Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins gave up a big bat to address an area of need on Wednesday, sending slugger Teoscar Hernandez to the Seattle Mariners for pitchers Erik Swanson and Adam Macko.
Hernandez has been an offensive anchor for Toronto in recent seasons and is eligible for free agency after the 2023 campaign. While his power and clubhouse presence will be missed, Atkins was pleased to land a high-leverage reliever in Swanson and a solid prospect in Macko.
“No trade is ever easy and always comes down to alternatives for both sides,” Atkins said on a video call with reporters. “Fortunately it worked out that it made sense for both teams.”
The 30-year-old Hernandez, who is entering his eighth big-league season, batted .267 last season with 25 homers and 77 runs batted in. An all-star in 2021, the outfielder won Silver Slugger awards that year and in 2020.
He said he enjoyed his time with the Blue Jays and learned a lot over five-plus seasons in Toronto.
“They trusted me and they gave me the opportunity to show everything that I got and thankfully I did that,” Hernandez said on a video call later in the day.
Hernandez is entering his final year of arbitration eligibility and is projected to earn over US$14 million in 2023.
“We began our off-season with the intent to add impact and length to our lineup,” Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto said in a statement. “In adding Teoscar to an already solid foundation, we feel we've become a far more dangerous offensive club.”
Swanson was 3-2 with a 1.68 earned-run average over 57 games for the Mariners in 2022. The six-foot-three right-hander has the valued “swing and miss” skill set that hampered the Toronto bullpen at times last season.
“The stuff has been improving and we feel like we have him at a very strong point in his career,” Atkins said. “And he's still very young.”
The 29-year-old Swanson, who made his big-league debut in 2019, had 70 strikeouts and 10 walks last season. He's entering his first year of arbitration eligibility and is projected to earn about $1.4 million next year.
Atkins noted that Swanson had a “really remarkable year” getting outs by attacking hitters on both sides of the plate, adding he has the ability to pitch in any inning.
Swanson is under team control through the 2025 season.
“He's always been a strike-thrower and he's always had the ability to locate the fastball at the top rail ,” said Mariners GM Justin Hollander. “The split-finger this year really changed (his) universe. It's something that he's been working on for a while and he really took it to another level.”
Macko, a 21-year-old from Bratislava, Slovakia, made eight starts for advanced-A Everett in 2022. He has permanent resident status in Canada after living in Stony Plain, Alta., for six years.
“If we can put him into a position where he can sustain and haul a full season of innings he could become easily one of the better prospects in baseball,” Atkins said. “He's got the arsenal to do that.”
The trade gives the Blue Jays some financial flexibility and could set up Whit Merrifield, Cavan Biggio or Nathan Lukes for more playing time with outfield regulars Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and George Springer.
Hernandez posted a long thank-you message to fans, teammates and the organization on his Instagram account. He ended the post with an all-caps line: 'You will always have a great part of my heart,' complete with a blue heart emoji.
“I think the world of him. We will miss him,” Atkins said. “We got to the point where we felt like the acquisitions on the run prevention side would help us. It does create some flexibility for us as well in terms of resources.
“Thinking about where we had depth, there was an opportunity to move.”
The Mariners swept the Blue Jays in a best-of-three wild-card series last month at Rogers Centre. Hernandez hit two homers in Game 2 but Seattle came back from a seven-run deficit in a 10-9 win.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 16, 2022.