65 ERA. He has rare near-term value.

Reliever Fernando Rodney played two seasons for the Mariners — he had 48 saves in 2014 – and was traded. He is with Washington and pitched 1.2 scoreless innings against the Dodgers. Asdrubal Cabrera was drafted by the Mariners in 2002 but never played for them and was traded in 2006. He’s also with the Nationals.

The Mariners dealt starting pitcher Wade Miley to Baltimore in 2016 for Ariel Miranda, whom they released last year. Miley now pitches for the Astros, where he went 14-6 with a 3.98 ERA, but allowed three runs in 2.2 innings when Houston lost its first game to the Rays.

Chris Taylor was drafted by the Mariners, but they traded him to the Dodgers in 2106 for Zach Lee, who never played for Seattle. Taylor batted  .125 in the NLDS that the Dodgers, winners of 106 games, lost in stunning fashion to the Nats.

Not all the players the Mariners unloaded made it to this year’s postseason, however. They may as well have stayed with Seattle.

Dipoto dealt Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz to the Mets, who didn’t make the playoffs. Perhaps they would have made the postseason, though, had Cano and Diaz played better. In only 107 games, Cano hit .256 with 13 home runs. Diaz declined as well. After saving an amazing 57 games with a 1.96 ERA for Seattle in 2018, he was 2-7 with a 5.59 ERA and 26 saves.

Not that all the players the Mariners traded for – Jay Bruce, Anthony Swarzak, Gerson Bautista, Justin Dunn and Jarred Kelenic — had great major-league seasons, either. Bruce and Swarzak were traded to the Phillies and Atlanta (Swarzak was not on Atlanta’s postseason roster) while Bautista was 0-1 with an 11.00 ERA in eight games with Seattle.

Dunn, however, had a 2.70 ERA in four starts. The 20-year-old Kelenic spent the season in the minors for four teams at the A and AA levels and has star potential.

So the Mariners over the past few seasons traded away or let go nearly a team of playoff-caliber players. In return, they have prospects and some hope. The franchise history says they too, will be traded.

Then again, they can take a little reflective pride in helping build the Tampa Bay Rays into contenders.



  • Kevin Lynch

    The failed vision of Mariners GM’s reminds me of the English composer Purcell. He was said to be “genetically incapable of composing a bad melody”. The M’s have had an inexplicable run of GM’s that have been singularly gifted to see potential trade results that wind up in reverse of their expectations. The magically pick the wrong crystal ball almost every time.

    • art thiel

      Gillick seemed to do well, although his FA acquisitions cost the M’s lots of high draft picks. And the book isn’t closed on Dipoto. None have bet more on the future at once than him.

  • coug73

    While walking the waterfront recently I passed a wino with a Mariners hat who was mumbling “I could have been a contender”. I find it entertaining watching former Mariners having success with other organizations.

    • Tian Biao

      Opposing GM’s must literally sprint the phone whenever the M’s call. They can’t answer that thing fast enough.

      • art thiel

        Dipoto really needs to have some of these guys make it big in 2020.

    • art thiel

      In fairness, every team trades players who succeed elsewhere. But typically not for 43 years with modest returns.

      • Husky73

        Marlins won the WS and had a bigger tear down than Seattle. Then, they won the WS again.

  • Husky73

    I think you can literally take any team in MLB and build close to an all star team out of players that have passed through their system over the years.

    • art thiel

      Generally true. But few have tried so many at once. Which was the purpose behind the story.

  • WestCoastBias79

    Bless these lucky few who were liberated.

    • Steve Buckholdt

      It was the happiest day of their professional lives when they got away from Seattle and its culture and acceptance of losing.

      • art thiel

        I had no idea it was a Seattle-culture thing. Attendance was down mo4e than 600,000 from 2018.

    • art thiel

      They needed to throw the bedsheet rope back over the wall to help others.