The past three weeks in Marinersland has been rough. The club was no-hit twice, is averaging 3.1 runs per game in May and allowing nearly six.
While there’s no tipping the scales toward a playoff roster in 2021, the Seattle Mariners can and should pull off a few minor moves to improve the club’s ability to compete the rest of the season.
Ty France is due back this week. I imagine the roster move there is Eric Campbell option or DFA, and France will play a lot of first base. In a week or so, Dylan Moore will be eligible to return, too, and if he’s ready as soon as he’s eligible, the roster move there is probably Jack Mayfield sent back to Triple-A Tacoma.
Once Marco Gonzales returns, one of the relievers likely heads back to Triple-A.
But here are four more moves the club can make in addition to getting healthy in order to eliminate some of the steep troughs in expected performance.
The wait isn’t going to last much longer, and even if Raleigh comes up and hit .200/.260/.375, he’s an upgrade at the plate and behind it. Tom Murphy is a fine glove, and does some things defensively better than Raleigh at present, but the club’s top catching prospect is a switch hitter with above-average power from both sides — plus from the left — and projects to average on-base marks.
This move costs the Mariners nothing. I’m totally OK with the club waiting for what they feel is the right time. They know this player better than anyone. But this ultimately is an easy move.
Why Frazier, and what do the Mariners do with a healthy Moore after this acquisition? Answer: Play matchup.
Frazier, who is No. 13 on my Mariners Trade Target Index available to Baseball Things subscribers, is under club control through next season. He’s 29 and a left-handed bat that makes consistent contact. His career slash is .279/.343/.418, but he’s having a career year right now at .339/.402/.471. He’s not going to sustain that, but helps the club get on base more and move runners ahead of him. He handles the bat well, is a good bunter, and a solid defensive second baseman.
Frazier can spell Crawford at shortstop, as can Moore, and has nearly 1,000 innings of at least average defense in the outfield.
Frazier and Moore have similar defensive profiles, but are opposites with the bat beyond handedness, and until Evan White is ready to return (more on that in a second), Moore and France can share first base and DH, while Moore also spells Kyle Seager at third, Mitch Haniger and Jarred Kelenic in the corners, Crawford at shortstop, as well as some starts at second base.
Moore hit .265/.324/.618 May 7-18 before the IL stint, and appears to be much more likely to produce versus left-handed pitching.
Frazier wouldn’t be FREE, but the cost here isn’t likely to be prohibitive, and he can help solidify the club’s infield for next season, as he carries a much more reliable set of offensive skills.
Even with Shed Long set to start a rehab assignment, the club lacks stability at second base, and it’s time to start considering the floor on a position-by-position basis. Luis Arraez is another option, but he’d be quite a bit pricier as there are four control years attached after 2021.
A trio of Top 30 prospects — two in the top 20 — ought to get it done.
By the way, Frazier came highly recommended in the 2013 Draft by scout Jeremy Booth: See his scouting report
3. Option 1B Evan White to Triple-A Tacoma
How does this help the ‘floor’ of the current roster? Well, think about what we’ve done offensively with the additions of Raleigh and Frazier, and the return of France and Moore. White would have to replace someone on the 26-man. Let’s walk through this.
The Mariners have been carrying 10 non-catcher position players, and probably will continue to do so, even after Gonzales returns from the IL. So we have the two catchers, Seager, Crawford, Moore, France, Frazier, Haniger, Kelenic and Kyle Lewis. That’s 10. One of those players is out if White returns to the active roster.
What’s likely to happen beyond the scenario we’ve built here is White is activated and a player like Nottingham, Campbell, Mayfield, or Walton is optioned. But we’ve already done that, so we need a different solution. It just so happens this solution is better for player and club.
White needs time in Triple-A, and he’s going to get some of that on a rehab assignment, but it should be extended beyond 20 days so he can fix his swing.
This is another inexpensive addition that reduces the inflammatory nature of the pitching staff. Stratton throws strikes, limits walks, and is actually comparabale to Drew Steckenrider in ability to get outs, though at the moment Stratton’s strikeout rate of 24% is down from 29% a year ago. He is, however, avoiding the walk and home run better than ever.
His contract is controllable through 2023, so its not a rental and he won’t be free. But the Pirates are going nowhere fast and a couple of potential future contributors should be good enough to grab the right-hander. Stratton, who also has experience starting in the majors, has made five two-inning appearances.
He sits 92-94 mph with the fastball, has an average slider and curveball, plus an average changeup.
With such an acquisition, the Mariners will have a decision to make when Casey Sadler is ready to return from the IL. Paul Sewald, JT Chargois, Erik Swanson are all potential options to head back to Tacoma. Ultimately, two of the three will shipped out since one is almost certain to go upon Gonzales’ return.
Stratton’s price tag is probably similar to that of Frazier’s and he’s around as a quality middle reliever and spot starter through 2023.
The above upgrades aren’t going to turn the current roster into a contender, but they solidify the roster both now and for the immediate future, and don’t mortagage but a few pennies of the future in the grand scheme.
Jason A. Churchill
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