By 2016, the Mariners knew they were financially all in, by their standards, but the young core had evaporated. Of the eleven players who got the most AB’s that season, only three were 30 or younger. And only one of those—Kyle Seager—was from the original vision of 2013.
The homegrown foundation had disintegrated from under the free agent superstructure.
They have since compounded that by making their worst mistake of this run: They decided to act in half measures.
For 2016, that meant mediocre free agents were brought in. Players such as 34-year old LF Norichika Aoki, 32-year old 1B Adam Lind and 33-year old C Chris Iannetta became the main players at their positions.
In 2017, that meant trading for young, promising players: 25-year old LF Ben Gamel came over from the Yankees; 27-year old SS Jean Segura and 26-year old Mitch Haniger were acquired from the Diamondbacks—along with not as young 32-year old 1B Danny Valencia, bartered out of Oakland—and 32-year old CF Jarrod Dyson from Kansas City.
In fact, the only homegrown starter last season was 26-year old C Mike Zunino. All the other position players were either free agents or players from other teams.
Let’s Not Argue
I understand the argument that trading for minor league players is akin to promoting from within your system, but none of these players were sent into the minors. No matter how they were acquired, they immediately became starters. That makes them all in the same category as free agents.
For a Yankees reference, think of Starlin Castro. He was a mid-20’s player whom the Yankees traded for. But he had played in the majors already and was traded for to be a starter. That is the case for almost every one of the M’s acquisitions.
That’s different than, say, with a Gleyber Torres, a player who had not played above High-A when the Yankees fitted him for pinstripes.