The Mariners and Diamondbacks trade young big leaguers, reportedly agreeing a one-for-one deal to move outfielder/DH Kyle Lewis to Arizona. The Mariners bring back catcher/outfielder Cooper Hummel in return.
Lewis is the most famous of the players involved. Seattle’s first round pick in 2016, he bounced back from an ACL tear in his right knee suffered during his first professional season to climb the minor league rankings. The Mercer University product reached the major leagues late in the 2019 season and he looked like he had cemented himself as a key part of the organization the following year.
During the abbreviated 2020 campaign, Lewis appeared in 58 games and recorded 242 at bats. He hit 11 home runs and ran a fantastic 14% of his trips en route to a .262/.364/.437 line. That offensive production was 27 percentage points above the league average, according to wRC+, and earned him the American League Rookie of the Year award.
Few would have thought that Lewis would spend only two more years in Seattle after that season, but he quickly plummeted down the depth chart. That’s due less to performance than to an unfortunate streak of injuries in his right knee, which has proven consistently problematic. Lewis started the 2021 campaign on the injured list and an April return proved short-lived. He went back on the shelf in early June and the M’s subsequently announced that he had suffered a meniscus tear. He ended up missing the rest of the season and had not recovered in time for the start of this year.
Lewis opened the 2022 campaign back at the IL. He was reinstated on May 25, nearly a full calendar year since his previous MLB game. Unfortunately, after a handful of matches, he suffered a concussion and spent another two months on the IL. Lewis returned in late July, appearing in 14 more games and then optioned to Triple-A Tacoma. He spent the rest of the season there, but had a solid performance, hitting a .245/.362/.517 line with 12 home runs in 42 games there.
There is clear risk for the D-Backs as they face a player who has appeared in just 54 MLB games in the past two years. He has never won 58 big league-games in a season and has only 130 career games and 526 at bats to his credit. Still, it’s just as easy to see the pull for general manager Mike Hazen and his group to roll the dice on Lewis. During his one healthy season, he displayed the obvious power and plate discipline that made him such a valued contender. There’s quite a bit of swing-and-miss in his game, but he’s got a shot at being a middle-class bat if he’s healthy.
Lewis spent some time in center field as a minor leaguer and early in his big league-career, but he was almost exclusively a designated hitter last season. He is able to account for the outfield in the corner and might still be able to light up the middle if needed, but the Diamondbacks won’t rely on him much, if at all, in midfield. Corbin Caroll, Daulton Varsho, Jake McCarthy and Alex Thomas are all talented defenders, and Carroll and Varsho seem to be getting a lot of playing time in the middle in particular. Hazen has expressed a willingness to deal one of those players if it helps him elsewhere on the roster, but Arizona’s depth of more defenders should give them the chance to keep Lewis off his feet for the most part as a DH.
Adding some right-handed pop was also a major off-season goal for Arizona, and Lewis could be a right-handed powerhouse in the desert in the long run. He is only 27 years old and has two years and 146 days of Major League-service. That qualifies him for early arbitration as a Super Two player, but MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projects him for just a $1.2 million salary. He’s eligible for arbitration through 2026, and the injuries early in his career have kept Lewis from building the kind of resume that would hitherto be richly rewarded by that process.
Lewis’s departure will come as a shock to Mariners fans, but it looked increasingly likely that Seattle would pull out of the corner outfield after the takeover Teoscar Hernandez from the Blue Jays yesterday. As another right-handed right fielder/DH, Hernández made Lewis an arguably redundant presence on the roster. Julie Rodriguez has cemented himself as the franchise’s midfielder, and the M’s still have some internal options – Jesse Winker, Jarred Kelenic, Taylor Trammel, Sam Haggerty and Dylan Moore – as left field options. The M’s have reportedly thrown Winker’s name into trade talks, but they could look at a left field upgrade or rely on some of their younger options, even sending the former Red elsewhere.
In exchange for Lewis, they bring in a player with a little more defensive flexibility. Hummel, 28 next month, was first drafted by the Brewers in 2016. Arizona acquired him at the 2021 trade deadline in a deal that sent veteran infielder Edward Escobar to Milwaukee. The right-handed hitter was on a .254/.435/.508 line in Triple-A at the time and the Snakes gave him his first big league opportunity this year.
Hummel struggled over his first 66 MLB games, batting just .176/.274/.307 with three home runs in 201 at bats. He hit out a whopping 31.8% of his at bats in that time, but he ran at a strong clip of 11.4%. Hummel also continued to score well with Arizona’s leading minor league affiliate, hitting a .310/.423/.527 line in 33 games in Reno. In just over 500 career plate appearances at the Triple-A level, the Oregon native has a .310/.429/.540 line with an incredible 16.7% run percentage.
On the defensive side of the ball, Hummel split his time between catcher and the outfield in the corner. He got 14 MLB starts behind the saucer and 17 apiece in left field and designated hitter. Prospect reviewers never considered Hummel an everyday catcher, but the M’s don’t need him to be with them Cal Raleigh as their franchise backstop. Hummel can play a role as an occasional catcher and outfield option off the bench, and he can still be elected to the minor leagues in any of the next two years. He is a flexible low who has less than a full year of big league duty. In any case, he will not be eligible for arbitration until after the 2024 season.
ESPN’s Jeff Passan first reported that the D-Backs and Mariners were trading Lewis and Hummel.
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