I read. I watch. I listen. And the past few weeks I have read, watched and listened to a lot of folks discuss the Seattle Mariners and their trade deadline strategy. What it could be. What it should be. Why they should buy. Why they should sell. And so on. But it sounds to me like there’s a missing factor or three not being connected to the club’s current position.
The Mariners are 39-39 entering play Tuesday night at Safeco Field versus the hapless Philadelphia Phillies. It just so happens a .500 record puts them smack dab — yes, I said it — in the middle of the American League Wild Card race. This simple fact suggests the club should have no part of selling. There’s no evidence to suggest they will and there’s no evidence to suggest they should.
While their current position makes them buyers, there are multiple angles for clubs to buy at the trade deadline.
Tuesday morning on 710 ESPN’s Brock and Salk, Jayson Stark opined the Mariners’ 28-percent chance to win a Wild Card berth is not worth mortgaging future pieces, going as far as to say he doesn’t know one ‘thoughtful GM in the game, including Jerry Dipoto, that would do so.
We know they aren’t selling. We know to some extent they should buy. Stark says buying for a Wild Card berth makes no sense. Done and done. Right?
I also heard 710 ESPN’s Tom Wassell and Bob Stelton, during their evesdrop segment, discuss the Stark comments. Everything the duo added to the conversation made perfect sense, including how much more a one-game Wild Card might mean to Seattle than most other clubs. But a few things still seems to be missing.
1. The vast majority of clubs selling want young players, mostly prospects, in return. The Phillies don’t want veteran players with contracts, including Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager, in return for right-hander Pat Neshek. While they’d certainly prefer, in many cases, the controllable major leaguer to the Double-A prospect, contenders rarely move those players in July.
Sellers know prospects, largely, is what they will get in return.
2. The Mariners couldn’t mortgage their future in prospects if they tried.
3. Seattle isn’t going to be involved in trades for high-priced and/or big-named starting pitchers such as Chris Archer, Gerrit Cole and Jose Quintana. The type of deals we’re talking about are more along the lines of high-leverage relievers, mid-rotation rentals and part-time players. None of which cost clubs a Top 50 prospect like Kyle Lewis.
The club has one premium prospect in their entire farm system in outfielder Lewis. As much as I like Tyler O’Neill, Evan White and Sam Carlson, none fall into that category. White and Carlson cannot be traded yet, anyway.
The club’s system is 40 percent better today than three weeks ago and 60 percent better than 13 months ago. But it’s not good, lacks high-ceiling talent and in no manner would trading three of their Top 10 prospects to get better at the deadline be mortgaging their future.
What Dipoto has done the past two seasons is build some depth in particular areas that may allow them to move a player or two. In Mitch Haniger and Ben Gamel the club may have two everyday outfielders they didn’t have a year ago. Does this mean they should just go out and move Lewis and/or O’Neill in deals for short-term help? Of course not.
But there’s no reason they can’t make multiple deals without touching Lewis or the big-league roster. Remember back in October when everyone and their Uncle Bob said the Mariners can’t get significantly better because they have ‘nothing to trade’? That turned out to be patently false.
Ya know this Ben Gamel guy? Yeah, he was acquired in exchange for Jio Orozco and Juan De Paula. Two right-handed pitchers with good arms who may very well never touch the big leagues. The Gamel trade was made in August last year — AFTER the deadline.
Nick Vincent, he of the 2.72 FIP, 0.7 fWAR and 0.95 WPA, all tops on the club, was acquired in a trade for cash. The deal was made at the end of spring training.
It’s called creativity, thorough scouting and an understanding of what it means to trade a B- prospect or two (not a lot). Dipoto has done that and then some in his short tenure as Mariners GM.
As for whether it’s worth trading anyone but Lewis (reminder: none of this year’s draftees can be traded yet) for a better shot at a one-game Wild Card, of course it is. Because deals made that improve the roster not only increase the chances of said Wild Card berth, they also improve the Mariners’ chances to WIN that game.
In the end, remember there is a such thing as going for it without acting like the late-90s Yankees, and there absolutely are ways to get better without trading your very best prospect or any of the key figures on the roster that’s brought the club to this position.
That said, if the Rays, who probably want no part of moving their ace, want to send Archer — who is under club control for three more years — to Seattle for a package including Lewis, the Mariners certainly have to consdier that. 😉
Underrated Trade Chips
The Mariners do lack the headliner trade chips, hence the fact they either won’t be in on deals for frontline starters or will have to take back big salary in return (Jeff Samardzija, $81 million through 2020), but they do have the kind of chips that can finish off deals and get talks started on two-month rentals such as Jason Vargas or any number of relievers noted here.
Some of those prospects:
Nick Neidert, RHP
Neidert hasn’t raised his ceiling — still a No. 3/4 starter — but it’s safe to say he’s raised the floor a little bit, showing a more consistent average fastball with movement, plus control, above-average command and improved breaking ball.
Boog Powell, OF
Clubs are still going to frown on Powell being suspended TWICE for violating baseball’s drug policy, but fact is he controls the zone and has a knack for making contact. He’s an average center-field glove and above-average runner, suggesting strong fourth-outfielder profile. You know, the kind the Yankees saw in Gamel.
Ryne Inman, RHP
Inman was a 15th-round pick in 2015 out of Atlanta but he’s pounding the zone and the stuff is more than a tick better than draft day. Inman, in trades, is a lot like Orozco or De Paula; an arm a team can dream on a bit.
Brandon Miller, RHP
Miller throws downhill with a fastball touching 93 and he commands it well at 89-91 mph. His slider is above-average and at very worst can be tried in a relief role to see if the velocity jumps. Be a shame not to take advantage of what could be a 65 slider.
Braden Bishop, CF
Like Powell, Bishop isn’t going to hit for much power, but he brings high-end defense and baserunning to the ballpark everyday.
Luis Liberato, OF
Liberato is a solid athlete with a chance to develop average power. I like him more in left field than center and in a lot of ways he reminds of Shin-Soo Choo; lacked a lot of natural instincts of some players, but once he figured out some things his tools won out.
Thyago Vieira, RHP
Still working on a delivery that can, well, deliver better control and command, Vieira hits triple-digits occasionally, often sitting 95-99 mph with a power curveball that flashes average.
Max Povse, RHP
In a relief role, Povse should be able to sits 93-95 mph, and his curveball has taken a full step forward since the Mariners acquired him in the trade for Alex Jackson, suggesting a three-pitch reliever — he also has an average changeup — capable of going through a lineup once or twice.
Marlette is a 40/45 defender but two years ago most defensive grades were in the 30s other than his arm strength and accuracy, where he’s fringe-average to average and still improving. His footwork is starting to even out and he’s shown the ability to sit lower in his crouch more consistently. He profiles as a bat-first backup.
D.J. Peterson, 1B
Peterson hs been up and down again in 2017 but it’s been a little more encouraging than a year ago; for one, he’s healthy after half a season (knock on wood). Second, he’s had some strong stretches where he used the whole field and hit for average without sacrificing power. He has nine homers and 10 doubles on the year. He’s not likely to be an everyday guy anytime soon, but could earn his way into a platoon scenario at some point.
Dan Vogelbach 1B/DH
Vogelbach can “flat out hit,” per the club’s Triple-A coach Denny Hocking. I believe in a longer stint in the majors he would hit enough to warrant a roster spot. The problem is, he’s still a 40 glove at first at best, brings zero value on the bases and his power is to his pull side, which he has problems getting to. An AL club such as the White Sox or A’s might see some value in him.