Pittsburgh Pirates Trade History: The Seattle Mariners Edition

We have posted three Pirates Trade History articles here and hope to eventually get to all 30 teams. Some of the teams will have a long and detailed history of trades, such as all of the early National League teams. Our articles for the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers showed that trades between National League and American League teams didn’t happen too often in the early parts of the 20th century. There were still plenty of deals between the clubs because they’ve been around so long.

Our most recent was the Arizona Diamondbacks, which we posted last week. They’ve only been around since 1998, so the article was smaller in comparison. Today we go to the middle ground, looking at an expansion team from 1977. The Seattle Mariners had a 21-year head start on the Diamondbacks, but they were well behind the Tigers and Indians.

Just like with the first three articles, I’m only including trades that had players from each side, with at least one player who was either in the majors, or eventually made it to the big leagues. That means no waiver transactions or straight up player purchases or minor league trades that went nowhere. The Pirates and Mariners have made 22 transactions over the years, but only 11 qualify for this article.

We start with the first trade between the two clubs. Four months before the Mariners played their first game, they acquired infielders Jimmy Sexton and Craig Reynolds for veteran pitcher Grant Jackson, who they picked up in the expansion draft. Jackson was a valuable pickup for the Pirates, especially during the 1979 postseason when he tossed 6.2 scoreless innings. He had a 3.23 ERA, with 29 wins and 36 saves in 278 appearances with the Pirates.

The Mariners barely used Sexton, but they traded him even up for Leon Roberts, who was immediately an impact player for them. Reynolds was a first round pick, who had a 15-year career. The Mariners kept him for two seasons, before trading him even up for Floyd Bannister, who was a valuable pitcher for them during the early 80s. This is a rare trade that worked out great for both teams.

The second deal between the two clubs was a regrettable one for the Pirates. They acquired pitcher Dave Pagan for minor league pitcher Rick Honeycutt in July of 1977. Pagan pitched three innings for the Pirates, then never played in the majors again. Honeycutt was in the minors at the time, but the Mariners gave him his big league debut two days after they picked him up as the player to be named later. He would go on to pitch 21 years in the majors. This was a one-sided loss.

The Pirates made up for the previous trade when they acquired Enrique Romo in a six-player deal. He was a huge part of their 1979 World Series title run. The other five players in the deal didn’t amount to much with their new teams. The Pirates also got Rick Jones and Tom McMillan, while giving up Mario Mendoza, Odell Jones and Rafael Vasquez.

Grant Jackson and Enrique Romo were great pickups by the Pirates, but imagine if you could add Rick Honeycutt and Larry Andersen to that pitching staff as well. Pirates had both of them, and both were sent to the Mariners in trades. On April 1, 1980, Andersen was sent along with cash to reacquire Odell Jones. I broke down how bad this deal went in a recent One Who Got Away article.

It was a full 6 1/2 years before the two clubs made another trade. The first four were all significant trades. Maybe not all when they happened, but their end result was big. The fifth deal amounted to almost nothing. The Pirates gave up young infielder Rick Renteria for minor league pitcher Bob Siegel. Renteria played 43 games with the Mariners over two seasons, while Seigel was done after 31 innings pitched in the low levels of the minors in 1987.

At the 1988 trade deadline, the two teams swapped outfielders, with Glenn Wilson going to Pittsburgh and Darnell Coles going to Seattle. Coles had a 2.0 WAR as a 24-year-old with the 1986 Detroit Tigers, his first full big league season. Over his 14-year career, he was a -1.4 WAR. Wilson was okay in 1988 after the deal, then had a strong 1989 season (3.3 WAR) before being dealt late season for Billy Hatcher.

In early 1989, the Pirates gambled by giving up young talent for infielder Rey Quinones and pitcher Bill Wilkinson. This trade had a chance to be a disaster, but it ended up doing almost nothing for either team. The Mariners got Mark Merchant, who was the second overall draft pick out of high school just 22 months earlier. They also got Mike Dunne, who put up a big rookie season after being acquired in the Tony Pena/Andy Van Slyke deal. The Pirates also included pitcher Mike Walker, who was a second round pick in 1986. Dunne and Walker pitched 20 games total for the Mariners, while Merchant never made the majors. Wilkinson never pitched in the big leagues after the deal, while Quinones lasted just 71 more games before he was done.

In 1990, the Pirates sent pitcher Scott Medvin to Seattle for pitcher Lee Hancock. Medvin pitched 23 games for the Pirates and lasted just five relief appearances for the Mariners, which was his last big league time. Hancock didn’t make the majors until 1995. He threw 24 games for the Pirates over two seasons.

The teams had some player purchases during the rest of the 90s and early 2000s, but it was 19 years before they had a deal involving players on each side. That was a seven-player deal that ended up not really helping/hurting either club. The Pirates sent Jack Wilson and Ian Snell to Seattle for Jeff Clement, Ronny Cedeno and minor league pitchers Aaron Pribanic, Brett Lorin and Nathan Adcock. The last two pitchers would end up as Rule 5 losses, so their value was cash. Pribanic was injured often for the Pirates and just like Lorin, he never made the majors.

Clement was the big return piece, a one-time big prospect, who failed to live up to his potential. He had a .576 OPS in 77 games with the Pirates. Cedeno lasted 2 1/2 seasons in Pittsburgh, and while he didn’t make this deal a win for the Pirates, he was a steady player during that time, posting positive WAR numbers all three seasons. Wilson was a bit better than Cedeno, except he wasn’t healthy the entire time and played just 154 games over 2 1/2 seasons. Snell had a 5.12 ERA in 110.2 innings with the Mariners, then never played in the majors again.

At the 2015 trade deadline, the Pirates acquired J.A. Happ for Adrian Sampson. This deal worked out well for the Pirates because Happ pitched great, while Sampson suffered an unfortunate major arm injury during his bullpen before his second big league start. He returned and pitched the last two years in the majors, but it was mediocre/poor results in Texas. He’s pitching in Korea now.

The most recent trade between these two clubs happened in August of 2016, with the Pirates sending Arquimedes Caminero to the Mariners for minor league pitchers Jake Brentz and Pedro Vasquez. Brentz hit triple digits almost immediately after the deal, but he was released in 2019. He could never combine velocity and control. When he threw more strikes, he was sitting in the low-90s. Vasquez (pictured above) put together a strong season in Altoona in 2019, and still has a chance to be a middle reliever in the majors. Caminero lasted 19.2 innings with the Mariners in 2016 and hasn’t pitched in the majors since, though he’s still active.