Disconnect on Mariners Trade Deadline Strategy?

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?

Wrong.

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.

Dipoto moved Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte for Jean Segura and Haniger and the club is better for it, both in the interim and the long-term.

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.

Tyler Marlette, C

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.

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Jason A. Churchill

Publisher, Executive Editor, Director of Analysis Jason founded Prospect Insider in 2006 after getting his start at Inside the Park three years prior. He spent years covering prep, college and pro sports for several news outlets, both local and national, including MLB.com and ESPN Insider. He served as co-host of the afternoon drive show on 1090 The Fan CBS Sports Radio from 2013-2015. He's not done podcasting yet and now serves as managing editor at HEROSports.com.

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9 thoughts on “Disconnect on Mariners Trade Deadline Strategy?

  1. As much as I love the upside of Diaz, he seems like he is now more problem than solution in 2017, even if he possesses dominance for the future. I keep hearing great things about Vogelbach, but I’m left thinking of Billy Butler every time he comes to bat.

    I would trade Diaz, Gamel, O’Neill, Vogelbach, Peterson, Neidert, and Gallardo (salary offset/dump) for Quintana, Robertson, and Abreu.

    This ttade would revamp their outfield, give them a young platoon to replace Abreu, plus they would add a shutdown closer and a mid-rotation or late inning relief prospect. Gallardo’s 12 million would be the only salary going from the M’s to the ChiSox and would basically offset some of the 26-30 million the trio would cost Seattle.

    If the White Sox insisted on Lewis being included instead of O’Neill, I would counter with Kahnle replacing Robertson in the return.

  2. Jason A. Churchill

    Nobody suggested that.

  3. Jason A. Churchill

    No. For the Mariners to get into the Gray convo, Kyle Lewis or pieces from the current 25-man have to be involved.

  4. Jason A. Churchill

    You’d make total sense here, Nelly, if the Mariners had pieces that could be traded to revamp the organization. They do NOT and it’s plainly clear to see. Cano has tons of dollars attached. Not getting elite talent in return. Felix is owed a lot of money and isn’t the pitcher he once was. Not getting much back on that, either. Cruz is 37, a DH, with 1.5 years left on his deal. Not getting premium talent in return there, either.

    The most valuable assets are the ones they have no business moving because they are under club control for 2-5 years after 2017; Segura, Gamel, Diaz, Paxton, Haniger.

    Just because a team isn’t set up ideally to make a run doesn’t mean they should sell. It’s not a black and white build. You have to dig deeper.

    Other than being 100% wrong, you’re 100% right. It’s weird how you missed all this but typed all that out with such confidence.

  5. Nelly

    Have to disagree — “There’s no evidence to suggest they will and there’s no evidence to suggest they should.” Lots of evidence, every night is evidence. Wild-card lottery aside, this is a mediocre team and a mediocre org. It was a mediocre team last year, and the year before. Next year, it will be, mediocre (or worse). The Ms 2017 record with everyone healthy and everyone injured is more or less the same. No July acquisition will change that. I am not interested in 1 game playoff, that isn’t baseball, it isn’t a measure of anything. Nor am I interested in watching Cruz, Cano, and Felix limp around for 3 more years. Smart teams in this situation, sell early and often, July deadline or not.

    The “big three” are past peak performance and fitness — they will not get better. Valencia is below replacement level. Felix and Iwakuma will not get better. Smyly gone, Paxton — no idea what he is. Too many question marks. So we should look at what the Astros and Cubs did. Look at what the White Sox are doing.

    DiPoto made some amazing acquisitions and great signings, but the structure is rotten and needs to be leveraged, at whatever discount rate we can get. Its a vision thing.

    Love the site. Go Ms…

    (PS. Povse to relief is bad move, the guy has legit repertoire)

  6. Wsumojo

    Please don’t trade O’Neill for some so-so veteran rental. Exact opposite of what we need to do.

  7. Anonymous

    There was a recent report about the Mariners (among others) scouting Sonny Gray? Billy Beane and David Forst have always been a bit unconventional and I feel the M’s and the A’s could match up for a trade here as the A’s have a lot of minor league depth in pitching but not so much in the outfield.

    Moreover, as tantalizing as Gray’s stuff has been in the past, he doesn’t seem to have the same “stuff” he used to in 2015.

    JAC, do you think a package of O’Neil, Vogelbach, and Neidert could get you in the conversation for Sonny? Thanks!

  8. Jason A. Churchill

    That is NOT the question, actually. It’s backwards. You start by identifying what the team needs. Narrow it down and see what the cost is through layers of negotiating. Then you assess whether it’s worth it.

    You don’t take your excess dollars and ask “what can I get for this?” You go to Amazon and check the cost for what you want and then assess whether you can afford it. That’s how you make damned sure you don’t pay any more than you absolutely have to.

  9. wsm

    So. The big question then is what kind of return can we get for O’Neill. He seems right at the crux of highly ranked/expendable with Boog in the wings and Lewis on the way.

    Maybe the Braves want to complete their collection of Jack Z prospects for a Jaime Garcia and Jim Johnson rental package?

Thoughts?