Typically, our big “plans” are saved for our off-season plan where we play Mariners GM and run through the number of players we would target in free agency and trade as we craft a roster for the coming season. But this year, we present an alternative, or more accurately, extra plan for you consideration.
The Seattle Mariners are in a unique position. Technically, with more than half the season to go, they are playoff contenders. But in all practicality, they’re not all that good. Now perhaps they aren’t bad. They certainly don’t have the record of a bad team and they pitch and run the bases quite well. They have an offense that has a decent blend of contact and power, though it lacks the depth necessary to consistently put up runs.
In short, the Mariners are a promising, but ultimately a bit short of good, baseball team. While an incredible run of baseball is possible for this team, they’re in the midst of one now, so too is the long losing streaks. This team needs massive impact added to it mid-season to make the playoffs this season, but that also likely means moving away from long-term pieces and closing your window sooner than you’d like. Is that worth the risk for a 1.1% chance to make the playoffs (per fangraphs)? No.
But the team wants to start winning soon, and has very few obvious selling pieces who wouldn’t help the 2022 roster. So the Mariners could look to add to the 22 roster this in the next month, but that help won’t come cheap. We may have gotten a little bit of a hint from Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto, who told Jon Morosi on Wednesday that he expects the team to have a “modern” approach this deadline and will look to buy and sell. Great, more of a headache for us to deal with. So how can the Mariners buy and sell? Simply by becoming water. The team will need to be open to all forms of trade talks, whether it means adding to the 21 or 22 rosters or selling off fan favorites such as Mitch Haniger or Kyle Seager.
But now that we know the direction the Mariners want to go, we will try to do the same. So, without further ado, here is our trade deadline plan.
Mariners trade Drew Steckenrider to Blue Jay for Kevin Smith
One of the areas the Mariners do have some assets to move is in the bullpen. Drew Steckenrider was pulled from the scrap heap this winter by Dipoto and has proven to be a valuable find for the Mariners. He has collected 30 strikeouts in 28 innings to go with his 2.22 ERA and 0.99 WHIP. He’s not premier option, but he is a valuable option in the middle-innings and provides more depth for a Blue Jays bullpen that needs help.
For their middle-reliever, the Mariners snag a player who is a minor league producer that is blocked by vastly more talented youngsters and is no longer considered a young prospect. Sounds like a Dipoto target to me. Kevin Smith can play second, shortstop, or third and play it well. He has a plus arm and is a good enough athlete to handle the outfield if needed. His swing can get a little long, but he shows good bat speed and a swing geared towards power. He’s a lottery ticket, but one who can play in 2021 and cover a lot of wholes that may present themselves.
Mariners trade Kendall Graveman to the Rays for Ford Proctor
Pick whichever team you think needs bullpen help and ship Kendall Graveman off. He hasn’t been nearly the same pitcher since his return from the COVID-19 IL and if you really want him back in 2022, you can still sign him this off-season. The Rays bullpen is actually quite good, ranking second in MLB in fWAR, so on the surface, they might not need Graveman. But the Rays use their bullpen a lot (more than any team in baseball actually) and to pull this off you need not only depth, but quality depth.
As a former starter, Graveman can get 4+ outs with some regularity and slots in naturally to the bridge role, making him an appealing option to the Rays. For their troubles, the Mariners snag infielder/catcher Ford Procter, who only picked up the gear in the winter of 2019. Despite this, Proctor has shown good feel for the position and is an above-average athlete. A former infielder moving to catcher is going to sound a lot like Austin Nola to some fans, and in fact we know the Rays were heavily interested in Nola before he was traded to the Padres, so he very well might not be available.
But with the Rays stacked infield and Proctor’s relative newness to the position, as well as Proctor running up on Rule 5 status, they may be willing to trade a slash-hitting newly minted catcher. For Seattle, Proctor will offer both versatility and professional approach at the plate that could play as a solid backup catcher or utility man sometime during the 2022 season.
Mariners trade Tom Murphy and Wyatt Mills to Cleveland for Joey Cantillo
Cleveland has gotten such poor production from their catchers, that Tom Murphy would actually be a rather serious upgrade. With Cal Raleigh clearly ready for the MLB challenge and decent depth in the high minors, Murphy won’t be a fit for this roster much longer.
Cantillo isn’t a sexy prospect. He’s a soft-tossing lefty who was a 16th round pick in 2017 that shows only a fringe-average curveball. But he has a plus changeup and despite unique delivery, he throws a ton of strikes, featuring above-average control and command. He’s 6’4″, 220 lbs, so he might be physically maxed out. Plus, they’ll need to add him to the 40-man roster this winter. He’s not a great prospect, but he certainly carries #4 upside and he’s just 22-years-old.
Mariners trade Kristian Cardozo to Kansas City for Jakob Junis
The Mariners are still contenders, so adding small pieces to either replace some of they will trade makes sense. Junis isn’t going to excite anybody and the Royals appear to be ready to move on, but there are some good signs from the 28-year-old pitcher who has experience in the rotation and bullpen. In this trade, he’s a reliever but he is club controlled through the 2023 season. And yes, Junis does have a cutter…. so isn’t he already a Mariner?
Mariners trade Levi Stoudt to the Yankees for Clint Frazier
Look, this is a total shot in the dark. I have no idea how the Yankees value Clint Frazier and you probably don’t either. He’s continued to fall short of ridiculous expectations and the Yankees never seem to willing to help Frazier develop as a big leaguer. That being said, over a 108 game sample between 2019 and 2020, Frazier hit .267/.347/.497 with 20 home runs. But Frazier has been quite bad in 2021 and he’s never been better than a below-average defender.
That being said, he does check a ton of boxes for a Dipoto acquisition. He’s a former top draft pick and prospect, he has a track record of some MLB success, possess above-average athleticism, and he has shown an absolute hatred for chasing pitches. Even with his struggles this season, Frazier still ranks in the 95th percentile in chase rate and in the 98th percentile in BB%. He may not seem like a fit, but with Evan White down for the count and Fraley and Bauers struggles against lefties, there are plenty of ABs to give Frazier in LF, RF, and DH, even when Kelenic comes up and if Lewis comes up.
Again, I am just throwing out a guess on what an outfielder with a good track record and 3 years of club control will cost. Maybe I am way off. But a Frazier addition is one worth exploring.
While this might seem like a heavy sell plan, and perhaps it is, we also need to understand that the team will certainly get Jarred Kelenic and Cal Raleigh into the lineup with some regularity and, if everything goes well, you could add Kyle Lewis to the lineup as well. I’d like to add a starting pitcher to push Sheffield to the minors, but even rental starters are going to be fairly expensive. In a pinch, Junis can start and is probably better equipped to handle a big league lineup either way. Hopefully, Seattle will get Justin Dunn back at some point, who may finish out the season in the bullpen or push Junis back to the pen.
The crazy thing about this trade deadline is that even though we are less than a month away from it, we really cannot say one way or another what Seattle will do. Are they contenders? Yeah, technically? Should they add as a result? Yeah. Are they likely to fade as the season goes on? Yeah. Should they sell some of their short-term assets? Yeah. Basically, anything that sits between a full blown fire sale and going crazy by giving up big time assets for rentals is a legitimate strategy. The simple truth is, that a new trade deadline plan will probably need to made during the All-Star break…. So I guess you guys will get a better one then.