Last off-season, Seattle Mariners General Manager Jerry Dipoto treated his organization like a teenager does his MLB The Show team. It was pretty glorious. As of February 2017, he had made an eye-popping 37 trades since becoming the new decision maker for the M’s at the end of September 2015.
One of those deals involved the acquisition of left-handed starting pitcher Drew Smyly. The Mariners sent Mallex Smith —acquired earlier in the same day from the Atlanta Braves for pitching prospect Luiz Gohara— and two prospects to the Tampa Bay Rays for Smyly.
Unfortunately, Smyly missed the entire 2017 season with a strained elbow that eventually required Tommy John surgery. Thankfully, Seattle controls him for another season. But this isn’t about him. (Though I’m a fan.)
On the other end, the speed-oriented Smith had a fine season in a relatively small sample size for Tampa Bay. He bested his .263 AAA average with a .270 major league mark in 256 at-bats, stealing 37 bases across the two levels.
The Rays also acquired a pair of prospects in the swap of MLB players. Infielder Carlos Vargas and left-handed pitcher Ryan Yarbrough both entered the Rays organization and to date, are each listed in the club’s Top 30 Prospects on MLB.com.
The 18-year old Vargas is a year away from being a few more years away, while Yarbrough was one of the integral pieces for the Durham Bulls 2017 championship squad.
Yarbrough led the International League with 159 strikeouts, all the while walking a minuscule 39 batters in 157.1 innings, adding up to a 1.16 WHIP that called a 3.43 ERA its brother.
The Bulls were strikeout mavens, their total of 1,421 K’s 172 better than any other team in the league. The 25-year old Yarbrough was at the center of the expedition and also went an impressive 13 wins to just six losses in 26 starts.
The success didn’t come out of nowhere, as the lefty was also pinpoint spectacular in 2016 with Seattle’s old Double-A Jackson club, posting spectacular numbers that included a 2.95 ERA and 1.11 WHIP.
He’ll be expected to carve out a role in the bullpen or perhaps back of the rotation for the Rays next season. On the Rays roster, to be sure.
The trade was a complete loss this season for Seattle, but next year hopefully proves redeeming and healthy for Smyly. Adversely, the trio haul for Tampa Bay looks mighty fine at the moment, highlighted by the strong development of Yarbrough.