We’ve discussed the difficulties of the trade deadline for a club without any kind of real surplus of talent, but we’ve also talked about how creativity, in-depth scouting and dollars can help a club such as Seattle add help this summer.
The reality is, the Mariners have little to no chance to land the impact starting pitchers that will dominate the headlines this month: Gerrit Cole, Sonny Gray, Jose Quintana, among others. As I wrote right here, the M’s will have an opportunity to get better.
With the Drew Smyly news breaking this week — out for the 12-15 months — the club’s need for starting pitching has become clearer. But without the best opportunity to add a frontline arm, we have to dig a little deeper.
What’s most likely is the two-month rental of a No. 3 starter — at best. But if Seattle is willing to take on bigger salaries over multiple seasons, the upside of their trade deadline may change dramatically.
Verlander, 34, is guaranteed another $14 million this season and $28 million per season through 2019 with a vesting option at $22 million for the 2020 season.
Let’s start with Samardzija.
He’s having a very good year and $18 million per season is far from prohibitive for many of the clubs looking to buy starting pitching. The San Francisco Giants are likely to sell and sell hard, suggesting they’ll listen on players signed beyond 2017.
But that’s the problem with Samardzija and Seattle: There will be competition, which drives up prices on talent. The Mariners aren’t likely to get any talent discount for taking on such a contract.
Verlander’s contract is a different story.
His $70 million over two and a half season is a lot of money. And while Verlander has his moments, he’s no longer the perennial Cy Young contender he was five years ago.
Verlander, in theory, could be had for talent the Mariners may be able to afford. He’s a mid-rotation arm capable of covering six innings a night and occasionally pushing forth a dominant start.
Great, get it done, Jerry.
Not so fast.
Adding Verlander’s salary to the books in Seattle is handcuffing presuming the club doesn’t plan to top the $175 million mark in payroll anytime soon while still attempting to contend. This also presumes the Mariners are not able to effectively moves Felix Hernandez (not happening) or Robinson Cano (not happening for different reasons).
Unless your the Dodgers, Yankees, Cubs or Red Sox, carrying three player at an average annual salary of $80 million isn’t going to work, despite the fact Jerry Dipoto has acquired an additional cheap impact player or two in Mitch Haniger and potentially Ben Gamel.
There’s also the fact Verlander has a full no-trade clause and certainly will have other trade suitors from which to choose. He has a home in L.A. and teams in a better position to reach and then compete in the postseason will be much more attractive to the right-hander.
To offer an answer to the title question, yes, the Mariners probably have enough talent to acquire Verlander (but not Samardzija), considering salary and his upside at his age. But the chances they get heavily involved don’t appear realistic — from either side of the table.
Jason spent 4 1/2 years at ESPN and two years at CBS Radio prior to joining HERO Sports in July, 2016.
Find Jason's Mariners podcast, Baseball Things, right here and follow him on Twitter @ProspectInsider.
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