As the July 31st trade deadline rapidly approaches, the social media world has been full of rumors, yet still not a ton of notable action. The Marlins have started what seems to be their “annual fire sale” as they shipped Hanley Ramirez and Randy Choate to the Dodgers and sent Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante to Detroit. The Astros are in sell mode as well, as they cut ties with Brett Meyers, J.A. Happ, and Brandon Lyon, and most recently sent lefty Wandy Rodriguez to the surprising Pittsburgh Pirates. Possibly the biggest trade of the year is the one that sent a 38-year-old right fielder with a sub .300 OBP to the Yankees for a couple of minor league pitchers without much upside, yep, that is about the extent of big names changing places so far.
I do believe that things are just getting started, and as we move through these final 5 days of the deadline, we could see some pretty good players changing uniforms. Zack Greinke, Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza, James Shields, and Josh Johnson are just a few of the proven arms to likely be moved, the list of bats might be a bit more limited. Josh Willinham could be had in the right deal, but the price is rumored to be astronomical from the Twins end. Shin-Soo Choo has been talked about, but it is still unclear that the Indians are convinced to move to sell mode. Hunter Pence and Shane Victorino have had their names each mentioned, but again, as the Phillies get healthy, it is no certainty that they are ready to wave the white flag on their season.
So what do the Mariners do? Obviously as they sit 16.5 games out of first place, they do not need to get caught up in whether or not to sell what they have. However, what exactly do they have? There are some veterans that have produced enough to be of some value to contenders, but some are under club control beyond next year, meaning that if the return is not exactly what they are looking for then they might be better of holding on to them.
Lets take a look at the pieces of interest.
Brandon League – The feeling is that League may be the most likely to be moved. He is a free agent at season’s end, and with the emergence of Tom Wilhelmsen as the teams closer, and Stephen Pryor and Carter Capps working to solidify the back-end of the teams bullpen for years to come, League brings Seattle very little value moving forward. While I do think Brandon League gets traded, I do not believe he brings back anything notable in return on his own.
Kevin Millwood – A veteran starter is always valuable come August, and that is exactly what Millwood is. He is obviously not part of the future plans in Seattle, and could be a great second tier addition for a club looking to make a run. Like League, there is not a huge return here, but he will still draw some interest and it will be in the best interest of the team to listen and act if they feel something makes sense.
Jason Vargas – Vargas has a history of struggling in the second half, but he has thrown well over his past few starts, notably his 8 inning 1 hit effort against a respectable offense in the Royals tonight. It will certainly be noted by scouts in attendance that the start came at Safeco, where nobody hits, but it is still a great start for Vargas in what could be his last as a Mariner. I have went back and forth on Vargas. He is arbitration eligible next year, meaning he is controlled by the team at what is likely to be around 7-8 million dollars. Vargas is perfect for Safeco, and has had some runs where he looks very impressive. Earlier in the year I thought it would be a no brainer to deal him in July, but now with the somewhat flooded pitching market I am not so sure. I think there is no doubt there is interest there, but it will be a fine line in determining if the value in return outweighs putting him back in the teams rotation next year. I do not think I lean one way or the other on Vargas, he will be a wait and see situation.
Tom Wilhelmsen – Probably the most valuable piece the Mariners have, as he is controlled for 5 years after 2012. After what Wilhelmsen has shown for not just the past few weeks, but really the entire season, I believe that keeping Wilhelmsen in Seattle is best for everyone involved. Obviously, like all trades, they need to listen. If it makes sense and he can be part of a deal that brings back a major league ready bat then it can get interesting. If I had to pick today, I would say keep him.
Felix Hernandez – Sorry, I had to. In no way am I saying trade Felix, but you are doing yourself a disservice by not at least listening. I find it hard to believe that any team out there can put together a package that I would truly be happy with, but listening and shopping him are two different things, so I believe staying on the phone to hear what other GM’s say cannot hurt. Something else that happened in the last day or two that may be overlooked is the Cole Hamels contract. Hamels signed a 144 million dollar deal that locks him up for 6 years, when he will be 35 years old. As Larry Stone of the Seattle Times suggests, this could be an interesting development as far as Seattle is concerned. Hamels deal will begin when he is 29 years old, which is how old Felix will be when his current deal expires. Hamels deal is the second richest for a pitcher in the history of baseball behind C.C. Sabathia’s 180 million dollar deal. The notable difference is Felix’s current workload for his age. Although he has shown no signs of wear (knock on wood) his total innings pitched could surpass 1600 by seasons end. There have only been 21 pitchers in the history of the game to reach 1600 innings before they turned 27 years old, for the most part nobody has maintained success into their 30′s with Bert Blyleven being an exception. None of these things suggest any facts when it comes to Felix and his future, but they are definitely worth considering. For the record, I am not suggesting the Mariners trade Felix, just be open.
Some other notable names to consider: Brendan Ryan, John Jaso, Miguel Olivo, and even Chone Figgins could all draw interest from contending clubs. Some much different from others. Jaso has value in Seattle, and although it is an unpopular opinion, I see value in Brendan Ryan as well. As for Olivo and Figgins, I am sure we could round-up some help packing their bags, maybe even a ride to the airport. Obviously, the team would not be receiving any talent in return, and would likely be sending money with the players (especially in Figgins case.) Maybe not likely to be moved, but absolutely names to file and consider as the next five days come and go.
Could this team actually buy?
The answer is yes. While deals like this are more likely to happen in the winter, the Mariners could target a player that is not a rental, and move some of their top prospects to do so. This includes the big three, along with Nick Franklin, and even Kyle Seager. The Mariners showed interest in Billy Butler earlier in the year, and while they might not have had a match, things can change. The fact they reportedly had interest at all means they are at least thinking along the lines of non traditional moves come July 31. Josh Willingham is a name that as mentioned earlier may have a giant asking price, but do they have interest? Although Justin Upton is now said to be staying put until at least the winter, they have shown great interest for the young power hitter. Would the Mariners have interest in bringing back Shin-Soo Choo? The price will certainly be higher than Ben Broussard, but there is no doubt that the Mariners have the prospects necessary to make any of these deals work. Taijuan Walker is not a name that I would like to see go, but like Felix, this team needs to be open to anything.
Bats are a must. There is no way this team stands pat between now and opening day 2013, they simply cannot afford to. The cash will be there as a chunk comes off the books at season’s end, and the fan base is getting restless. I do not know that this team adds a middle of the order bat that is proven in the next five days, but I do have little doubt that they add one and potentially two between now and March 2013.
This time of year is one of the most exciting in baseball. The Ichiro shocker a couple of days ago proved just that. You never know, and there is no front office that plays their cards close more so than Jack Zduriencik right here in Seattle. Follow your favorite twitter handles, turn on your favorite baseball show, and check your favorite rumor sites, things are going to start to pick up and we will see quite a few big names in new places.