Yesterday, we talked about the Mariners trade fit with the Tampa Bay Rays in regards to starting catcher Austin Nola. We also talked about the reasons why Nola is going to be appealing to contenders and rebuilding teams alike. In part:
But what Dipoto does have is a fairly young catcher with an above-average bat, average glove, and the versatility to play five other positions.
In addition to the solid player Nola has become, he will have 5-years of club control remaining and won’t make seven figures until after the 2022 season. Nola might be the best catcher available in a truly crazy season where teams are only playing 37% of a full schedule but more than half the teams in baseball will make the playoffs.
There is no shortage of teams who desperately need offensive upgrades at catcher and Nola enters tonight’s game against the Dodgers slashing .279/.338/.515 good for a 135 wRC+. Combined with solid average defense behind the dish and the ability to handle first, second, third, and a corner outfield spot in a pinch, and the lack of wear and tear on the knees of Nola, he is going to generate interest. But that is the beauty of having Nola locked in for such a long-time and at a cheap price: you don’t need to trade him.
But if they do, one of the teams that makes sense is the Cleveland Indians. Cleveland currently sits at 15-9 and are just 0.5 games back of the Twins for first place in the AL Central. This is despite the fact that the team has banished two of their best pitchers to the alternate training site after breaking COVID protocol and then lying about it. It is also in spite of their epically poor performances from the catcher position. Cleveland’s catchers are hitting .081/.227/.135 and posting a 9 wRC+. NINE. Cleveland needs help at the position and has some interesting players that might be interesting. Let’s look at a few of them.
Cleveland Trade Targets for the Mariners to consider
Well as much as I don’t like it, I should point out that a Nola for Zach Plesac trade is a fun one to think about. Ignoring the stupidity of Plesac for a moment, both players have the same amount of club control, though Plesac is significantly younger. But Cleveland has starting pitching depth and no internal answer at catcher and the loud and public backlash Plesac and Clevinger faced from their teammates leads some to believe that the relationship may no be salvagable.
From a pure baseball standpoint, Plesac is a solid #4 starter at worst who was flashing true #1 stuff in 2020 before his idiotic decision halted that progress. Ultimately, Plesac is best despcribed as a strike thrower with good but not great stuff. But can Seattle overlook the initial infraction? Probably. Can they overlook the follow up video Plesac posted? Maybe not.
Aside from Plesac, there are several prospects and young MLB players that are interesting. Jake Bauers, who was involved in the three team deal with Seattle and Tampa that sent Edwin Encarnacion to Seattle, is an athletic, barrell to the ball first baseman who can play a little corner outfield is Dipoto”y”.
Triston McKenzie is a high upside prospect with upper rotation stuff. The 6’5″, 165 lbs McKenzie has durability concerns that lead some scouts to label him as a bullpen guy but when he’s on and healthy, McKenzie has 3 above-average pitches that play up thanks to above-average command. While a step behind the Logan Gilbert, Emerson Hancock, and George Kirby’s of the world, he would instantly become the fourth best pitching prospect in the Mariners system and could challenge George Kirby for that third spot.
Daniel Johnson is an uber-athletic outfielder with plus run and arm tools and above-average outfield defense. He also has interesting power and a pretty solid swing, giving him the chance to be an every day outfielder, perhaps in a Michael Brantley type of role. Johnson has struggled in his cup of coffee with Cleveland and Seattle’s impressive outfield depth are factors here.
Nick Sandalin is an MILB performer with above-average control and two solid offerings, his fastball and slider. The curveball and changeup aren’t far behind, but he lacks the dominating offering that could make him a closer candidate. Still, he has starting experience and 74 strikeouts in 50.1 innings, so he’s an interesting name to watch.
Lenny Torres is somewhat similar to McKenzie. He has dealt with injuries in his career and has a small frame that will lead some to immediately label him as bullpen only. But Torres is just 19-years-old with a clean windup, a mid-90s fastball with serious run (that’s touched 99 MPH), and an above-average sweeping slider that flashes plus. He has the workings of a decent changeup and is a good athlete who throws strikes and repeats his delivery. He’s a few years away but likely carries the same floor/ceiling combination of Justin Dunn.
Of course, the Mariners could get creative. Or they could like completely different players than the ones mention here. Ultimately, I don’t think Nola is traded this summer. But teams will call and Dipoto should listen. It only takes one team offering the right player to make anybody available, so keep your eyes peeled over the next 11 days.