Trades have arguably haunted the Seattle Mariners’ franchise more than any other team in Major League Baseball. Each week we’ll compile the three most-noteworthy trades that have happened between the Mariners and their current opponent.
See our growing list here: Notable Trades
Since January of 2012, the Seattle Mariners and New York Yankees have exchanged eleven different players — nearly all of whom have seen time at the Major League level. Though the Yankees are known more for plucking superstars from smaller market teams than engaging in risky trades, the front office — and the largest payroll in Major League Baseball — has actually had a number of deals that significantly backfired. One of those “backfires” is an important part of Mariners history.
Here are the three most significant trades the Mariners have made with the Yankees:
3. 1995: Mariners trade Tino Martinez, Jim Mecir and Jeff Nelson to Yankees for Russ Davis and Sterling Hitchcock
How it panned out:
Tino Martinez, Seattle’s number one draft pick in 1988, finished the legendary ’95 season with a .293 batting average behind 31 home runs and 111 RBI. With one year left on his contract, the brass in the Mariners front office feared it would cost too much to hold on to the All-Star…so he was dealt to New York (along with relievers Jeff Nelson and Jim Mecir) for third baseman Russ Davis and starting pitcher Sterling Hitchcock. (For the record, Martinez had said he was only expecting a “modest” raise to remain in Seattle.)
Martinez, unsurprisingly, immediately got comfortable in pinstripes and became a fan favorite in the Big Apple overnight. He eased the nerves of Yankees fans who feared Don Mattingly could never be replaced at first base. In his first year with the Bronx Bombers, Martinez held a line of .292/.364/.466 along with 25 home runs and 117 RBI. The seemingly, “never injured” University of Tampa alum would spend seven years in New York — averaging about 151 games per season — and collect four World Series rings.
Both Nelson and Mecir were successful in their lives after Seattle, but their accomplishments are virtually meaningless due to Martinez’s incredible productivity.
Hitchcock’s stuff just wasn’t all that great in Seattle; the starter went 13-9 with a 5.35 ERA in 1996 and was traded to the San Diego Padres in the offseason. Hitchock got back on track as Friar, however. He was named the 1998 NLCS MVP with a 2-0 record and 0.90 ERA in two starts against Atlanta. He received a no-decision in his Game Three start against New York in the World Series — and he managed to keep Martinez (the player he was traded for a season ago) off the base paths. Martinez went 0-for-3.
Nelson’s fun fact: the infielder had more errors (73) than home runs (66) during his four years with Seattle.
New York. Martinez had an All-Star year with the Yankees as well as two seasons in which he was in the running for AL MVP. Martinez’s postseason line isn’t anything worth throwing a parade for (.233/.321/.351), but he was a force in the ’98 and ’00 Yankees’ World Series wins, hitting a combined average of .371 (13-for-35) and driving in six runs.
2. 2012: Mariners trade Michael Pineda and Jose Campos to Yankees for Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi
How it panned out:
Michael Pineda floored scouts around baseball in his rookie season with Seattle. In 28 starts, Pineda went 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings ratio. The hard-thrower from the Dominican Republic made the All-Star team the same year and finished fifth in Rookie of the Year voting.
So when it was reported that the young hurler was being sent to the Yankees, the expectation was that Seattle would have to be getting a bat that had just as much potential as Pineda — maybe more. Enter Jesus Montero.
Montero, Baseball America’s #5 overall prospect in 2010, had been lighting up the Minors with monstrous power. During the 2011 season with New York, Montero became the first 21-year-old to launch a pair of home runs in one game since Manny Ramirez.
Fast-forward to present day, and this exchange is seen as one of the ultimate “lose-lose” deals between any two teams. Pineda missed the entire 2012 season and much of 2013 due to shoulder tendonitis. He returned to the mound in 2014 only to be suspended for getting caught applying pine tar to the ball in a game. Pineda is currently on the 60-day disabled list with a strained muscle. Since the deal took place, Pineda has only logged 19.2 innings.
Montero is just as much of a disaster as Pineda. The catcher-turned-designated hitter didn’t quite meet his expectations in 2012 with a line of .260/.298/.386; Montero’s power practically evaporated, only having hit 15 home runs. But things went from bad to worse in 2013 for Montero both offensively and defensively — his skills regressed so much that he was sent down to Triple-A Tacoma to figure things out. After the demotion, things went from worse to pitiful when Montero was suspended for 50 games for a failed PED test.
Entering the 2014 season, Montero showed up to Spring Training in Peoria, Arizona ashamed and remorseful for lying about his steroid use. He also showed up 40 pounds overweight, sparking general manager Jack Zduriencik to say he had “zero expectations for Jesus Montero.”
Jose Campos. Because of the failures associated with this trade, Campos comes out looking like the best player involved. Though he’s injured right now, Campos’ future is bright. The Venezuela native is still only 22 years old and has several awards under his belt (Baseball America Short-Season All-Star, NOR Post-Season All-Star). Just one season ago, he ranked #12 among Yankees prospects by MLB.com.
1. 1988: Mariners trade Ken Phelps to Yankees for Jay Buhner, Rick Balabon, and Troy Evers
How it panned out:
As mentioned earlier, arguably one of the worst trades for the Yankees was one of the best things that ever happened to the Mariners.
By shipping away Ken Phelps in July, Seattle shipped away a .249 hitter (at that point) who would never play more than 86 games in a season after leaving the Emerald City. Phelps arrived in New York with eight hits in his previous 16 at bats (.500) — four of which were doubles. As soon as he put on the pinstripes, he managed just one hit in his first twelve at bats. The downward trend continued and Phelps’ line as a Yankee in ’88 was .224/.339/.551.
Phelps never spent a full season in New York; in August of ’89 he was dealt to the Oakland Athletics for a minor league pitcher.
What can you say about Jay Buhner’s time as a Seattle Mariner? “The Bone” was a leader in the clubhouse for the 14 seasons he wore a Mariners uniform. For the ’95, ’96 and ’97 campaigns, Buhner became just the 10th player to hit 40 or more home runs in three consecutive seasons. He ranks among the Mariners career leaders in games (1440; 3rd), at bats (4,922; 3rd), runs (790; 3rd), hits (1,255; 3rd), doubles (231; 3rd), triples (19; tied for 7th), home runs (307; 2nd), RBI (951; 3rd), total bases (2,445; 3rd), extra-base hits (557; 3rd), slugging percentage (.497, 5th) and walks (788; 2nd).
In the magical postseason of ’95, Buhner hit .458 (11-for-24) in the American League Division Series against the Yankees.
Seattle and baseball-loving Seinfeld fans. The Mariners duped the Evil Empire and snagged a player who would grow to be a regional icon. Buhner was inducted to the Mariners Hall of Fame in 2004. And, by trading Buhner to Seattle, the Yankees gave Larry David and the other writers on Seinfeld inspiration to produce one of the funniest moments in the show’s history:
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