Editorials

The “Swing for the Fences” Trade for the 2021 Seattle Mariners

Jul 3, 2020; Seattle, Washington, United States; Seattle Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto watches practice at T-Mobile Park. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Mariners are a somewhat surprising playoff contenders nearing the halfway point of the season, albeit as a fringe contender. But if the team wanted to try and take advantage of 2021 while also improving their 2022 chances, this deadline is going to be an expensive time to try it. But there is still a chance.

The 2021 deadline is shaping up to be an expensive deadline for teams who want to add to their 26 man rosters. There are very few true sellers and with the uncertainty of the new CBA, teams might be a bit more hesitant to part with the young talent typically required to make such a move. This creates a waiting game and makes it extremely difficult for a team in the Mariners position to outbid true contenders. The Mariners have the farm system to be involved in any of the talks that are happening now and will happen over the next month, but they need to be careful. As fun as the 2021 season has been, the team is still very much a fringe contender and doling out prospects to gain an extra win or two isn’t something that is easy to swallow.

Trading for rentals is extremely unlikely, at least as things stand now. But obviously, players with multiple years of club control are going to cost more. The time to have serious discussions about trading for rentals is likely a year away, unless the Mariners reel off a ridiculous win streak between now and the All-Star break. This is all unlikely, but part of the fun of trade season is dreaming on the player or players who can make the difference and help you shock the world. So let’s do that. But before we do, I want to stress one thing: it is my opinion that the team’s biggest additions for the last two months will be the likes of Cal Raleigh, Jarred Kelenic, and Kyle Lewis. Adding around the fringes of the roster using cash and non-propsects are fine, but shelling out Sam Carlson for Starling Marte isn’t something I’m interested in. But let’s just get started.

The Team

There are only a handful of teams that we know are selling this deadline and the Mariners aren’t one of them. That is a small victory in and of itself. But we can safely assume that the Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers, Texas Rangers, Arizona Diamondbacks, Kansas City Royals, Miami Marlins, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Colorado Rockies are selling. But that really is the entire list, at least as of today. And when you look at these teams, only a handful have non-rental pieces that could appeal to the 2021 AND 2022 Seattle Mariners. Since we’re looking to maximize the impact of 2021 in this exercise, you need to impact both your offense, rotation, and bullpen in such a deal. And out of the options laid out in front of us today, the Texas Rangers fit the bill.

The Targets

Rangers place RHP Kyle Gibson on IL with groin strain | Yardbarker

The Texas Rangers are just starting their rebuild, but like the Mariners, they don’t appear interested in a long-term tear down. The Rangers have a plethora of controllable, MLB successful bats like Adolis Garcia, Isiaha Kiner-Faleffa, Nick Solak, and Willie Calhoun. But it wouldn’t make much sense for the Rangers to trade away long-term pieces. Instead, they should be looking at moving players who have a good chance of leaving in free agency before the Rangers window opens and of course their rentals. Thankfully, the team does have three players that could help the Mariners and are also unlikely to be long-term Rangers.

Joey Gallo, Kyle Gibson, and Ian Kennedy are the three players for the Mariners to target. The three players that help your lineup, rotation, bullpen, and defense. No, this won’t be cheap. Gallo and Gibson are both under club control through the 2022 season and these players do fill holes that the current and ’22 rosters do or will have. Gallo is having a fairly typical Joey Gallo season. He is currently slashing .224/.385/.445 with 16 home runs and a 31% strikeout rate. He’s also an excellent defender and offers the versatility of handling all 3 outfield spots and both first and third base. Gallo is a 3 true outcomes guy who can hit anywhere between 1-6 in the lineup while allowing Seattle to play matchup with its outfielders, Kyle Seager, and Ty France.

Kyle Gibson is a career low-end #3 starter who is having a sensational 2021 season. His 2.00 ERA is amongst the best in baseball and his xERA of 3.14 suggest that while he’s been a bit lucky, he’s also been really good. But while this version of Kyle Gibson is likely a mirage, he throws a lot of quality strikes, avoids the barrel, eats innings, and gets a ton of groundballs. At worst, adding Gibson is like adding another Chris Flexen to the mix. At best, Gibson is a high-end 3 that likely starts game 1 of a playoff series for this club.

Ian Kennedy is the rental of this deal, but he’s been excellent out of the Rangers bullpen and is certain to be traded in the coming weeks. For Seattle, he can fill any role you need, including closer or a multi-inning bridge guy. He’s making league minimum and he’ll surely have multiple suitors, so you can’t exactly treat him like a freebie in this deal.

The Cost

Now here comes the painful part. A combination of these 3 players could add 3-5 wins in one half of a season and the cost to acquire that with additional years of club control is going to hurt. To think you can leave this negotiation without your dipping into the big four starting pitching prospects is foolish and even two might be on the table. With Gilbert already a big leaguer, he’s likely off the table, but both Emerson Hancock and George Kirby would need to be on the table for Texas. The Rangers are thin in the pitching department and landing a high-upside, high-floor starter who is with two years of the big leagues will carry massive appeal.

Along with Hancock or Kirby, Texas will likely require another pitching prospect in return, and Brandon Williamson could fit the bill. He might be a year away from the bigs and flashes #3 stuff and command in his first full pro-season. Perhaps the Mariners can midigate the cost of the secondary piece by including somebody from the big league roster. Ideally the Rangers believe they can turn around Justin Dunn or Justus Sheffield, but that is almost certainly wishful thinking.

No, to acquire impact talents, you need to give up impact prospects. A deal including Hancock and Williamson is a tough pill to swallow but should highlight something we as fans need to consider: adding to the 22 roster in a significant way in the next 4 weeks might be a feasible expectation for the Mariners. To acquire the trio of players listed here, the team will likely need to part with a package that looks something like Emerson Hancock, Brandon Williamson, and Justus Sheffield, with other smaller names (but still talented) prospects may also be required.

Snap Back to Reality

To add impact, you need to give it. Spending that much capitol, you need the players you bring in to give you a legitimate chance to make the playoffs this season. Would Gallo, Gibson, and Kennedy give the Mariners a better chance to break their streak in 2021? Probably. Would it be enough for them to actually do so? Probably not.

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