Editorials

Ranking the potential Mariners trade pieces and their possible returns

This trade deadline is set to be the most unpredictable trade deadline ever. Obviously, because of the COVID-19 pandemic, every team is thinking differently this year about trading prospects, and trading for prospects because of the cancellation of the Minor League season.

However, the Mariners are still sellers like usual (sigh), and they have some pieces that will certainly be on the move for whatever they can get. They also have some guys that, might move but maybe teams will be hesitant because of the pandemic, and maybe the Mariners will be hesitant to go after other teams prospects with no live scouting this year. So let’s take a look at the Mariners who will certainly be on the move, the ones who might be on the move and the ones who teams will most likely hold off on going after before the August 31, 2020 deadline, along with some specific potential trade ideas.

The “They’re bags are already packed” guys

Taijuan Walker

Taijuan has had a great season considering what he has gone through the last two years. He had Tommy John surgery to repair a partially torn UCL in 2018 and then was released by the D-Backs in 2019 after making one, one inning start. The M’s brought him back to Seattle to try and revitalize his career and most likely trade him before the deadline. Other teams will notice that Walker has had two excellent 6+ inning shutouts against an, at the time, struggling A’s team and a bad Texas lineup. His other 3 starts where he allowed 5, 4, and 3 earned runs came against the Astros, Angels (Rendon, Trout, and Ohtani all in the lineup) and the Dodgers. This has led Walker to an above-average 4.00 ERA, 4.92 FIP, and a 105 ERA+ in 27 innings.

Trade idea #1: Walker, Austin Nola, and a player to be named later to the Blue Jays for C Reese McGuire and OF Anthony Alford.

This trade makes so much sense for both sides. For the Jays, they’ll be getting a good 5th starter and with their current injuries, Walker would be more like a 3rd or 4th starter. Austin Nola will be a huge addition for the Blue Jays. I’ll discuss Nola’s season later in this post, but the quickest of breakdown on Nola’s season is that he has been excellent.

Nola would immediately be the backup to Danny Jansen behind the plate and would have the potential to take his job this year or in the future (Nola is under team control until 2026). The main aspect of Nola’s game that Toronto would love would be his versatility. The Blue Jays main issue right now is the back of their lineup and bench.

Watching the Blue Jays game on August 24th, play-by-play man Dan Shulman mentioned that the Jays 7, 8, and 9 hitters were 1 for their last 28 at the plate. To add to that, their bench does not have a guy with a decent amount of at-bats with an OPS over .418. So with the Jays struggles and Nola’s insane versatility, he will be able to find himself in the lineup at C, 1B, 2B, 3B, LF, or RF almost every day. The PTBNL would be a corner infield or outfield prospect in the 15th-25th ranking of Mariners prospects.

The Mariners’ main return would be Reese McGuire. A Seattle native, McGuire would be under team control until 2026, and would hopefully become Seattle’s everyday catcher for the next few years. The Blue Jays should be fine parting with McGuire as he has fallen behind Danny Jansen on the depth chart and the Jays have two catchers in their top 10 prospects. McGuire has just a .321 OPS on 30 PA’s, but in 168 PA’s in his three year MLB career he has a .784 OPS.

McGuire also plays above-average defense with a fielding grade of 60 and an arm grade of 55 on the MLB prospects 20-80 grading scale. The second part of the return would be the Blue Jays 22nd ranked prospect Anthony Alford. Alford was designated for assignment on August 20th so he would have to be traded before his ten days of waivers are up, but this would be something that benefits both teams as Toronto has decided to part with their struggling prospect and Seattle needs outfielders.

Trade idea #2: Walker to the White Sox for RHP Tyler Johnson.

This deal would be less exciting than trade #1 but it also makes a ton of sense. The White Sox need pitching as they push to be one of the 16 teams in the playoffs and Walker would be their 4th starter. The return from the Sox, Johnson, is the 29th ranked prospect in the White Sox system and is at their alternative training site for this season. Johnson obviously is not the high ranking kind of prospect that the Mariners hope they can get for Walker, but he has great minor league stats with a projection from the MLB prospect list for a debut in 2021, and he fits the Mariners system. Just like almost every Mariners pitching prospect, Johnson has a high-velocity fastball (60 grade) and a plus slider (50 grade).

Taylor Williams

Williams, the Mariners saves leader with 6, has a 3.00 ERA, 142 ERA+, and a 2.89 FIP in 12 innings for the Mariners this season. He is under team control until 2025.

Trade idea: Williams to the Phillies, Reds, or Padres, for cash considerations.

The Phillies, Reds, and Padres currently have the three worst bullpen ERA for teams that are serious about contending (overall they are 30th, 26th, and 24th). The Phillies just made a trade with the Red Sox for two relievers but they need all the help they can get. The Reds really only have 2-3 bullpen arms that have good stats this year and are healthy. The Padres have been one of those exciting teams that always seems to be winning 7-3 in the 6th, and then wins the game by one or in extras (Maybe Tatis swung on a 3-0 pitch up 7 because he wasn’t confident about his bullpen. Food for thought.). They clearly still need one or two more decent bullpen pitchers. Williams would be a cheap option for any team and with the current situation of no minor leagues in 2020, the price for an unproven reliever like Williams will be cash or a PTBNL.

Matt Magill

Magill was on a great run of relief appearances, with 8 innings, 2 hits, and 0 earned runs, but then he gave up 5 runs in 2/3 of an inning against the Dodgers. He has a 4.66 ERA and a 4.28 FIP for 2020 to go along with a career 4.53 ERA in 149 innings pitched.

Trade idea: Magill to the same teams listed for Williams for cash considerations.

Same story as Taylor Williams. Magill has been excellent, but teams are not going to be giving up prospects at their alternative training sites for relievers with one month of great pitching, and the teams trading the relievers, like Seattle, are not going to want lower ranking prospects that they cant scout this year.

The “Might be on the move, but in this economy?” guys

Kyle Seager

Seager has had a tremendous start to the delayed 2020 season, with an .892 OPS and 149 OPS+ in 122 PA’s. However, his trade value is hampered by his large salary. Kyle is to be paid $18 million next year, and if he is traded his 2022 $15 million team option turns into a player option which he will certainly accept.

Trade Idea: Seager and cash considerations to the Braves for 3B Johan Camargo and 1B Bryce Ball.

Kyle has been my favorite Mariner for a while now, and I was lucky enough to get his autograph when he came to where I currently reside, Pittsburgh, last year. But if a deal like this is offered, you have to accept. ESPN’s Jeff Passan originally had the idea of Seager to the Braves and was the inspiration for this potential trade.

Seager to the Braves makes sense with Camargo not playing up to expectations and Atlanta’s hungry win-now attitude. They will almost certainly try to pry a pitcher out of the Mariners’ arms if they call for Seager, but I don’t imagine Seattle moving anyone other than Walker. This trade will also only happen if the Mariners send cash for part of the contract which would be about $10-15 million of Seagers remaining $33 million in 2021 and 2022.

As for the Mariners return, Camargo and Ball are players to be excited about. Camargo has had an up and down 4 year MLB career, but a change of scenery and chance to be the everyday third baseman again could always do the trick. Camargo had a .783 and .806 OPS in 2017 and 2018 along with positive defensive WARs, but since then he has struggled. He currently has a .186 BA and a 54 OPS+, which makes me believe that Atlanta would trade him for not much in return.

But, that is where Bryce Ball comes in. The Mariners rebuild has a clear player for the future at the traditional power spots (OF, 1B), but how about a DH of the future? Bryce Ball, the Braves 21st ranked prospect, has a 40-grade glove but has a 50 contact grade and a 60 power grade.

He would hopefully have good enough fielding to play 1B on Evan White‘s off days and then play the rest of the 162 in AL ballparks at DH. In 231 AB’s in his first year in the minors Ball had an OPS of 1.023 with 17 HRs. The 6’ 6″ Ball’s MLB.com prospect bio also describes him as having a low K rate, which is extremely encouraging for a left-handed power hitter.

Austin Nola

The former middle infield prospect from LSU turned Catcher has a .815 OPS, 141 OPS+, and 1.9 WAR for his career in 357 PAs. This great offense comes from a 30-year-old who made his debut at age 29 and has played C, 1B, 2B, 3B, LF, and RF for the Mariners. He could also probably play short and center too at a slightly below average rate, and maybe his brother Aaron has taught him a thing or two about pitching. Even though he is 30 years old, he is under team control until 2026, making him a very intriguing trade piece or part of the Mariners’ future. Because of this, and the lack of up to date scouting on prospects, I’m not sure if the M’s will get a good enough deal to move Nola.

Trade idea #1: Nola, Taijuan Walker, and a player to be named later to the Blue Jays for C Reese McGuire and OF Anthony Alford

(Explained above when I discussed possible Taijuan Walker trades)

Trade idea #2: Nola to the Yankees for 3B Miguel Andujar and C Josh Breaux

The Yankees desperately need Austin Nola and will probably pay a good price in terms of talent sent to Seattle for the 30 year old utility man. Yankees have seemed to drop like flies the last two seasons and injuries have affected every position group the last two seasons. Right now due to injury, the Yankees backup catcher is 40 year old vet Erik Kratz. Nola could be the Yankees backup catcher for the foreseeable future, and when players all over the field go down with injuries (like LeMahieu and Judge), Nola can be slotted into an everyday role at every position.

Similar to my mock Seager deal to the Braves, the Mariners get a young player for now and a prospect for the future. Andujar is a player that the Yankees have basically quit on and he only has one minor league option left. Andujar had an excellent 2018, but then 2019 injuries and Gio Urshela pushed him out of the lineup, and with his poor start to 2020 (22 PA’s, .232 OPS), he was optioned down to the Yank’s alternate training site.

Seager being traded would make this trade more plausible, but with Andujar’s terrible 3B defense, he could be a DH or Seager off day option for the next few years. Breaux is also an exciting player to get in return. The 22-year-old catcher is the Yankees 24th ranked prospect and had a .771 OPS across three lower levels of the minors in his two pro seasons. His 20-80 scale scouting grades are 45 hit, 55 power, 60 arm, and 45 fielding.

More trade ideas for Nola from fellow True to the Trident writer Colby Patnode: Nola to the Rays, Nola to the Indians.

Jake Fraley and Braden Bishop

Fraley and Bishop have both barely been able to get on the field this season as they were both recently called up to the MLB active roster. While they both are older than your typical prospects with one year of MLB experience, they still do have value and potential. That, along with Seattle’s lack of OF depth, is why I see the Mariners holding on to them through the pandemic season. Seattle would also want a prospect or prospects in return for either Fraley or Bishop, and with up to date scouting not possible, I don’t see Dipoto getting a deal he likes enough to move one of them.

However, if a contending team is desperate for an outfielder for the now and the future, like Cleveland or Toronto, I could see either of the two Mariner outfielders moved for the right, extremely high and scout-able, price.

The “Dipoto’s phone will ring a few times for them, but they’re not going anywhere” guys

Justin Dunn

Dunn has not been terrible, but he seems like he has an inability to pitch close to triple digits and go deep into games. Pair that with the Mariners having a long list of starting pitching prospects, and Justin is out of the rotation of the future. I would imagine that someone will call about Dunn, or at least ask if Dipoto would pair Dunn with a Seager or Nola.

Dunn could interest teams desperate for starting pitching help now and for the future like the Red Sox, or a return to the team that drafted him in the first round and has a lack of MLB ready pitching prospects, the Mets. The Rays also always seem like a team down with trying to revitalize a pitchers’ career and they are dealing with some injuries to starters. I still don’t see Dunn moving though because his value is not that high and again, its impossible to scout prospects right now.

Mallex Smith

Smith has struggled severely during his two years in Seattle. Smith was traded from the Rays after 2018 where Mallex had a .773 OPS and a 3.6 WAR in 544 PAs and 141 games. 2019 and 2020 have been far from the same story offensively, leading the Mariners to use Smith’s second minor-league option. Smith did lead the league in stolen bases in 2019 with 46, but his speed is pretty much the only trait that teams will want him for. I don’t think a deal involving Smith gets done before the 2020 deadline, but if a team is desperate for a playoff pinch-runner this year or more likely next year and the Mariners run out of options with Mallex, I could see the Mariner’s designating him for assignment and trading him for cash like Daniel Vogelbach.

Carl Edwards Jr.

Edwards Jr would’ve been a candidate to be traded, and he has been excellent in his limited appearances this year with 1.93 ERA in 5 games of relief, but he is currently on the 10-day IL with a forearm problem which will certainly scare off teams. I’d Imagine the Mariners bring back Edwards Jr on arbitration next year and then try to move him before the 2021 deadline.

Taylor Gilbeau

Gilbeau has been good enough, and is young enough, for the Mariners to consider keeping him around long term. Like Edwards Jr, Gilbeau is also on the 10-day IL currently which will scare off most teams, but I would imagine some will call about the 27-year-old reliever with a 2.70 ERA in 25 career appearances. Gilbeau’s value is high enough with his excellent stats and 5 more years of team control that he is worth more than just cash considerations, and the Mariners will wait until they can scout other teams lower-ranking prospects before they think about moving him.

Dylan Moore and Tim Lopes

Moore and Lopes have been good in their limited opportunities this year, but they’re both too young and have too many years of team control to move. Teams looking for a utility man will call, but I would be stunned if either of them moved before the deadline this year.

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