Don’t Be Surprised if the M’s are Buyers
The trade deadline is tomorrow, and the Mariners are widely expected to trade off several veteran players to contending teams today or tomorrow. Brandon League, Kevin Millwood, Jason Vargas, and Oliver Perez all could hold some value to teams looking for second half pitching depth at a low cost, and while I don’t think the organization will trade all four, I’d expect at least two of those guys to be in another uniform on Wednesday. In that regard, the Mariners are clearly sellers.
However, don’t be surprised if the team is also an unconventional buyer. No, Jack won’t be bidding for the usual hired guns who are acquired a few months before they hit free agency, but after trading Ichiro to New York last week, the team is suddenly in need of an outfielder, or at the very least, someone who can fake it out there for a while. With Franklin Gutierrez on the shelf, the team is essentially running a Carlos Peguero/Trayvon Robinson platoon at one OF spot, which is perhaps the worst combination of players to share a job in the history of baseball. That might be hyperbole, but neither of them are Major League players, and the reality is that the team can’t count on Gutierrez to stay healthy enough to hold down an everyday job. Even when he comes off the DL, they’ll need to have a guy on the roster who they can feel comfortable writing into the line-up.
This afternoon, I noted on Twitter that I’d been told by a friend in the game (not with the Mariners) that the M’s were trying hard to get Brandon Belt from the Giants. While they may not have the pieces that SF would want for a guy like Belt, this is the type of guy I fully expect Jack to acquire within the next 48 hours – a left-handed 1B/OF type who has some offensive potential, is under team control for several years, and could be acquired without giving up one of the big name prospects on the farm.
Belt’s more of a first baseman than an outfielder, but he’s played 32 games in the OF for San Francisco this year, and he could handle a few months out there if the team wanted to keep taking a look at Mike Carp as a first baseman. He’d also give the organization some flexibility and some depth at both positions for 2013, and while he hasn’t hit as expected in the Majors just yet, he’s a patient 24-year-old left-handed bat with some power who has never really been given a regular opportunity for consistent playing time. I have no idea if the M’s are going to be able to land Belt, but he’s the kind of player that the organization could desperately use right now. They have a few hundred at-bats to hand to a young player who needs a good run of playing time, and right now, they’re wasting those on the Peguero/Robinson Platoon of Suck.
Other potential (though lesser) options for a player in this category would be guys like Lucas Duda (Mets), Tyler Moore and Corey Brown (Nationals), Daniel Nava (Red Sox), or Nate Schierholtz (Giants), each of whom represent different kinds of players but all are in that kind of kinda-interesting-worth-a-flyer type of player. Belt has the most potential of the bunch, but he’s also probably the most expensive and hardest to acquire, and these guys would probably be easier to get in a trade if the team couldn’t find common ground on a deal for Belt.
I’ve also heard rumblings that the Mets have talked to the Mariners about Adam Loewen, who is currently playing first base for Triple-A Buffalo. Loewen is a Vancouver kid who was selected #4 overall in the 2002 draft as a pitcher, but arm injuries have forced him to give up a career on the mound and try his luck as a hitter instead. He made the switch back in 2009 at age 25, and now 28, he’s hitting fairly well in the International League. His lack of early experience as a hitter means he’ll probably never turn into more than a raw platoon guy (he can’t lefties at all), but there’s a chance that he could be the new Rick Ankiel, providing some power and serving as a useful outfielder for a couple of years. My guess is that the organization doesn’t see him as an upgrade over Peguero, who is younger, toolsier, and also has good Triple-A numbers, but he’s a local kid and he’d probably be next-to-free, so it’s something to at least keep in mind.
I’m sure the organization has about 20 other guys they’re looking at besides the names I’ve listed here, and I’m not saying the team is going to deal for any one of these guys specifically, but I do think you’ll see the Mariners acquire a player of this type at some point in the next 48 hours. They’re going to be sellers on pitching, but they’re also trying to buy a young 1B/OF type who deserves a few hundred at-bats to show what he can do.