Last week, some trade rumblings involving the Mariners and a few other teams around the league floated to the surface. Jerry Dipoto has already stated that he prefers to fill the rotation through a trade rather than through free agency. That hasn’t stopped the free agent rumors from popping up however. Trade rumors are a fickle beast, they’re often reported well after any discussions actually happened and the vast majority of them amount to nothing at all. Still, our due diligence is required.
Bob Dutton named three starters on the Mariners’ wish list. I’ll review these three names as well as other options on the four teams the Mariners have been linked to.
Boston Red Sox - Target: Drew Pomeranz; Options: Clay Buchholz, Roenis Elias
The most recent rumor floating around links the Mariners to the Red Sox and left-handed starter Drew Pomeranz. He’s slowly transformed his repertoire over the past few years, throwing more and more curveballs and fewer fastballs. Everything came together for him last year as he accumulated 3.0 fWAR buoyed by a big increase in his strikeout rate. He’s entering his second year of arbitration giving him two more years of team control before he’s a free agent.
Unfortunately, the Red Sox don’t seem all that interested in dealing Pomeranz now. All the things that make Pomeranz valuable to the Mariners make him just as valuable to Boston. He won’t cost very much in arbitration, he still has a few years left until free agency, and he’s been relatively healthy. Seth Smith had been connected to the Red Sox but they recently signed Mitch Moreland as their left-handed platoon bat and the return for Pomeranz would certainly require more than just Smith.
The Red Sox are much more likely to deal Clay Buchholz whose $13.5 million salary in 2017 makes him an expendable piece since he doesn’t really have a place in the rotation right now. He’s coming off a dismal year in which he struggled through some injuries and was demoted to the bullpen. His age and his lack of team control make him unappealing for the Mariners at this point. A dark horse target could be our old friend Roenis Elias. He’s seventh or eighth on the Red Sox depth chart and still has four years of team control left.
UPDATE: It looks like the Phillies have acquired Clay Buchholz this morning. This move makes Pomeranz even more valuable to the Red Sox and I can’t imagine a scenario where they trade him without a major haul in return.
Tampa Bay Rays – Target: Drew Smyly; Options: Alex Cobb, Erasmo Ramirez
Jerry Dipoto has already worked out two major trades with the Rays in his brief time as Mariners’ GM and he could be returning to the well for a third. There’s no way the Mariners have enough prospects to acquire Archer or Odorizzi (especially considering the price Chris Sale commanded), so Drew Smyly becomes the de facto target. The tall lefty struggled through last season, compiling the worst ERA and FIP of his brief career. His strikeout and walk rates were within spitting distance of his career norms which is a good sign but he must get his home run problem under control. He still has two years of team control left and will be entering his third year of arbitration (he was Super Two eligible so he had an extra year of salary arbitration).
The other targets that could be dealt from the Rays include Alex Cobb and Erasmo Ramirez. Cobb is coming off his first season back after Tommy John surgery so he probably isn’t the reliable starter the Mariners are looking for. Ramirez has proven to be a capable back-end starter but he made just a single start last year and isn’t the mid-rotation arm Dipoto wants to acquire.
Cincinnati Reds – Target: Anthony DeSclafani; Options: Dan Straily
The Reds have been briefly mentioned as trade partners with the Mariners and they have a few starters that could fit. DeSclafani made 20 starts last year with a good 3.28/3.96/3.99 pitcher slash line. His excellent walk rate paired with an average strikeout rate gives him some excellent mid-rotation potential. He did suffer through a long oblique injury towards the beginning of the year but had no issues once he returned to the mound. He won’t enter salary arbitration until the next offseason giving him four years of team control.
The other option the Mariners could be interested in is Dan Straily. After toiling for a few years with the Athletics and the Astros, Straily put together the best season of his career last year. He made some adjustments to his repertoire and relied on a high fly ball approach to suppress his opponent’s BABIP. Of course, all those fly balls also led to a huge spike in home runs, but he was able keep his ERA low by limiting baserunners. He also has four years of team control left.
With the amount of team control left for both of these pitchers, the Reds’ asking price should be rather steep. The Mariners would have to give up at least a few prospects to acquire either one and that might not be what Dipoto wants to do at this point.
Los Angeles Dodgers – Target: Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy
These two names were floated as simply speculation on Bob Dutton’s part but they certainly fit the type of pitcher the Mariners are targeting. Both Kazmir and McCarthy have two years left on their free agent contracts ($32 million and $20 million, respectively) and would be dumped in an effort to lower the Dodgers’ payroll. Both pitchers come with some injury concerns; McCarthy is coming off Tommy John surgery and Kazmir was shut down with shoulder issues last season. If they are healthy, either one would fit perfectly into the middle of the Mariners’ rotation.