New Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto has been working quickly to remake the Mariners, and his latest trade brought in the team's likely starting center fielder for 2016. Martin struggled in 2015 and lost his job to Delino DeShields Jr. but he was a 3.5-WAR player in 2013 and 4.6 in 2014, thanks to some excellent defensive metrics. If he can compete to that value, acquiring him for a reliever will be a great deal for Dipoto.
Most Defensive Runs Saved Due to Deterrent Value of Arm - Last 3 Seasons Leonys Martin 25 Yoenis Cespedes 23— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) November 17, 2015
Martin's defense remained strong in 2015 with 15 defensive runs saved, but he hit just .219/.264/.313 and the Rangers considered not tendering him a contract. But for the Mariners, he's a big upgrade defensively; the Mariners were last in the majors in 2015 with minus-45 defensive runs saved in the outfield. Martin turns 28 in April and still has three years left of team control. If he can bounce back with the bat, the Mariners will fill a position that has been problematic for the past several seasons, ever since Franklin Gutierrez couldn't stay healthy. Austin Jackson was a disappointment in 2014 and then was traded to the Cubs in 2015 as he headed into free agency.
One of Dipoto's main priorities was to get more athletic in the outfield, which means more Nelson Cruz at DH and Mark Trumbo at first base instead of a corner outfield position. This is one of those acquisitions that may not work if Martin flops with the bat, but there's upside here for the Mariners, making it a deal that is worth the risk.
For the Rangers, they acquire a solid reliever for a guy who didn't figure into their plans for 2016, so it's a good trade for them as well. Wilhelmsen has served as the Mariners' closer at various times in the past four years, although his best season came in 2014 when he served in a setup role and posted a 2.27 ERA. When Wilhelmsen broke out in 2012 with 29 saves, he was primarily a two-pitch pitcher, with a mid-90s fastball and hammer curveball. But he's lost feel for the curve in recent seasons and only threw it 10 percent of the time in 2015 after throwing it 28 percent of the time in 2012. He's added a changeup and slider into his mix to compensate. His command can be a little shaky, as he nibbles too much instead of going after hitters, so he's best suited as a sixth- or seventh-inning guy rather than a primary setup guy.
Jon Daniels is looking to replicate the bullpen depth of the Royals. The Texas bullpen now includes Shawn Tolleson, Sam Dyson, Jake Diekman, Wilhelmsen, Keone Kela, Sam Freeman and bounce-back candidate Tanner Scheppers. The bullpen was a key reason for the Rangers' second-half surge to the AL West title with a 3.06 ERA over the final two months, after Dyson and Diekman were acquired in trades. It's a group with a lot of power arms that has the potential to be one of the better pens in the majors in 2016.
For more on the Rangers, check out the One Strike Away blog.