With most of the baseball world about to shut down for the Thanksgiving holiday, we have our most substantial trade of the young offseason so far. Per a report from Mark Feinsand, the Arizona Diamondbacks are set to acquire third baseman Eugenio Suarez from the Seattle Mariners in exchange for catcher Seby Zavala and reliever Carlos Vargas.
The D-backs are acquiring Eugenio Suarez from the Mariners, per source.— Mark Feinsand (@Feinsand) November 22, 2023
Zavala, 29, was drafted by the White Sox in 2015 and spent his first four Major League seasons in Chicago. Arizona picked him up off waivers late last season to serve as Gabriel Moreno’s backup, and he hit well in very limited playing time, slashing .357/.471/.429 over 17 plate appearances. Overall, though, he profiles as the prototypical backup catcher, with a solid glove but very light bat: He holds a lifetime .545 OPS at the big-league level, and he’ll likely spell Mariners backstop Cal Raleigh only against left-handed pitching.
Vargas, meanwhile, got his first taste of MLB action in 2023, posting a 5.79 ERA in 4.2 innings before being sent down to Triple-A in mid-April. He didn’t fare much better in the Minors, pitching to a 7.02 mark in 38 appearances. The 24-year-old righty has a live arm and a wicked slider, but he profiles as purely a reliever at this point and has struggled mightily with his command thus far in his career.
When we previewed the Diamondbacks’ offseason earlier this month, we focused on two needs: starting pitcher and third base. It remains to be seen how GM Mike Hazen will address the team’s rotation depth, but he now has his answer at the hot corner in Suarez. The former All-Star slashed .232/.323/.391 while once again leading the AL in strikeouts in 2023, but he also popped 22 homers and drove on 96 runs. Suarez certainly has his warts, but at this point we know who he is: a guy who will strike out a ton but hopefully compensate for it with walks and homers while playing very solid defense. That’s a pretty good fit for an otherwise contact-oriented D-backs lineup, especially considering how thin the third-base market was otherwise; Matt Chapman is the only free agent of note, while it remains to be seen whether someone like the Reds’ Jonathan India will be made available via trade. Suarez isn’t flashy, but he fills a clear need and should once again deliver nice value in the final year of a team-friendly contract.
For the Mariners, meanwhile ... well, here’s hoping this is the prelude to something far bigger. GM Jerry Dipoto (and GM John Stanton) have earned plenty of scorn in Seattle for a reluctance to get aggressive over the past 18 months or so, and dealing Suarez for spare parts — without an obvious replacement on the current roster — certainly won’t help matters. A righty-hitting backup catcher was on the offseason to-do list, and this team has a strong track record of developing wild cards like Vargas into electric relievers, but it’s hard to feel like this deal is about anything more than dumping salary. Maybe those savings will be rolled over into, say, making a run at Juan Soto; given Dipoto’s now-infamous “54 percent” comments, however, it’s hard to have a ton of confidence. Seattle has a young core ready to contend now, but they need a lot more help.