Chase Utley: One of the Best Ever

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The Mariners Won the Abraham Toro Trade

 Very recently, the Seattle Mariners shipped relief ace Kendall Graveman to the Houston Astros for relief pitcher Joe Smith and Abraham Toro, a young third baseman. The Mariners also sent the scuffling reliever Rafael Montero to houston. Fans were not pleased about this trade; Mariners fans, to be exact. Kendall Graveman has posted a 0.82 ERA this year, and Abraham Toro is just some bum! One of those statements is true: Kendall Graveman had, at the time of the trade, posted a 0.82 ERA. That is an unequivocal truth. However, Abraham Toro is not some bum. In fact, the Mariners made out like bandits in this trade. They got a legitimately good starting infielder for half a season of a decent reliever. 

I am mainly just writing this blogpost so that my take is timestamped for when, in a couple years, people will probably realize that it was really stupid to be upset over the Toro trade. I will admit that I am not writing this at the time of the trade, I am writing it a few days after. Toro has already homered twice in his first 6 plate appearances as a Mariner, and he already has a double tonight. At the time of the trade, Toro had something like a 90 wRC+. Playing in Minute Maid Park, a 90 wRC+ will not look nearly as appealing in terms of a triple slash line. I think he was at an OPS around 680 at the time of the trade. Even at that clip, however, this would be an easy win for the Mariners.

Kendall Graveman is a good reliever, but he is not as good as many think. A former starter for the Oakland Athletics, he signed for pennies for Seattle in 2020 and continued to struggle. A move to the bullpen was in order, and he became a reliever during the 2020 season. In 2021, he broke out. His ERA is not sustainable, but his 9.27 K/9, 2.18 BB/9, and 53.9% groundball rate is good for a 3.12 xFIP, which could be sustained. He will not actually sustain 3.1 level peripherals, as individual performance is still noisy, but in terms of what he can control, he has been around a 3.1 ERA caliber reliever this year. That is very good, but the issue is that he only has half a season remaining. One half season of a decent reliever is not worth much at all. Compare that to Abraham Toro, who has 4.5 years of control remaining on his deal, and the Mariners come out looking very nice. Before the trade, Steamer projections had projected a 104 wRC+ for Toro the rest of his age 24 season. That is not just good, that is very valuable for a guy who can player 2nd base. The reality is that Toro should be a reliable 2-3 win player even, if he doesn't reach his potential, base on his current profile. If his MLB stats are so poor, why is this the case?

Toro was the third ranked prospect in the Astros system when he graduated in 2020. He struggled a bit in the MLB, but he played sparingly. This trend continued through the start of 2021, as he was ice cold to start the year. He was sent to the minors in late April, and that is when he seemingly figured things out. He slashed 352/485/593 in the minors and walked more than he struck out, all good for a 171 wRC+. After he got called up, he posted a 104 wRC+ with the Astros in limited time. Since he has been traded, his wRC+ on the season has skyrocketed to 110 and since his dominant minor league stint, it is all the way up to 120. This is a tiny sample size; he is probably not as good as a median 120 wRC+. That would be absurd. However, his solid statistical track record in the minors, his ranking as a prospect, and his solid MLB performance post April 2021 demotion point towards a pretty solid career for Toro. The Steamer projection for him, which is all the way to a 106 wRC+, confirms that he is a very good asset. 4.5 years of an above average hitting 2nd/3rd baseman is incredibly valuable. Graveman's half season of theoretically good relief performance pales in comparison.

I do want to apologize for constantly throwing around wRC+.  It is both boring to constantly cite the same stat and potentially confusing for people who do not understand said stat. wRC+ is an all-encompassing past production hitting stat, higher is better, 100 is league average. Not much meaning outside of that. If a player has a 130 wRC+ in a season, he isn't a 130 wRC+ player, he just put up a 130 wRC+ in that specific sample. I'm just documenting my opinion on Toro.