The final segment of our 5-part trade primer series discusses the Seattle Mariners. Like the Texas Rangers, the Mariners are a fringe contender who could either buy or sell prior to the July 31 MLB non-waiver trade deadline.
So, which approach will the Mariners take?
General manager Jerry Dipoto has repeatedly stated he intends to compete this and every season. Signing shortstop Jean Segura to a 5-year/$70 million extension just two weeks ago reinforces that assertion.
Still, it’s conceivable the Mariners could trade players not in Dipoto’s long-term plans for the organization, if the club falls hopelessly out of contention by the end of July.
Even if Seattle is in the thick of a postseason race in late July, it’s possible Dipoto simultaneously buys and sells. Essentially, pick up help for this year while building for the future. That’s exactly what the 49-year-old executive did a year ago.
Last July, the Mariners traded one pending free agent reliever in need of a change of scenery for another when they shipped Joaquin Benoit to the Toronto Blue Jays for Drew Storen. Both players performed relatively well with their new clubs before moving on to new teams this season.
Much to the chagrin of Mariners faithful, Montgomery was on the mound when the Cubs won the World Series last year. He’s still pitching for the North Siders this season.
Blackburn was dealt to the Oakland Athletics during the offseason for Valencia. The 23-year-old is pitching for Class-AAA Nashville and will likely make his big league debut with the Athletics at some point this season.
Entering Spring Training, Vogelbach had a decent shot of breaking camp with the Mariners as part of a first base platoon with Valencia. However, the 24-year-old’s difficulties fielding the position have kept him at Class-AAA Tacoma.
Let’s assume the Mariners remain in contention past the all-star break. If that’s the case, the club has three areas needing an upgrade — their rotation, bullpen, and bench.
Since Seattle’s farm is relatively barren, I’m not going to discuss marquee names the Mariners can’t afford. Rather, I’ve identified intriguing names who may be within reach, depending on how far Dipoto wants to lean forward.
The players I’ve chosen are from clubs that aren’t clear-cut contenders — just like the Mariners. It’s possible they won’t be available. Unless otherwise noted, they’re pending free agents.
Even if Felix Hernandez, Drew Smyly, and Hisashi Iwakuma return from the DL around the all-star break and pitch well, the Mariners would still benefit from adding a veteran arm to their rotation.
Seattle needs an experienced starter capable of consistently going deep into games. No pitcher on the 40-man roster is averaging six innings/start this year. In fact, the rotation ranks fourteenth in the AL for innings pitched/start (5.3). Only the Orioles (5.2) are worse.
Mike Leake of the St. Louis Cardinals is a younger and better version of Iwakuma — he doesn’t strikeout or walk many hitters, but he eats innings. In 13 outings, he owns a 3.14 ERA and is averaging 6.6 innings/start.
The right-hander is set to make $48 million over the next three seasons with an $18 million club option and $5 million buyout in place for 2021. Clubs willing to accept his entire contract wouldn’t need to sell the farm to acquire the 29-year-old.
Entering June, Toronto Blue Jay Marco Estrada was averaging 6.2 innings/start, but he’s been ineffective in three starts this month — 28 hits and 4 home runs surrendered in 12.2 innings. Assuming the 33-year-old’s recent struggles are just temporary, he’d bolster any contender’s rotation.
Jaime Garcia is the Atlanta Braves’ best starter. The 30-year-old has struggled to stay healthy though. His 30-start effort last season was the first time since 2011 the left-hander started more than 20 contests. Having said that, Garcia is averaging 6.4 innings during his 12 starts this season.
After a sluggish beginning, Edinson Volquez of the Miami Marlins has held hitters to a .629 and averaged 6.3 innings in six starts since May 13. Moreover, he’s made 30-plus starts in five consecutive seasons and possesses considerable postseason experience.
Two issues could hinder any potential Volquez deal though. He turns 34 in July and owed $13 million next season on top of the $9 million he’s making in 2017.
After missing 2016 due to Tommy John surgery, Lance Lynn of the St. Louis Cardinals has seen a slight drop in fastball velocity and he’s been surrendering more long balls. But, the right-hander has been effective at preventing runs.
One drawback with Lynn is his inability to go deep into games on a regular basis. In 13 starts, the 30-year-old has failed to start the sixth inning on five occasions.
The rotation’s issues have exposed a bullpen needing additional depth and another power arm for its back-end.
Toronto Blue Jays’ eighth-inning setup man Joe Smith is striking out hitters at a career-high rate and keeping the ball in the yard. It’s worth noting the 33-year-old is a previous Dipoto acquisition.
Pat Neshek primarily pitches in the seventh and eighth inning for the Philadelphia Phillies. The side-arming right-hander has surrendered just one home run and four walks in 26 innings.
After Jeurys Familia went to the DL, Addison Reed is closing games for the New York Mets. The 28-year-old misses bats and is stingy with free passes. He’d instantly energize the back of any contender’s bullpen.
Southpaw Justin Wilson turns 30 in August and has one year of arbitration eligibility remaining. The lefty was the Detroit Tigers’ eighth inning setup man until becoming the club’s closer in mid-May.
Former starter Juan Nicasio found his niche as a single-inning reliever with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Most of Nicasio’s work comes in the seventh inning and he’s yet to surrender a home run in 29.1 innings.
Anthony Swarzak of Chicago White Sox has been masterful at keeping runners off base and avoiding the long ball — just one home run allowed this season. Manager Rick Renteria has used the right-hander at a variety of points in games including 14 multiple-inning outings.
Another recently converted starter, Mike Minor of the Kansas City Royals, is exceptional against left-handed hitters, but he’s done well against righties too.
Minor is under team control through next season, but keeping the southpaw requires both player and club exercising a $10 million option. The more likely scenario is the 29-year-old receives his $1.25 million buyout and gets to peddle his newly established relief skills to the highest bidder.
Versatile right-hander Shane Greene has pitched multiple innings on nine occasions appearing anywhere from the fifth to last frame of games. The 28-year-old is under control of the Detroit Tigers through 2020.
Thanks to getting his walk rate under control, Trevor Rosenthal is enjoying a bounce back after losing his closer job just one year ago.
These days, the 27-year-old primarily pitches the eighth inning for the St. Louis Cardinals, although he’s registered a few saves. The veteran of six seasons has one year of arbitration eligibility remaining.
Hard-throwing Brad Hand has been serving as a late-inning setup man for the San Diego Padres. The southpaw can pitch multiple innings and could potentially close games. He remains under team control through the 2019 season.
In Drew Storen, Seattle would get a known quantity. The former Mariner is serving as a setup man and middle reliever with the Cincinnati Reds this season.
Taylor Motter was a revelation during Segura’s April injury-related absence. Nevertheless, the 27-year-old has scuffled badly at the plate since.
Upgrading the utility spot would be a wise move for a club planning to contend in the final third of the season.
Career utility player Andres Blanco is slashing .263/.335/.436 during 538 plate appearances dating back to 2015. Blanco has playing time at every infield position during the three seasons with the Philadelphia Phillies.
Oakland’s Adam Rosales performs better against southpaws, but possesses substantial experience across the infield. The 34-year-old has 900-plus innings at first and second base and at shortstop and he’s occasionally patrolled left field.
T.J. Rivera has been New York Mets’ go-to guy this season. He plays anywhere in the infield and has some left field experience too.
The right-handed hitter has demonstrated good on-base ability during brief stays in the big leagues and throughout his minor league career. Rivera is under team control for the next five seasons.
Andrew Romine of the Detroit Tigers has played every position on the field this season with the exception of pitcher and catcher, although he does have two career relief appearances.
The switch hitter won’t create much offense, but he’d represent an upgrade over the Mariners’ current situation. The 31-year-old has one year of arbitration eligibility remaining.
How Dipoto approaches the next six weeks will hinge on the recoveries of Felix, Smyly, and Kuma.
If two of the three can’t return and be effective, the second-year GM may be motivated to sell off players not in the club’s plans for 2018 and beyond.