The Mariners and Braves teamed up for a rare prospect-for-prospect trade Monday. Atlanta received Alex Jackson and a player to be named later from Seattle in exchange for right-handers Rob Whalen and Max Povse. Both teams have announced the trade.
Whalen is the only one of the three players involved to play in the big leagues, and even then he's only thrown 24 2/3 career innings, all with the Braves in 2016. Atlanta originally acquired him from the Mets in the Juan Uribe/Kelly Johnson trade in 2015.
Even though none of the players involved in the deal have had an impact the MLB level, this is still an interesting trade for a few reasons. Let's break it down.
1. Jackson was the 6th overall pick in 2014
The Mariners selected Jackson out of a San Diego area high school with the sixth overall pick in the 2014 draft. He was the first outfielder taken in that draft and the second prep bat selected behind Nick Gordon, Dee's brother, who went fifth overall to the Twins.
Jackson, 20, has not lived up to the expectations associated with being the sixth overall pick, however. He's a career .233/.327/.399 hitter with a 28.1 percent strikeout rate in 192 pro games, none above Low Class-A. The Braves are taking a chance on his talent. The kid was the sixth overall pick less than three years ago and they want to see if they can get him back on track. It's a worthwhile gamble.
2. The Mariners get some needed pitching depth
Even before sending Taijuan Walker to the Diamondbacks in the Jean Segura trade, pitching depth figured to be a priority for the Mariners this offseason. Whalen's big-league numbers were ugly (6.57 ERA), but he had a 2.40 ERA with 112 strikeouts in 120 innings at Double-A and Triple-A in 2016, so he immediately becomes an MLB option for Seattle.
Povse finished last season with a 2.93 ERA in 11 Double-A starts and may very well be the top pitching prospect in the Mariners' system right now.
Povse MIGHT be the best starting pitching prospect in Seattle's system now. Plus fastball, plus change, pounds the strike zone.— Christopher Crawford (@Crawford_MILB) November 29, 2016
He's going to need some more time in the minors before having an impact -- Whalen could help right away -- but Povse has a ton of ability and gives the Mariners a quality pitching prospect.
3. The Braves are now turning their arms into bats
According to MLB.com's rankings, the Braves just traded their 20th (Povse) and 22nd (Whalen) best prospects for the Mariners' sixth best prospect (Jackson). Atlanta has a very deep farm system, so Jackson won't be their sixth best prospect, but the point is they traded two arms for a bat.
The Braves have spent the last few seasons stockpiling pitching prospects, and now they're in the process of trading some of those arms for position players. Young pitching is the most valuable commodity in the game. It can net you anything in a trade. The Braves were able to turn Shelby Miller into Dansby Swanson and Ender Inciarte, and now Whalen and Povse have become Jackson. Expect to see similar arms-for-bats deals going forward.
4. The player to be named situation is interesting
At this time of the year, players to be named later are usually minor leaguers eligible for the Rule 5 Draft. The deadline for teams to set their 40-man roster for the Rule 5 Draft was Nov. 18, and the actual Rule 5 Draft is Dec. 8, and eligible players cannot be traded between those two dates. Teams get around that by including them in trades as players to named later.
The Braves could have their eye on a Rule 5 Draft eligible player from Seattle's system, and once the draft is over, the two sides will complete the deal. I know it's easy to overlook players to be named because they rarely amount to anything, but at this time of the offseason, there is usually a lot going on behind the scenes with a trade like that.