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The Tampa Bay Rays announced Wednesday they traded Drew Smyly to the Seattle Mariners for Mallex Smith and two minor leaguers, Carlos Vargas and Ryan Yarbrough.
Smyly, one of the centerpieces of the trade that sent David Price to the Detroit Tigers in 2014, went 7-12 with a 4.88 ERA in 30 starts for the Rays last year.
The Mariners shared a statement from general manager Jerry Dipoto:
#Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto on the acquisition of starter @SmylyD. pic.twitter.com/IIiWuX6rbn
— Mariners (@Mariners) January 11, 2017
Smith appeared in 72 games for the Atlanta Braves, batting .238 with three home runs and 22 RBI. He was with the Mariners for roughly an hour. Seattle announced earlier in the day they had acquired the 23-year-old.
The Seattle Times‘ Larry Stone remembers Smith’s time in the Pacific Northwest fondly:
I’ll never forget the Mallex Smith era in Seattle. 45 of the most exciting minutes ever.
— Larry Stone (@StoneLarry) January 11, 2017
Dipoto hasn’t been shy about turning over the roster and minor league farm system to remake the organization. Since taking over in September 2015, he’s made 36 trades, the most by one team during that span, according to ESPN Stats & Info.
Smyly will likely be Seattle’s No. 4 starter in 2017. In Felix Hernandez, James Paxton and Hisashi Iwakuma, the Mariners have three starting pitchers who can anchor the rotation. Smyly provides further depth. He’s also under team control through 2018, so he shouldn’t be just a one-year rental.
The Seattle Times‘ Ryan Divish noted Smith was the final piece Dipoto needed before he could pull the trigger on the Smyly deal.
Smith is a bit like Cincinnati Reds outfielder Billy Hamilton in that he boasts impressive speed, but questions remain about whether he can get on base enough to make the most of his baserunning ability. After posting a .382 on-base percentage in five minor league seasons, Smith had a .316 on-base percentage in his 215 big league plate appearances last year.
The Rays ranked 28th in batting average (.243) and 27th in on-base percentage (.307) in 2016, so Smith’s issues at the plate are concerning. He’s still young, though, so he’ll have plenty of time to iron out his offensive issues.
Neither Vargas nor Yarbrough will likely help Tampa Bay right away. The 17-year-old Vargas played in 62 Dominican Summer League games, posting a .242/.344/.391 slash line. Yarbrough made 25 starts for Seattle’s Double-A affiliate, going 12-4 with a 2.95 ERA.
Vargas and Yarbrough will help bolster a Rays farm system that has lost a lot of talent in recent years.