Former first-round pick Alex Jackson, an outfielder who began the last two seasons as the top-rated prospect in the Mariners’ organization, is heading elsewhere.
The Mariners continued a busy off-season Monday night by trading Jackson, the sixth overall pick in the 2014 MLB Draft, and a player to be named later to the Atlanta Braves for two right-handed pitchers: Rob Whalen and Max Povse.
To clear space on the 40-man roster, the Mariners also designated right-handed pitcher Ryan Weber for assignment. Ironically, the Mariners acquired Weber, 26, in a Nov. 2 waiver claim from the Braves,
"This move gives us two young, polished pitchers," general manager Jerry Dipoto said, "who immediately bolster our starting pitching depth, while adding to our roster flexibility."
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Dipoto indicated the Mariners intend to continue pursuing depth to their rotation in the wake of last week’s trade that sent right-hander Taijuan Walker to Arizona in a five-player deal that netted shortstop Jean Segura.
Whalen, who turns 23 on Jan. 31, was 1-2 with a 6.57 ERA in five starts last August for the Braves before he was shut down in order to limit his innings.
He spent most of the season in the minors at Double-A Mississippi and Triple-A Gwinnett, where he was a combined 7-5 with a 2.49 ERA in 21 starts. He appears likely to open next season at Triple-A Tacoma.
Povse, 23, was 9-6 with a 3.36 ERA in 26 starts while splitting last season at Mississippi and Hi-A Carolina. He appears likely to start the season at Double-A Arkansas.
While Whalen goes on the 40-man roster, he has three options remaining. Povse is not yet eligible for the Rule 5 Draft as, accordingly, will not be placed on the 40-man roster.
"I like it when you get two 23-year-olds," Dipoto said, "one who has three options and the other who is pretty polished. They’re both set to pitch at the upper level in 2017, and it gives us more depth.
"It adds to guys like Andrew Moore, Ryan Yarbrough and Cody Martin in building that depth that we’ve been working so hard to build."
Jackson, 20, was generally regarded as the best high school player available in the 2014 draft, but he struggled throughout his three pro seasons — batting a combined .233 with 21 homers and 109 RBIs in 192 games.
More alarming to the Mariners, he struck out 223 times in 686 at-bats.
"Alex is a guy with a lot of raw talent," Dipoto said, "and we wish him well with the Braves."
The trade is likely to be completed after the Rule 5 Draft on Dec. 8 at the Winter Meetings in Washington, D.C.
The Mariners are hoping that Weber, 26, clears waivers and can be retained within the organization. He was 2-3 with a 2.76 ERA in 26 games last season as a swingman at Gwinnett. He was 1-1 with a 5.45 ERA in 16 big-league games.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners