With James Paxton and Felix Hernandez on the disabled list, the Mariners need to add some arms. Here’s a few that could be acquired for a reasonable price.
On Thursday afternoon, the original plan for this column/notebook was to take a look at the viability or logic of the Mariners trying to acquire Justin Verlander from the Detroit Tigers and taking on the $56 million he’s owed for the next two seasons and the almost $9 million left for this year.
The dream of Ervin Santana, whom the Mariners have tried to acquire multiple times from the Twins, was put on hold with Minnesota making another wild-card push and moving ahead of Seattle in the standings.
But Verlander? It seemed like a decent debate considering the Mariners had taken over sole possession of the second wild card after a two-game sweep of the A’s in Oakland during a 6-3 road trip.
With James Paxton opening the Mariners’ only homestand of August, having a 1-2 duo of Paxton and Verlander for the final month and a half of the season, with the hope of Felix Hernandez chipping in during mid-September, seemed highly conducive toward the Mariners making their first postseason appearance since 2001.
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But later that night, when Paxton’s face grimaced in discomfort and he began grabbing at his left pectoral and adjusting his left shoulder, that possibility was put on hold.
On Friday the team announced Paxton had suffered a pectoral strain that would keep him out three weeks. The idea of adding Verlander as a finisher for the Mariners in their postseason push dissipated amid the disappointment.
Well, with Paxton out for three weeks and Hernandez expected to be out three to four weeks despite his protests, the Mariners aren’t one pitcher away from pushing them over the top. Now they are two pitchers away from just trying to survive and stay in the race.
The Mariners have shifted into a similar philosophy they used when they were missing four starters in May, trying to essentially have a “piggyback” for all of their games. A “piggyback” is a term used often in the minor leagues and during spring training. It’s where a team essentially has two starters pitch every game.
The Mariners are bringing up starters from Class AAA Tacoma to be available to pitch in long relief if that day’s starter struggles. And if that long reliever is burned up by usage, he’s sent back to Tacoma and a new, fresh arm is brought up. For example: Andrew Moore was sent back down after pitching in Friday’s loss and Christian Bergman was brought up for Saturday.
“Desperate times make you look for things outside of the box that might work,” M’s manager Scott Servais said.
But it’s difficult to believe that the Mariners can sustain any level of success that would keep them in the wild-card race by doing this for the next three weeks and beyond.
The other, more accepted option, is to go outside the organization and acquire at least two pitchers during the waiver trade period. The options aren’t outstanding and could be costly in terms of dollars or prospects. But they are certainly better than what the Mariners are trying to do now. And if/when Paxton and Hernandez return, your rotation would be that much deeper.
General manager Jerry Dipoto has talked about acquiring pitchers with some club control going forward, and he’s done that. But the idea of a two-month rental can’t be overlooked, given the circumstances the team finds itself in now.
So who could the Mariners get as stop-gaps from here to the end of the season that fit the parameters of what the team is willing to give up in dollars and prospects?
The most logical acquisition, which has already been talked about in baseball circles, would be trading for rental right-hander Marco Estrada from the Blue Jays; he is coming off a solid outing against the Yankees. He’s having a subpar year going into free agency, with a 5-7 record and a 4.85 ERA in 24 starts. But he’s pitched well of late, posting a 2.08 ERA in his last four starts. He has just over $4 million owed this season.
While the Blue Jays aren’t completely out of the wild-card race, Estrada is gone after the season. Getting a mid-level prospect in return and picking up his contract might be enough. The Royals and Astros could also be looking at Estrada as rotation help.
But adding Estrada probably isn’t enough.
Here are some other stopgap possibilities that the Mariners could look to acquire, pitchers that don’t come with exorbitant dollars left on contracts or require large prospect returns. Of course, these are all predicated on the players having cleared revocable waivers, and the Mariners being able to put a waiver claim on them.
Andrew Cashner, RHP, Rangers
A personal rule: Never trust someone who cuts his hair into a mullet to be contrary. But Cashner has posted a respectable 3.36 ERA in 18 starts this season. His strikeout numbers are way down, which is concerning. But he’s pitched less than six innings in just five outings this season. A free agent after the season, he’s owed just over $3 million.
Tyson Ross, RHP, Rangers
Like his Texas teammate, Ross is a free agent after the season. His health is always a concern; he’s just coming off another DL stint. He’s made just seven starts this season, posting a 3-2 record with a 7.11 ERA. Because of that, he might be not cost more than the remaining salary owed on his $6 million deal.
Derek Holland, LHP, White Sox
He will be a free agent at the end of the season, and the White Sox are dumping guys faster than an episode of “The Bachelorette,” so he’s available. He’s 6-11 with a 5.25 ERA in 22 starts and a relief appearance. He’s allowed 26 homers this season, which isn’t good. He’s owed just under $2 million and probably wouldn’t cost much in prospects, if any at all, which is good.
Miguel Gonzalez, RHP, White Sox
Gonzalez is a free agent after next year and is available. He’s owed even less than Holland for the rest of the season. He’s posted a 6-1 record with a 4.85 ERA in 18 starts. Not overpowering, Gonzalez has made 143 big-league starts and is serviceable.
R.A. Dickey, RHP, Braves
While the Mariners would love to have Dickey’s teammate, Julio Teheran, and so would everyone else; he’d never clear waivers. Dickey isn’t as coveted. He’s 7-7 with a 4.03 ERA in 22 starts this season. The knuckleballer is durable and can be used often. He’s owed just over $2 million for the rest of the season.
Scott Feldman, RHP, Reds
The veteran right-hander missed the last month because of knee inflammation. He started Saturday (giving up three runs in four innings), and multiple teams were watching. Because he signed for just $2.3 million, he isn’t owed much for the remainder of 2017 and is a free agent after the season. He’s 7-7 with a 4.43 ERA in 20 starts. He’s pitched in the American League for most of his career.