If the Seattle Mariners wish to remain in the thick of the pennant race not only will need to get healthy but it’s clear they need to add a few pieces to the roster that presently are not members of the organization. Simply getting Justin Smoak, Michael Saunders and Corey Hart back from the disabled list will not cut it. Despite strong starting pitching thus far, it remains apparent the club also could use a starting pitcher, even with Taijuan Walker taking a no-hitter into the seventh inning for Triple-A Tacoma two starts ago and going the distance in his most recent outing for the Rainiers. There are no impact solutions in the minors for the M’s in terms of offense — there are no miracles awaiting the current roster. They are what they are with limited upside as a whole.
While the trade market has yet to to develop with so many clubs within reach of the Wild Card, there are some names surfacing as potential trade bait. The Mariners should have some level of interest in each of the following if they wish to gain respect around the league.
Jeff Samardzija, RHP — Chicago Cubs
Jason Hammel, RHP — Chicago Cubs
Hammel and Samardzija both have been linked to the Seattle Mariners, though it doesn’t appear realistic that Shark is attainable for the M’s without parting with big-time, long-term talent, including the likes of Taijuan Walker.
Hammel is a rental — free agent after 2014 — while Samardzija has another year on his contract. He’s been offered about $80 million to stay with the Chicago Cubs, but judging by the deals handed out to the likes of Homer Bailey — six years, $105 million guaranteed — Samardzija and his agents know they can get bigger dollars on the free agent market.
Hammel is certain to be significantly cheaper to acquire than Samardzija, but there’s also likely to be more clubs interested.
Hammel would fit nicely into the middle of the Mariners’ rotation, offsetting what may be a slimming down of Roenis Elias‘ workload over the latter months of the season. The South Kitsap High School product is a four-pitch starter including a slider, curveball and changeup. He’s using the two-seamer more the past three seasons and with good results. He sits 91-94 mph with both heaters and generally commands them well to each side of the dish.
He’s nearly abandoned the curveball and changeup but the slider has been an out pitch and he’s thrown tons of strikes this season. He’s more of a fly ball pitcher, but Safeco Field can only help in that regard.
Hammel is set to earn another $3 million this season while Samardzija is due about $2.7 million the rest of this season with a raise of up to $10 million or possibly beyond expected via arbitration for 2015.
Brandon McCarthy, RHP — Arizona Diamondbacks
McCarthy’s peripherals are terrific so despite the 5-plus ERA he’s a candidate to help a team add a win or so their total over the final two or three months. He’ll miss some bats and induce ground balls consistently. He doesn’t walk batters and the Diamondbacks’ bad bullpen has cost McCarthy runs and wins.
The 30-year-old appears healthy and more than capable of eating some innings and doing so in a No. 3 or 4 spot in a contender’s rotation. With Hammel, McCarthy is among the better mid-rotation arms available that aren’t likely to cost a ton in trade chips. His ’14 salary calls for another $4.5 million or so and he’ll become a free agent after the season.
Matt Joyce, LF/DH — Tampa Bay Rays
Joyce is a fringe-average glove at best in left field but the 29-year-old can hit right-handed pitching. He’s batting .280/.375/.409 against them in 2014 and boasts a .263/.356/.473 line agains right-handers over the course of his career.
Joyce also can be used at DH some and is used to being sat versus left-handed pitching, yet maintaining his overall production. He’s set to earn about $1.9 million the rest of 2014 and is arbitration eligible one more time before qualifying for free agency after next season.
Marlon Byrd, OF — Philadelphia Phillies
Byrd may very well be an upgrade to Dustin Ackley, Stefen Romero and Cole Gillespie, but he’s not an impact bat for the middle of the order. He’s always hit left-handed pitching pretty well and is doing so again in 2014 — .310/.347/.606. He’s a reliable defender in a corner spot, too, and is not a rental as he’s signed through next season with an option for 2016.
He’s earning another $4 million in 2014 with $8 million guaranteed for next year. The option is worth another $8 million.
Adding Byrd, assuming the cost isn’t prohibitive, is a plus. Adding Byrd and using him almost exclusively versus left-handed pitching while acquiring a platoon partner — say Joyce, for example — is a pretty significant addition.
Ben Zobrist, 2B/OF — Tampa Bay Rays
James Loney, 1B — Tampa Bay Rays
I do not expect Zobrist or Loney to be dealt this summer and if they were made available at least a dozen clubs would have strong interest.
Neither comes with a hefty contract; Zobrist will earn another $3.5 million this season and his deal calls for a club option for 2015 worth another $7.5 million. Loney inked a three-year-deal worth $21 million guaranteed this past January, making him an acceptable part of the Rays’ future payroll, as is the same with Zobrist.
The Rays are likely to deal lefty David Price, but the chance they move Zobrist or Loney appear slim, barring a club with young talent to spare and the Mariners aren’t one of those organizations.
Alex Rios, RF — Texas Rangers
Rios may be the best fit for Seattle among all potentially-available outfield bats. He’s 33, has an option for 2015 at $13.5 million or a $1 million buyout so he’s not a rental and while he’s not a star, he comes with few glaring weaknesses.
He’s right-handed, doesn’t hit a ton of fly balls — which means the impact Safeco is likely to have on him isn’t as great as some others who do rely on fly balls. Rios has a .304/.339/.399 career mark at Safeco Field and can play a strong corner-outfield defense anywhere in baseball. Rios also can run, stealing bases as well as going first to home easily on doubles.
He’s not your traditional cleanup hitter, but would provide reliable balance behind Robinson Cano without the sacrifice of defense or speed, and he’d certainly hit for some power, particularly away from home.
The questions regarding Rios are not whether or not he fits what Seattle needs. The question is whether not the Rangers will make him available for anything south of an elite package of players that fill their needs for 2015. Those needs do not match up with Seattle’s depth at all. Texas boasts four big-league quality middle infielders already, so talents such as Chris Taylor and Nick Franklin don’t fill said needs.
Texas could use a big-league ready starting pitcher or two, some bullpen depth and perhaps a future catcher. If Rios ends up in Seattle, a third team might be necessary which makes the chances of a deal occurring that much more unlikely.
Another question for Texas is whether it makes sense to trade away a piece that can help them win next year. The club isn’t flush with outfield options and if they deal away Rios this summer they may find themselves looking for a corner-outfield bat this coming winter.
Gerardo Parra, LF — Arizona Diamondbacks
Parra brings left-field defense, above-average speed and good production versus right-handed pitching. He’s not a big power guy but can get on base with a line-drive stroke.
Parra, 27, will earn another $2.5 million in 2014 and is arbitration eligible one final time before free agency beckons. The Diamondbacks have some outfield depth and are certain to be seller at the deadline, but Parra is probably worth more to them then a club such as Seattle due to how his bat fits the ballpark.
Chris Denorfia, OF — San Diego Padres
Seth Smith, OF — San Diego Padres
Denorfia hits left-handed pitching — this year is not a good indicator of that, however — and can play left field. Smith has always hit right-handed pitching and he’s been the club’s best hitter all season.
He’s a below-average defender, but could be used sparingly in the field and mostly as a DH option. Smith is set to earn another $2.3 million this season and will hit free agency over the winter.
I do not believe Carlos Quentin and Chase Headley are options. The Padres may be better off waiting out Quentin’s health and production so they can get value from him. Headley is a free agent after the season, but he’s played so poorly the club’s new GM — whoever that may be — may prefer to tender Headley a qualifying offer and bringing him back for a year rather than moving him when his value is at its lowest. Headley may be amenable to such a scenario, since his free agent value isn’t going ot be very strong, either.
Adam Dunn, DH — Chicago White Sox
Alexei Ramirez, SS — Chicago White Sox
Dayan Viciedo, OF — Chicago White
FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi has reported the White Sox are expected to have conversations about the above trio. The Mariners could benefit from any of the three, but Ramirez, one of the better shortstops in baseball, is not going to be easy to pry from Chicago, and I’m not convinced he’s the hitter some believe he is.
Forget Safeco’s probably impact, Ramirez’s career road splits aren’t great — .276/.308/.384 — and he’s never been one to draw many walks. The Mariners are looking for upgrades and with Brad Miller out of his funk and climbing, cheap and a better fit for the home park, the cost for Ramirez is certain to be prohibitive, at least for me.
Dunn is a pure DH who doesn’t hit for average and has been the poster boy for the Three True Outcome theory — walks, strikeouts, home runs. He will get on base and hit for power, but cannot be counted on for defense and is a slug on the bases. He’s also a rental, so the cost in trade shouldn’t be too high, but he’s due about $7.5 million the rest of the way before hitting free agency at 35 years of age.
Viciedo, due to some upside left in his game and the fact that he’s under club control for four more years, is likely to be more expensive than most clubs will want to pay. He’s got some pop but isn’t a good hitter so his raw power doesn’t show up much, and he’s a below-average defensive player to boot.
Josh Willingham, DH/OF — Minnesota Twins
Kendrys Morales, DH/1B — Minnesota TWins
It would be quite funny if the M’s traded for Morales next month, but I think Willingham is more likely as a pure right-handed bat who is clubbing left-handed pitching, having a strong year overall and can give you a few not-as-terrible-as-some innings in left field.
Willingham is a free agent to-be, too, and due $3.5 million the second half of the season, a number any team in the race can absorb.
Morales has proven he can hit at Safeco having put up very solid numbers a year ago from both sides of the plate and though Willingham’s career numbers at the Safe aren’t good, he’s adept at pulling balls closer to the line, which is where a lot of home runs come at Target Field. He hits as many balls to straight-away left and toward the line as he does to center and right field combined, and is one of the best and most productive hitters in all of baseball at doing just that. Hitters that can effectively avoid the middle portion of the field at Safeco Field have a good chance to succeed there.
Kemp, the Dodgers and other notes
The Los Angeled Dodgers aren’t trading Matt Kemp during the season, considering the club’s ghost depth in the outfield. Yes, they have names such as Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig, plus Joc Pederson in Triple-A Albuquerque, but Crawford’s health has made him unreliable and Ethier comes with a large contract. The Dodgers have no issues with their current payroll and do not appear to be an organization willing to make a deal just to dump salary.
If the Dodgers entertain offers for Kemp, as was rumored last winter, it’s not likely to be during a season in which they’re crawling up on the San Francisco Giants and in the driver’s seat to for the National League Wild Card.
Among the obvious sellers are the Arizona Diamondbacks, Houston Astros, San Diego Padres, Tampa Bay Rays, Chicago Cubs, New York Mets and Philadelphia Phillies, but in the coming days to weeks, the White Sox, Twins, Colorado Rockies, Rangers and even the Boston Red Sox also could flip the switch and sell for next year and beyond.
The Cleveland Indians are one of the key clubs in all this, in my opinion. They sit at 38-40 heading into their weekend series in Seattle, six games off the pace in the American League Central and 3 1/2 games out in the Wild Card race. They have 16 games before the break and 30 games before the non-waiver deadline. A mediocre four-week stretch could provoke GM Chris Antonetti to look to shave a little payroll and field calls on Nick Swisher or Michael Bourn, who are set to earn more than $80 million combined over the next three years provided they vest their options.
There are literally dozens of potential targets for the Mariners, and a number of other clubs if they decide they’re buyers this summer. There will be more demand than supply, however, suggesting if Jack Zduriencik wants to make sure he isn’t left in the cold, he’ll have to beat his competitors to the punch.
Jason A. Churchill
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