There are some obvious warts that have become visible and the argument could be made that Dipoto might have to act sooner than expected with his team posting a 10-14 record over the past 24 games.
BOSTON — The Major League Baseball trade deadline is 42 days away.
And while much can change with the Mariners’ situation in that time, if Seattle continues to remain above .500 and within striking distance of a wild-card berth, general manager Jerry Dipoto will undoubtedly need to make some trades to upgrade his team’s 25-man roster.
The argument could be made that Dipoto might have to act sooner than expected with his team posting a 10-14 record over the past 24 games. Injuries aside, there are some obvious warts that have become visible.
So let’s play general manager for a moment. It’s something that fans love to do.
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How can the Mariners get better going forward to make a push for the first playoff appearance since 2001 — the longest current postseason drought in baseball?
Remember, the Mariners don’t have many coveted prospects in their minor-league system and likely won’t trade catcher Mike Zunino, possibly one of their most valuable trade chips. So that has to be factored in. But Dipoto would have some increased payroll budget from new ownership to perhaps buy out contracts on rentals.
Here are two needs:
The need for a proven right-handed reliever has been evident since the beginning of the season and has only grown with each passing game and the injury to hard-throwing right-hander Tony Zych.
Nick Vincent has been better than expected when the Mariners traded for him just before the season. Vincent has a 2.90 ERA in a team-high 30 appearances.
His versatility and ability to work multiple innings is a benefit, but his best role might be in specific situations where he can face multiple right-handed hitters. This season righties are hitting just .183 (13 for 71) with a .484 OPS off him, with 24 strikeouts and just two walks.
The emergence of Edwin Diaz has also been an earlier-than-expected contribution. With Zych out, Diaz is the only true power arm in the bullpen with a fastball that touches triple digits.
When Zych returns from tendinitis in his rotator cuff, he would provide a boost. But can the Mariners wait? He experienced a setback in his recovery and might not be back for another month.
Dipoto addressed bullpen issues in Anaheim when the Angels made the playoffs in 2014. While much was made of his deal to bring in Huston Street as the closer, he also went out and acquired Jason Grilli, a former closer, to serve as a set-up man.
But if the Mariners do get a reliever, it will be someone that has the capability of pitching in the eighth or even ninth inning if closer Steve Cishek were to falter.
While the consensus choice would be lefty Andrew Miller of the Yankees, the Mariners probably don’t have enough to land him.
Dipoto could call up buddy Matt Klentak, the Phillies’ general manager, for some relief help. Philly has a few right-handed arms that would work. Closer Jeanmar Gomez might require a few prospects since he has one more year of club control. He’s got 19 saves and a 3.03 ERA in 30 appearances. In 322/3 innings, he has 23 strikeouts and eight walks. Veteran right-hander David Hernandez might be an easier option as a half-season rental for a minor prospect and what’s remaining on his $3.9 million contract. In 31 appearances, Hernandez has 40 strikeouts and 11 walks with a 3.45 ERA.
Brewers closer Jeremy Jeffress and Arizona set-up man Daniel Hudson are also fits for Seattle. Angels side-armer Joe Smith could also be a half-season rental. He’s a pitcher Dipoto trusts.
A change in the outfield?
Right now the plan to play Norichika Aoki as the everyday left fielder is yielding sub-optimal results. The veteran outfielder’s struggles at the plate — a .244/.322/.315 slash line — have earned him a demotion from leadoff to the bottom of the order.
If you factor in Aoki’s defense, which is almost average on his best days with a less-than-average throwing arm, it leaves a limited role player. Even with his outfield miscue in Texas, Stefen Romero, who is buried in Tacoma, might offer more potential for a return.
Realistically, the Mariners could/should go get an outfielder on the trade market that could play every day and offer more help against left-handed pitching.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be a left fielder. The Mariners could grab a right fielder and move the Seth Smith/Franklin Gutierrez platoon to left field. That could be a bolster for team defense as well with Nelson Cruz playing more at DH.
Some people would point to Matt Kemp or Ryan Braun as possibilities. Kemp’s .271 on-base percentage and $61.5 million owed on his deal aren’t attractive. Braun would certainly be an upgrade, but the Mariners aren’t going to pick up his massive contract, which has this remaining: 2017 ($19 million), 2018 ($19M), 2019 ($18M), 2020 ($16M), 2021 ($15M).
Any prospect package for Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez would be too large for the Mariners to offer.
If the Mariners wanted to go the rental route, Yankees outfielder Carlos Beltran might be of some use. Even at 39, he offers an upgrade. He’s a switch-hitter with a .281 batting average and an inflated .879 OPS. Rays right-handed hitter Steve Pearce might also be a rental fit.