In these unprecedented times — did someone trademark that phrase, because if they did, so much money is heading their way — the Major League Baseball trade deadline feels a little different. It’s a month later and the hype surrounding it has certainly lessened despite roughly 22 of the 30 teams having a shot at making the expanded postseason.
Don’t worry, the Twitter mailbag isn’t being traded anywhere. Teams don’t want to acquire malcontents with diva complexes and an inability to not say what they think. Then again, that might be describing the mailbag author more than the mailbag itself.
Given the amount of quality questions from last week, the mailbag wanted to make sure some were included this week.
As always, these are real questions submitted by the segment of the population known as my Twitter followers.
Did I solicit my friends to ask this question or the purposes of the upcoming trade deadline? Yes, there was collusion. Thanks to my good friend, Kevin, who is an outstanding local sports-talk radio host and vicious screen-setter in pickup hoops. Remember pickup hoops? We may never play again.
I wanted to delve into the remaining trade value/possibilities for the Mariners, following the recent trades of Daniel Vogelbach and Taijuan Walker to the Blue Jays in separate and very different deals.
Venerable columnist Larry Stone and I discussed this subject on the most recent Extra Innings podcast. There isn’t much remaining to trade for GM Jerry Dipoto, which has really never stopped him before. Need proof? Jordan Shusterman, the Mariners’ fan portion of the duo that runs the Cespedes Family BBQ Twitter account and the Baseball BBQ podcast, has tracked all of Dipoto’s trades and moves since taking over the Mariners. The next trade Dipoto makes will be the 106th of his tenure.
When he gets to 110 trades, everyone in the front office will receive a free set of steak knives that can cut through an aluminum can and a subscription to MeUndies.
So let’s take a closer look at the remaining trade possibilities.
Austin Nola, catcher/1B
I mentioned this on Twitter a few days before Walker was traded and stand by it. Looking at the entirety of the situation — position, contract, age and production — that Nola might have the most trade value of any players the Mariners might be willing to move.
I’m not sure if that says more about Nola’s unexpected success at the MLB level and his positional flexibility or the Mariners’ roster.
Signed to a minor league deal before last season to serve as catching depth for Triple-A Tacoma, Nola found his way to the big leagues as a first baseman. Thanks to some swing, approach and preparation adjustments, he produced at the plate to the point where the Mariners deemed catcher Omar Narvaez tradable last offseason.
In 106 games since making his MLB debut, Nola has a .284/.352/.483 slash line* with 17 doubles, two triples, 15 homers, 50 RBI with 30 walks and 79 strikes.
But it’s his ability to catch that drives up the value. With expanded rosters this season and possibly next season and the use of a universal designated hitter, having a utility player that catches at a league-average level, if not higher, is beyond valuable.
The Mariners had about 10 teams inquire about acquiring Nola during the offseason.
The biggest detraction is his age. He’ll be 31 next season. Based on data that most MLB general managers use, Nola is considered on the downward side of his peak performance and the decline supposedly increases in speed with each year after 30.
Then again, a team acquiring Nola might only focus on this season and next season at the most.
Perhaps the biggest draw is his affordability. Nola is making the MLB minimum this season, next season and the 2022 season before reaching salary arbitration. By the time he might get expensive, a team could non-tender him. Baseball is cruel that way.
Given all of that, it’s fair to ask — “Why wouldn’t the Mariners just keep him?”
Well, it’s about what is offered for Nola. If a team is willing to overpay for him, you have to consider it. Even if the Mariners believe Nola is a fit for their rebuild and want to keep him as a veteran presence and producer, they should still listen to any and all offers.
Cal Raleigh is still their catcher of the future … for now. Tom Murphy, who hasn’t played this season due to a fluke injury, heads into three years of salary arbitration next season and gets more expensive. But he’s better defensively and was good enough to be considered the starter ahead of Nola coming into this season.
Kyle Seager, 3B
It’s been written about often, but a reminder that the “poison pill” clause in Seager’s contract makes trading him a hindrance. It’s simple if the Mariners were to trade Seager to another team, the club option of the 2022 season, which could be somewhere between $15-20 million based on his 2021 performance, automatically becomes a player option.
And there isn’t a fathomable reason why Seager would not exercise a player option for that much money.
So any team that trades for Seager gets him for the rest of this season for about $3.5 million, next season at $18 million and the 2022 season for at least $15 million.
Yet based on his performance late last season and the overpriced market for third baseman, there were teams interested in acquiring Seager this offseason.
His strong start in this shortened season has verified the physical changes, swing work and results from last season. It certainly changes his projections for the next few seasons. Since the All-Star break last season, Seager has played in 102 games, posting a .270/.348/.518 slash line with 23 doubles, a triple, 22 homers, 71 RBI, 42 walks and 68 strikeouts.
That sort of production would make the salary worth it. And if the Mariners were to kick in perhaps $10 million to improve the prospect in return, a deal would be that much easier to consummate.
Let’s say you are the Atlanta Braves and you are getting -0.9 WAR from your third base position, including a .193/.238/.370 slash line, eight homers and 20 RBI, acquiring Seager might be worth the financial investment instead of waiting to see if once-hyped prospect Austin Riley figures it out. The Braves believe they are in their prime window of success, perhaps trading for Seager would solve third-base issues through 2022.
Dee Gordon, 2B/Utility
It’s mutual: The Mariners want to trade Gordon, and Gordon wants to be traded. It’s been that way since the start of last season when the Mariners decided to do the step-back rebuild and it intensified going into this season when they decided that Shed Long Jr. was going to be their everyday second baseman.
The problem is that Gordon hasn’t played well enough or remained healthy enough to merit much of a trade market, particularly given what he was owed on his contract — $2.65 million for the final month of the season and a $1 million buyout of his 2021 option. A potential deal with the Cubs at the trade deadline last season was scrapped when the Mariners put him on the injured list with a mild hamstring strain.
Gordon’s playing time has been limited this season, and his production has been suboptimal. A .148/.207/.167 slash line with a double and a stolen base in 19 games isn’t going to generate much interest. But his ability to play second base, shortstop and an adequate left field and his speed, might intrigue some teams who are looking for a finishing piece for their roster.
If the Mariners want to trade Gordon, they will essentially have to give him away.
Marco Gonzales, LHP
Why would they want to trade the leader of the pitching staff? They don’t want to trade him, but teams will still inquire about Gonzales even with a four-year, $30 million contract extension that starts next season.
The lefty has been consistently effective and durable over the last three seasons, making 69 starts and posting 32-24 record with a 3.96 ERA. His contract extension is pretty cheap compared to what teams might pay for in the free-agent market.
Trading Gonzales isn’t likely to happen this season or this offseason, but if this rebuild hasn’t shown significant progress by this time next season, it could be a consideration in the offseason after 2021.
While a well-placed Mariners’ source in the front office couldn’t give details as to which contracts are affected by it and which are not, the source said some of the dead money will be prorated based on the 2020 agreement with MLB and the MLB Players Association, while some will be paid the full amount.
It would seem like the money involved in the trades that sent Robinson Cano to the Mets and Mike Leake to the Diamondbacks would be the full amount.
The unwritten rule is that you don’t talk about the unwritten rules.
*batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage