The Seattle Mariners and the Los Angeles Dodgers have been linked to each other in just about every trade season for roughly the past two seasons. Horrifying rumors of a possible trade built around Andre Ethier coming to Seattle have recently morphed into slightly less horrifying rumors of a possible trade that would send often-injured superstar Matt Kemp to the Emerald City. And even with the all-around awfulness of Hot Stove rumors in mind, these rumblings of a pipeline being built between Seattle and LA are likely worth paying attention to. Given that the foundations of many, if not most, trades in baseball are laid months upon months in advance (something I’m fairly certain GM Jack Zduriencik himself has stated in multiple interviews), and given that the M’s and Dodgers keep popping up together I’m inclined to believe that there’s at least some non-insignificant amount of truth to the rumored mutual interest of a trade between the two ball clubs.
And this really shouldn’t come as as surprise, given that the respective positional strengths and weaknesses of each organization match up quite well with each other at the moment. As we are all too painfully aware the Mariners are in need of better players in general, but most desperately so in the outfield where their two current best options are Michael Saunders and Abraham Almonte. The Dodgers, on the other hand, have gone into the offseason with questions at SP, 2B, and 3B. Funnily enough, the Mariners just so happen to have expendable trade chips at all of those positions, some of which people might describe as "blue," or "shiny," or "actually really desirable." And, also funnily enough, the Dodgers just so happen to have a wealth of tradable outfielders that the M’s so desperately need. The rumors are providing the smoke, and the respective needs and strengths of both teams make for some nice kindling; I’m willing to bet there’s at least a small fire in here somewhere.
So I’m going to explore that scenario a little bit. I won’t be suggesting any specific trades, because rosterbation will make you go blind and get the site all sticky. However, I will try to identify players that one team would want that the other would be willing to give up. I’ll also try to list them in order of increasing relative cost for the team acquiring those players (again, without proposing actual, specific trades). Let’s get started with this little thought experiment.
The Mariners Could Send the Dodgers
Dustin Ackley (2B/"OF")
Oh, Captain Cardboard, how the mighty have fallen. The former number two overall pick of the 2009 Draft never quite fulfilled the promise of a prospect that would be able to fall out of bed and hit .300 after his blazing hot debut in 2011. Hope for Ackley sprang anew after the All-Star Break in 2013, though, as he put up an impressive triple slash of .307/.384/.444 with a K/BB of 28/19. Unfortunately, that was largely inflated by an absurd month August. In September Ackley posted a triple slash of .253/.319/.341. It is worth pointing out, however, that Ackley had a K/BB of 13/15 in September. Walking more than you strikeout is always a good thing. But considering the largely lackluster performance of Ackley and the Dodgers signing of Cuban defect 2B Alexander Guerrero to a 4 year/$28 million contract, I really don’t see Los Angeles tripping over themselves to land him. But I also don’t expect the Mariners to have both Ackley and another name that appears further down the list at the end of the offseason, so it’s a possibility to keep in mind, even if it is an admittedly far-fetched one.
Stefen Romero (2B/3B/OF)
The Mariners organization absolutely adores Romero, going so far as to name him their Minor League Player of the Year in 2012. He’s a gifted athlete that has been shifted between 2B, 3B, and OF throughout his time in the Seattle farm system in an attempt to get his bat into the Major League team’s lineup as soon as possible. Even though his stock has fallen some after an injury-hampered season of underperformance at AAA Tacoma, Romero is still just one season removed from a monstrous 2012 that saw him inexplicably hit better upon leaving High-A High Desert for AA Jackson over a sample size of 56 games and 240 PA. I imagine the Dodgers would love to acquire Romero if they see his 2013 performance as an anomaly, as he could theoretically provide a long-term answer for them at 3B and insurance at 2B for the aforementioned Guerrero.
Erasmo started 2012 in the bullpen to the endless frustration of many of us here at Lookout Landing. At some point in time that I don’t feel like looking up he was promoted to the starting rotation, where he proceeded to be awesome before some asshole Red Sox player hit a line drive off of his elbow and ruined everything on June 30 (I was at that game :[ ). And, just like Stefen Romero, Erasmo went on to have an injury-hampered 2013 of underperformance where his control and command seemed to abandon him completely at times. However, much like Romero again, if the Dodgers see 2013 as a blip on the radar they could view Erasmo as an appealing offseason acquisition for the right price.
Nick Franklin (2B)
I remember when we were projecting Nick Franklin as Bret Boone-lite in game threads during that first glorious month following his promotion to the Mariners. Of course, Officer Franklin went on to absolutely crater after that month, because Mariners. Or maybe it was due to some combination of bunting a ball off of his knee, playing on that knee before it was fully healed, and typical rookie inability to successfully adjust to Major League pitchers' adjustments. Either way, our hope in Franklin after his prolonged slump seems to have disappeared entirely, a perception that has been influenced greatly by the failures of Dustin Ackley before him. However, I don’t think GMs around baseball are as gun-shy on Franklin as Mariners fans are, and I could see the very recently highly-touted prospect draw a fair amount of interest this offseason. I’m just not sure the Dodgers would be willing to pay what the M’s would be asking for, as they won’t be inclined to give up on a switch hitting 2B with a power bat so easily either.
James Paxton (SP)
Do I really need to tell you about James Paxton? He’s a southpaw who strikes out a ton of batters, he came up to the Majors at the end of last season, and he looked awesome during that late season audition. Every single teaming looking for SP help is going to be checking in on Paxton’s availability, and the Dodgers would be no different.
Taijuan Walker (SP)
Any Mariners trade talk is going to bring up Taijuan Walker, because Taijuan Walker is really fucking good and everyone wants him. That’s really all that needs to be said.
The Dodgers Could Send the Mariners
Andre Ethier ("OF")
Per Logan's request, here's some actual detail on Ethier. He's been a surprisingly consistent "meh" throughout his career with the Dodgers, averaging around 2.5 fWAR per year and sitting comfortably in the 120-130 wRC+ range. The downside to Ethier is his Ibanezian defense in the outfield and the 5 year, $85 million contract that comes looped around his neck. Ethier could serve some purpose on the Mariners, and the Dodgers are trying their best to get rid of him, but any trade that sends Ethier to Seattle would need to involve a lot of money coming back as well and nothing of real note being sent back to the Dodgers.
Scott Van Slyke (OF)
Van Slyke isn’t a player that’s going to turn around the Mariners as a franchise all by himself, but he’s the type of underappreciated talent that the club has been missing for the past few years. After bouncing around the Dodgers minor league system for years the 27 year old outfielder lost weight and changed his swing over this past offseason, and it appears to have paid off. After receiving a call up to the Dodgers in 2013 Van Slyke posted a triple slash of .240/.342/.465 over 53 games and 152 PA, good for .353/129 wOBA/wRC+. He did strikeout at a slightly worrying clip, 24.3%, but he also walked 13.2% of the time, mitigating the impact of those strikeouts a bit. He profiles as a solid outfield bat and should be available at a lower price this offseason due to the Dodgers OF logjam.
Matt Kemp (OF)
Kemp may be the most intriguing buy-low option of the offseason, and the Mariners are rumored to have shown interest in him already, as have the Red Sox and the Rangers. Kemp is fully capable of putting up MVP numbers, and he’s getting paid appropriately with an 8 year/$160 million contract. What makes Kemp a buy-low option is a combination of that contract a Guti-esque cocktail of injuries that include shoulder surgery, ankle issues, and major hamstring issues. Kemp’s been a centerfielder over his career, but he shouldn’t be playing anything but the corners and DH for the remainder of it. But, given the Mariners desperate need for outfielders and their apparent desire for "two frontline power hitters," Kemp appears to be a likely target for the organization this offseason.
Joc Pederson (OF)
Here, look at Joc Pederson’s stats. They speak for themselves: Joc Pederson is really damn good. You should want him on the Mariners. I doubt he’ll be made readily available, but I also have no doubt that his name is going to be brought up by Jack Z anytime he and Ned Colletti discuss potential trades.
So there it is: A sort of brief, very informal look at players that could possibly be involved in a Mariners-Dodgers trade. Any thoughts or objections on the players mentioned? Did I leave somebody worth mentioning out?
Oh, and finally, there are a couple things worth noting here at the end. First of all, the Dodgers are also in need of bullpen help on top of starting pitching and 3B/2B. I didn’t bother listing any possible bullpen trade candidates because relief pitcher value is weird and the Dodgers are absolutely insane. They gave Brandon League a three year extension. Brandon League. Which brings up the second point: The Dodgers are sitting on a pile of money that Scrooge McDuck would be envious of, and they have shown no hesitation in spending it. There’s a good chance they’ll decide to address their needs by just throwing their gigantic wallets at players instead of making trades. So it's pretty likely that most or all of this post will be even more meaningless than it already is in the near futu-
Sources: Haren to #Dodgers, one year, $10M plus 2015 option that vests at 180 innings. Pending physical.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) November 25, 2013
Well, shit. That was quick.