SEATTLE — Of the many trades made by Jerry Dipoto since he took over as general manager of the Seattle Mariners in October 2015, and there have been so, so many — more than 80 in total — no organization has been a more frequent trade partner than the Tampa Bay Rays.
Dipoto once joked that he just sat in the corner at the MLB Winter Meetings, making deals with the Rays.
And with Tampa coming to town this weekend, a few familiar faces will return to Seattle from those trades, most notably catcher Mike Zunino and outfielder Guillermo Heredia, who were traded this past offseason.
The teams have made 10 trades since Dipoto assumed control of the Mariners roster.
His first trade as Mariners GM was with the Rays on Nov. 5, 2015, about a month into the job. It was a six-player swap, acquiring right-handed pitcher Nate Karns, outfielder Boog Powell and left-handed reliever C.J. Riefenhauser in exchange for utility player Brad Miller, first baseman Logan Morrison and reliever Danny Farquhar.
And from there a relationship was born.
In those 10 trades, a total of 33 players were moved. Twice the Mariners have reacquired players they traded to the Rays — outfielder Mallex Smith and left-handed pitcher Anthony Misiewicz, who is currently pitching for Class AAA Tacoma.
Smith was part of two of the biggest trades between the teams. He was a Mariner for a total of 77 minutes in January 2017. Seattle acquired him and reliever Shae Simmons from the Braves for pitchers Luiz Gohara and Thomas Burrows. Just over an hour later, Dipoto sent him and two minor leaguers — shortstop Carlos Vargas and left-handed pitcher Ryan Yarbrough — to the Rays in exchange for lefty Drew Smyly.
This offseason he was brought back along with outfielder Jake Fraley in exchange for catcher Zunino, Heredia and minor-league pitcher Michael Plassmeyer.
Despite the frequent number of trades between the teams, Smith is the only player on the Mariners’ active roster from those deals. Fraley would’ve been on the roster if not for a quadriceps injury that landed him on Class AAA Tacoma’s 7-day injured list.
Fraley may end up being the more useful piece from that trade. He tore up Class AA Arkansas and has been solid for Tacoma since being promoted. He will be called up when he’s healthy and ready to return.
Smith hasn’t been able to replicate the success he had with Tampa last season, where he slashed .296/.367/.406 with 27 doubles, 10 triples, two homers, 40 RBI and 40 stolen bases. A slow start at the plate and defensive miscues forced a demotion to Tacoma. He’s played in 95 games this season, slashing .232/.299/.345 with 16 doubles, six triples, five homers, 28 RBI and 31 stolen bases.
The Rays have four players — Zunino, Heredia, Yarbrough and Andrew Kittredge — from those trades on the active roster and two former Mariners that came to Tampa from other organizations in Ji-Man Choi and Emilio Pagan
Zunino has had a disappointing season at the plate, posting a .175/.242/.330 slash line with 10 doubles, a triple, seven homers, 23 RBI and 77 strikeouts in 65 games. A quad injury and the acquisition and production of Travis D’Arnaud has justifiably limited his playing time.
Heredia has played in 66 games, starting just 35 as the fourth outfielder. He’s got a .236/.316/.350 line with nine doubles, three homers and 16 RBI.
Yarbrough, a command left-hander, has started five games and pitched 14 in relief, often times as a bulk pitcher following an opener. He’s got a 10-3 record with a 3.90 ERA. Last season in a similar role, he went 16-6 with a 3.91 ERA.
Kittredge was dealt to Tampa on Nov. 18, 2016, as a minor leaguer along with Dalton Kelly and Dylan Thompson in exchange for infielders Taylor Motter and Richie Shaffer.
A graduate of Ferris High, he pitched for Washington and Bellevue College out of high school and had some success as a reliever in the Mariners system. In parts of three seasons, he’s made 66 appearances, including seven starts, posting a 5.12 ERA. He struggled last season, posting a 7.75 ERA in 33 appearances. This season, he’s 1-0 with a 3.33 ERA in four starts as an opener and 14 relief appearances with 36 strikeouts in 27 innings.
For all the trades and the players shifted in the end, it doesn’t appear that one side was a clear winner in all the transactions — which in essence is the intention of trades.