The midpoint of this 60-game season, at least for the Mariners, will be Sunday afternoon as they wrap up the current homestand. For a few teams, like the Cardinals, they still have about 15 games to reach that point.
Even if the Twitter mailbag was slow out of the starting blocks in this short-season sprint, it’s starting to pick up speed. So much so, that this week’s mailbag will have to be divided into two parts. There were just too many questions submitted from the quality folks that are my Twitter followers.
Ah, yes, the trade deadline. For those people not aware, there will be a trade deadline for this season. How else are the Yankees going to offset all the injuries piling up for them, or the Cubs going to get bullpen help? Due to the delayed start of the season, the deadline was pushed back from July 31 to Aug. 31 at 1 p.m. PT. There is also the odd stipulation that only players that are included in a team’s 60-player pool are eligible to be traded this year.
That seems limiting, right?
There are always ways to circumvent the rules in baseball. This doesn’t even require a trash can and a center-field camera. The always popular “player to be named later” can be used in trades to acquire a player that’s not in the 60-player pool. Most of those types would be from lower levels of the minor leagues that are projection players and far from finished products. They would also have to be named within six months of the trade.
There is some difficulty and risk in that those players-to-be-named later will have not played a minor-league game this season and there is no way to scout them and have a current report. Also, scouts aren’t allowed to travel to opposing teams’ alternate training sites to view players. ESPN’s Kiley McDaniel reported that a video sharing system has been set up, but not all teams are participating.
There is risk in making deals.
And yet, there are about 20 to 22 teams within two games of a postseason spot. And that has to be a motivating factor.
But would a spot in an expanded postseason (if it’s played) with no fans in the stadium mean enough for teams to trade prospects, who are under club control and have relatively minimal salaries, for established players with guaranteed contracts. If teams are losing as much money as they claim, then taking on the salary of a player, even for the pro-rated month remaining this season and whatever is left on the contract afterward could be too much of an investment.
Does winning postseason games matter as much to owners without the increased ticket revenues? We know it matters to the players.
But let’s get to the trade candidates on the Mariners. It’s an interesting list.
- Taijuan Walker, RHP
- Kyle Seager, 3B
- Austin Nola, C/1B
- Dee Gordon, IF
- Dan Altavilla, RHP
- Matt Magill, RHP
- Taylor Williams, RHP
Of that group, Walker seems like the most likely to be traded. The situation just sets up too well. He’s going to be a free agent after the season and isn’t making much in salary in 2020 after signing a one-year, $2 million contract in the offseason. The pro-rated salary dropped to $740,000 for the 60-game season, so a team acquiring Walker would only have to pay him just over $350,000 for that final month of his season, which would be a steal if he continues to pitch well.
After missing most of the last two seasons due to Tommy John surgery, he has shown that he’s healthy in his five starts in 2020. His fastball velocity is right around 93 to 95 mph and his pitch count has been pushed up to normal territory with no residual effect in terms of soreness or fatigue.
He has also been effective in three of those five outings. The increased confidence, effectiveness and usage of his secondary pitches have been a plus. The maturity level and understanding of how to pitch is something Mariners fans didn’t see — and Walker admittedly didn’t possess — in his first stint in Seattle. Sure, he’d be a nice fit for the expected six-man rotation for next season. But he’s going to want to at least see what the free-agent market holds.
While the demand should be high for Walker, the fact that he’s a one-month rental will limit the prospect return.
Regardless, the Mariners should definitely consider bringing him back for the 2021 season. With nobody quite sure how the free-agent market is going to play out this offseason, there might be an opportunity for a one- or two-year deal with an option.
Seager, after reshaping his body before the 2019 season then recovering from a surgery for a tendon injury in his glove hand in spring training that year, has been playing some of the best baseball of his career.
From the All-Star break of 2019 to Friday, Seager has played 96 games, posting a .269/.353/.525 slash line with 21 doubles, a triple, 22 homers and 67 RBI, with 41 walks and 62 strikeouts.
Of course, there is the well-known hindrance to potential trades – the “poison pill” clause in his contract that turns a 2022 club option of at least $15 million — up to $20 million based on performance– into a player option if he’s traded to another team.
From a financial standpoint, a team acquiring Seager would have to pay about $3.75 million of his pro-rated salary for this season, $18.5 million in 2021 and then the $15 to $20 million in 2022.
The Mariners would have to eat some salary in any deal, but if you are the Braves or the Nationals and the need for a third baseman is there, not just for this year but in the next two seasons, would it be worth the investment?
Let’s say Seattle was willing to send $10 million in cash for 2021 and 2022 to increase the prospect return, would having this version of Seager, who will be 33 next season, for the next two seasons for just over $30 million be worth it.
There were teams interested in trading for Seager this past offseason. But you have to wonder how much the shortened season and teams’ financial situations might have crushed that interest.
As for the other players … Nola’s ability to catch and play first base drew interest from teams in the offseason. He’s showing the offensive production in 2019 wasn’t a one-off. The Mariners would love to trade Gordon, but he hasn’t performed well enough to draw much interest. He is a free agent after this season so he’d be a one-month rental. But with the expanded roster, the extra-innings rule and his speed, a creative team could definitely find ways to extract value out of Gordon.
Relievers are always traded at the deadline. And while the Mariners bullpen has been bad, like the worst in baseball bad, Altavilla and Magill might generate interest if they throw well. It’s all about consistency with Altavilla. Both players come with club control though Altavilla will go into his first year of salary arbitration in 2021.
Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said he could not comment on that situation. That obviously leads to a lot of speculation. Graveman said he was diagnosed with it in 2019 with the Cubs, but had dealt with some neck pain in 2018 with the A’s. Did he and his agent hide it from Seattle? Did the Mariners medical staff miss it in the physical? Did the Mariners know about it and still move forward with the signing since Graveman never once went on the disabled list for the neck issue until this season?
I’m not a medical expert here. But I have experienced the Mariners’ extensive physical process first-hand, and nothing I saw in that ordeal would help find a bone tumor in a person’s neck. And since he never spent any time on the injured list with a neck issue, it isn’t something that would raise a red flag to look specifically for it.
So he’s pitched and rehabbed with the tumor and shown some success, but as he mentioned to the Mariners, it’s when his body starts to fatigue in the later innings of a start where the discomfort magnifies. The idea of converting him to a relief becomes more intriguing with that revelation.
My hair grows not down. So when everyone was growing mullets my hair looked like Kevin Arnold in the Wonder Years. Unfortunately, there was no Winnie Cooper living across the street.
I actually found a plastic head band that fit my huge melon a few years ago. It was a little tight, but I thought it was a good look. Unfortunately, the kid asked for his hula hoop back.