Seattle Mariners Trade Deadline Preview
The Seattle Mariners haven’t lost for a while, and if they keep that up, they’re certain to make the 2013 MLB playoffs. Partially as a consequence of the team’s recent success, the front office has gone on record as saying it’s not really that interested in selling pieces off. But there are people who want to see moves, specifically because the Mariners probably won’t keep not losing for the next couple of months. The Mariners’ MLB playoffs odds are all but equivalent to the Mariners’ NHL playoffs odds; though they are equal in the standings to the Angels, which would’ve been exciting to know in March, the twist is that it’s the Angels who’re bad more than it’s the Mariners who’re good, and bad teams who aren’t going to the playoffs are supposed to sell present value for future value. That’s what we think we know — that’s what we think we understand.
Okay, so the Mariners aren’t bad. But the Mariners might not sell. And that might frustrate you, as a fan who likes transactions. But when you examine the Mariners’ roster, it would make sense for them to more or less stand pat. They don’t actually have all that much flexibility. We begin!
In April, the Mariners got Harang from the Rockies for Steven Hensley. Right before that, the Rockies got Harang from the Dodgers for Ramon Hernandez. Both times, Harang was packaged with cash, albeit not literally. As a Mariner, Harang has posted interesting peripherals, but also an ERA over 5. The Mariners might be able to dump him if that’s something they wanted to do, but there’s no value that would be coming back.
Hypothetically, this would be the Mariners’ big piece, as Iwakuma would have a lot of trade value were he put on the market. Over the past calendar year, among 135 starters with at least 100 innings, Iwakuma ranks 6th in park-adjusted ERA, 47th in park-adjusted FIP, and 16th in park-adjusted xFIP. He’s really quite good, even if he has a bit of a dinger problem. But the Mariners have expressed zero interest in moving him, as they like him, and he likes it here, and Iwakuma is a bargain potentially under contract through 2015. He’s in line to provide the Mariners with a lot of excess value, and while maybe they could get more value from moving him, it’s basically a coin flip and I’d be more than happy to keep him around. If the Mariners aren’t far away from being all right, then Iwakuma could be a part of a potential playoff contender.
Here’s a good piece I think the Mariners could and will move, because not only is Perez a left-handed reliever who’s a free agent to be, but he’s also been effective against righties, which is a rare and desirable quality. And the Mariners already have Charlie Furbush, and Lucas Luetge if you care about Lucas Luetge. Brian Moran has posted absurd numbers with Tacoma. Perez is desirable and expendable, and he should get dealt, but he’s also a non-closer reliever and as a return you’re talking about a second- or third-tier prospect. Last year, Edward Mujica got Zack Cox, and Mujica had another year of control. Jonathan Broxton got minor-league relievers. Craig Breslow got Matt Albers and Scott Podsednik.
Joe Saunders is basically Joe Saunders, as much as he’s ever been. He got traded last August, for Matt Lindstrom and money. To that point, he’d been a decent starter for the Diamondbacks. To this point, he’s been a decent starter for the Mariners. Saunders could easily be moved to someone looking for a back-of-the-rotation starter, but all the Mariners would really get out of that is a little extra money, or a half-interesting prospect we convince ourselves at the time is more interesting than he actually is.
Here’s an interesting one, because Morales is reliable and good and set to be a free agent. But a National League team probably wouldn’t trust him to play first base all the time, making him mostly desirable to AL teams. And right now there are eight contending AL teams. The Red Sox don’t make sense, the Rangers don’t make sense, the Tigers don’t make sense, the A’s don’t make sense, and the Rays probably don’t make sense. That would leave maybe the Orioles, maybe the Yankees, and maybe the Indians. But the Orioles are said to be tapped out of money, and the Indians are sort of shuffling between Jason Giambi, Mark Reynolds, and Nick Swisher. The Yankees would be an obvious fit, but here’s the other point: what if the Mariners want Morales back? They could try to trade him for value, sure. Or they could keep him and extend a qualifying offer. If he accepts it, that’s a good player on a one-year contract. If he doesn’t, he’ll have a depressed market, and maybe the Mariners could re-sign him for a couple years. Sure, you could say that blocks Jesus Montero, but, oh no. Worry about that when Montero doesn’t suck. Morales has been solid this year, especially so if you consider that he played through a hurt back in parts of June, when he was ineffective.
It would be great if the Mariners were dangling a starting shortstop around deadline time. Unfortunately what they might be dangling is Brendan Ryan. All Ryan’s fetching is a low-level nothing and a sigh.
Jason Bay is still around! And his overall numbers show something! He’s a bench player, though, who’s batted just 38 times since the middle of June, and as much as he might attract some attention as a leader and as a quality teammate, people don’t pay out the nose for these guys, so there’s little incentive for the Mariners to dump Bay just because. Of course, he could get forced out in a roster crunch.
The Mariners signed Chavez for pennies in March. He’s subsequently posted a negative WAR.
Maybe an August trade, maybe if Gutierrez comes back and actually plays some. I could see him as a high-upside gamble for a bench behind a questionable starter or two. But all you get for Gutierrez is salary relief. Nobody’s going to trust him. Franklin Gutierrez probably doesn’t trust him. Teams want to acquire certainty this time of year, not fliers.
Another guy who’d fit with the Yankees in some capacity, but Ibanez, like Morales, is basically a DH, and despite the numbers he’s 41 years old and this has been one big ol surprise. Plenty of teams would love to have Ibanez on the bench, but no one’s going to cough up much value for a bench bat, and there just aren’t really teams that would see Ibanez as a starter. Throw in the fact that the Mariners aren’t motivated to trade Ibanez and that Ibanez isn’t motivated to leave, and this doesn’t look like a developing story. So the Mariners might get nothing in return for Ibanez, instead of a lower-tier prospect or two. They’ll hope that Ibanez’s continuing influence is of greater value than the lower-tier prospect(s). It’s not really a missed opportunity if it isn’t an opportunity for much.
Morse hasn’t started since June 19, and he’s only now beginning a rehab assignment. He’s a DH facing the same issues as Ibanez and Morales, in terms of market, and while Morse had that enormous first go with the Mariners, he’s posted a .692 OPS since April 16. He’s a guy who’s been hurt and relatively ineffective and even before getting hurt he wasn’t a capable defender at any position. The Mariners sold Morse as a big splash when they got him, and that’s what they were hoping he was going to be, but there’s no second big splash. The Mariners could probably move Morse if they wanted, but not only might they not want to — there’s not much they could get. Teams love dingers and personality, but they also love durability and defense. Morse is no one’s idea of a season solution.
There are moves that the Mariners could make, and I expect that some will be made. But the big ones? I don’t see the big ones panning out, either because I don’t think the Mariners would do them, or because I don’t think the return would be substantial. The Mariners aren’t sitting on a potential prospect haul. If they have a pretty underwhelming deadline, it’s not because they missed a chance. It’s because, whatever. What the team has been, it’s probably mostly going to be.