Recently, Seattle Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto said in an interview that his goal is to add starting pitching and a second baseman at the deadline this year. Which second baseman could he target?
The Mariners appear to be buyers… at least for now. That’s the indication Dipoto gave in his interview on a MLB Network Radio interview earlier this week. But Dipoto did say the team is going to place a preference on controllable assets, so while the team may be looking to buy, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll pay up for rentals, at least not right this moment. Dipoto also said that if the market dictates the need to acquire rentals, they would be open to that, but would not move “significant” future pieces for such players.
He did mention that adding starting pitching is his number one goal at the deadline but everybody and their mother has a list of starting pitchers they want Seattle to pursue. In fact, Luke Arkins of Prospect Insider has an excellent list to look at. But we haven’t really seen an inventory list of possible second baseman who might be available, which is what we’re going to try and create here. Dipoto did mention a preference for right-handed bats, but we won’t exclude any lefty-sticks we think might actually be available. Let’s get started with some of the names that will be harder to get.
The “Highly Unlikely Group”
Adam Frazier has been one of the more popular names mentioned in trade talks thus far and it’s not hard to see why. He’s having a great year at the plate, slashing .330/.395/.460 and plays an excellent second base. He leads MLB in hits and is controlled through the 2022 season. In addition, the Mariners were linked to Frazier quite a bit this off-season, though mostly in a speculative manner. So what’s the problem?
Frazier is going to have a hefty market for his services, including from several division leaders like the Chicago White Sox. While the Mariners can go toe to toe with any team on any player, it doesn’t mean they want to, or in fact should. Frazier is having a career year and while he’s been a good player for a long-time, you’re buying him at the absolute apex of his value. Seattle is likely to look elsewhere.
I’m really only including Merrifield because he checks a lot of boxes. He hits right-handed, plays a good second base, and is club controlled through the 2023 season. The Royals have been a disappointment this year after spending some money on quality veterans this winter. Merrifield is also 32-years-old, something that would seemingly make him expendable to a Royals team with some interesting middle infielders coming through the system.
But the Royals have never seriously shopped Merrifield, who is having a good season (including successfully stealing 24 bases in 25 attempts), and they clearly believe they’re close to competing, possibly as soon as next year. To pry Merrifield from the Royals would take some serious prospect capital, something the Mariners probably aren’t too keen on. But if there was a player on this list to push some significant chips on, it’s probably Merrifield.
He’s a young, controllable, right-handed hitting second baseman with some major league success. But he plays in one of the biggest dumpster fire organizations in the sport, so the odds of coming to a fair deal with this front office are slim to none.
Jorge Polanco is an underrated player who can handle a few positions. He’s a solid fit for what Dipoto wants, but the Twins don’t sound interested in selling off any of their controllable pieces. Unless that changes, this idea is probably dead in the water.
We’ve talked about Jonathan Schoop quite a bit, so I’ll be brief. He’s a right-handed bat who brings power and a strong second base glove. He’s a good fit but he’s a rental and he’s going to have other suitors. The price will need to be right, but it’s still a possibility.
It is honestly shocking that Eduardo Escobar is still on the Diamondbacks. He’s been heavily linked to the White Sox for about a month and yet, he’s still available. He’s a switch-hitter who can also play third base. At the plate, he’s having a Mitch Haniger like season, slashing .251/.298/.478 with 20 home runs. This is a good player who would lengthen Seattle’s lineup and allow for even more versatility on the bench with his ability to play third. But once again, he is a rental and he is sure to have a pretty good market surrounding him.
Cesar Hernandez is a favorite of co-founder Ty Gonzalez and is probably going to be one of the more affordable options available at the deadline. He’s hitting just .223/.301/.408, but the average and OBP is about 50 points below his career norms. He fits the mold of a “CtZ Guy”, ranking favorably in whiff % and chase rate. He’s a plus runner and has already tied his career high in home runs. He’s a switch-hitter and until this year, he was a premier defender at second.
His skill set at the plate doesn’t appear that different from his better years at the plate and he doesn’t suffer from major platoon splits. He might be selling out for power, but the expected numbers are more in line with his career norms, suggesting that there may be a way to get him back to where he needs to be. He’s 31-years-old and is due a modest $2 million for the rest of the season with a nice $6 million team option for 2022. He’s 31-years-old and isn’t likely going to cost the type of prospect haul that others on this list will demand. If Cleveland actually sells, as reported by Jon Heyman, Hernandez is a name to watch.
I can sense your excitement from my computer. How could you not get jacked up thinking about Freddy Galvis in a Mariners uniform. I know, I don’t love it either, but as Jason Churchill recently pointed on his podcast, Baseball Things, it does make some sense. Yes, he’s a rental, and yes, he’s not going to turn any heads. But he’s a switch-hitter who actually gives you shortstop depth if worst comes to worst with JP Crawford. He’s got good pull power and has actually performed well against LHP, slashing .295/.329/.513 in 2021.
Look, it is a lot more fun to think and talk about players like Whit Merrifield or Javy Baez, but we still need to understand where the Mariners actually are both in their rebuild and in their playoff chase. Are they in contention for the playoffs right now? Yes. But they’re still relatively early in their rebuild, and attempting to create shortcuts now could be devastating to the 2022-2024 teams.
So yes, have fun dreaming about those bigger names. I’ll do my fair share of it. And you never know what could happen. If you had to use two words to describe Jerry Dipoto, “creative” and “relentless” probably top the list. That combination, in addition to the elite farm system and tons of payroll flexibility, can do serious damage given the right market. But for now, a fringe playoff contender needs to be careful about what deals they make. But if they can sweep the four game set against the Oakland A’s… All bets are off.