With the nonwaiver trade deadline nearing, Mariners beat writer Ryan Divish answers your questions about the team.
ANAHEIM, Calif. — The days leading up to the nonwaiver trade deadline are a magical time during the season. It’s filled with anticipation, speculation, rumors and panic. It’s when teams that are bad try to sell players for prospects and payroll relief. It’s when winning teams look to find the final piece that will push them over the top. Prospects that you may never have heard of become as important as All-Star players.
And Twitter, like it has done in many situations, has made it worse.
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Well, the rumor-mongering is constant and often barely attributable or substantiative. For example: “Team A needs pitching and Team B has a pitcher, who fits. They’ve had some initial talks, but nothing came from it. But still a possibility down the road.”
That little piece of noninformation will lead to a post on MLB Trade Rumors and fans continually asking: “Are you hearing anything on this?”
Also any person who creates a fake Twitter account of a baseball writer and sends out bogus tweets about made-up trades deserves to be duct-taped to a chair and be forced to listen to Alex Rodriguez, Joe Morgan and Tim McCarver analyze every baseball game for the rest of the season.
Twitter has also allowed everyone, baseball writers included, to become instant general managers, developing and writing trade scenarios, some good, some ridiculous. Remember that each organization has advanced scouts assigned to scout and report on every player of every organization. They have information on every player, no matter how obscure. It’s their job. So this isn’t like your fantasy league where there’s the one GM that isn’t paying attention to anything and other GMs can take advantage of him in trades. That doesn’t happen in real baseball.
Ok, so maybe that’s happened to the Mariners in the past.
But I wouldn’t trade my Twitter followers for even the best baseball player … well, maybe, the unmarketable Mike Trout.
It’s an interesting question. Do you look at overall need and roster construction vs. recent results? One thing general manager Jack Zduriencik did that worked against him was overreact to the previous 15 to 20 games played as if that was going to be a continual problem for the entire season. It’s how the Mariners ended up with Mark Trumbo midseason of 2015 despite not really having a position to play him. Zduriencik overreacted to a two-week slump from the Mariners offense and traded catcher Welington Castillo for Trumbo, despite the obvious need to take some pressure off a very young Mike Zunino.
The last 19 games for the Mariners — all in July — have yielded an 8-11 record with an offense that has scored the fewest number of runs in the American League. Seattle has scored 60 runs in 19 games in July for a 3.15 runs per game average.
So the immediate reaction would be to trade for a big bat. But that gets complicated since there aren’t really any top-level hitters available that also fit the Mariners roster. Robinson Cano is coming back Aug. 14 and that is a major bat added to the lineup. But even his return is going to force some roster maneuvering and changes to playing time.
The obvious fit would be to add a center fielder to either platoon or take the place of Guililermo Heredia, who has shown he isn’t capable of being an everyday player because of limitations at the plate. But there isn’t really that guy out there (see below).
The starting pitching market isn’t great unless you have enough prospects to outbid teams for Tampa’s Chris Archer, and the Mariners don’t have that depth.
I still think they could use a left-handed reliever to help out James Pazos. With Erasmo Ramirez returning to full health, he could/will slide into the long relief spot held by Roenis Elias. So a situational lefty who can get left-handed hitters out might be useful.
I haven’t heard anything about a reunion with Jones, but general manager Jerry Dipoto has proved that he can keep a low profile on deals without much leaking out. It’s important to note that Jones has full trade protection and can veto any trade involving him. He’s told reporters in Baltimore that he’d be willing to go to a team in contention. But would he want to return to the Mariners? He isn’t exactly nostalgic about his time in the organization.
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Jones, 32, has had a decent season with the Orioles, hitting .281 with a .737 OPS, 27 doubles, 11 homers and 42 runs batted in. He would be an obvious upgrade over Heredia. That isn’t a question.
But he would also be a serious downgrade from a defensive standpoint. A four-time Gold Glove winner, age has sapped him of his speed, limited his range and weakened his throwing arm. Jones is a -15 on defensive runs saved this season and a -9 on Fangraphs’ Defensive Wins Above Replacement. He’s more of a corner outfielder, which the Mariners have plenty.
Jones is owed a fair amount of money for the rest of the season, which the Mariners have. But it seems like the Indians, who are desperate for outfield help, might be willing to give up more to get him.
To be fair, since adding Wade LeBlanc to the starting rotation, there have been two times where a projected Mariners starter didn’t take the mound — Felix Hernandez in Colorado and James Paxton last week. Two missed starts from pitchers is respectable. And to be fair, Hernandez has been durable for most of his career, making 30 more starts in every season from 2006 to 2015.
As for depth, the Mariners in Class AAA have Rob Whalen, Christian Bergman, Ross Detwiler and the recovering Ramirez. Everyone of them has big-league experience. No, they aren’t sexy names or guys that deserve to be in the rotation. But how often are “depth” pitchers in an organization at that level unless they are younger prospects? Starting pitching depth comes from drafting and development.
It’s also instructive to remember that the Mariners have all five starters under club control for next season.
The starting pitching trade market isn’t great. And given what the Yankees were willing to give up to get J.A. Happ and the cost of Cole Hamels, there wasn’t an easy fit for Seattle. Could they have gone out and gotten a starter to possibly run a six-man rotation for the final months, which would limit the innings of Paxton and Marco Gonzales, while also limiting the number of outings for the now-inconsistent Hernandez? It might have been a solid plan. They could still do it with Ramirez. But giving up prospects just to get a starter that you may or may not use isn’t a wise investment.
Of all the Mariners’ problems, having Andrew Romine as your utility guy is not a major one. The Mariners infielders rarely sit so Romine’s contributions are mostly as a pinch runner and an emergency starter. Even if your utility infielder was a significant offensive upgrade, how often would he actually play?