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The what, where, and why of a potential Kyle Seager trade

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Oakland Athletics v Seattle Mariners Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images

When Ken Rosenthal says there’s smoke, it’s worth at least checking around to see if you yourself are on fire. Last night, The Athletic’s breaking news and rumors savant put a surprising piece out - the market is heating up with interest in Kyle Seager. This offseason has shown several teams are sick of scouring scum off the seabed, with the Reds, White Sox, Angels, Rangers, and even Padres getting involved on mid-to-high level free agents. By my count, the Mariners will be the AL West’s only non-contender, and joined by just the Royals, Tigers, Orioles, and Blue Jays as no-doubt non-contenders in 2020. The NL looks even more competitive, with only the Marlins, Pirates, and Giants looking utterly uncompetitive.

A widespread desire to compete means even higher-paid veterans are once again appealing to clubs, and that puts Seager on the map. Rosenthal names Seager as a consolation prize, understandably, but if there are at least five fishers and only at four fish, something’s gotta give.

Seager, 32, would be an option for the teams that miss out on Anthony Rendon and Josh Donaldson in free agency and the CubsKris Bryant in a trade. At least five clubs — the Nationals, Braves, Rangers, Dodgers and Twins — are considering upgrades at third base.”

Seager was a 2.9 fWAR player in 106 games and 443 PAs last year. If we prorate that to a full season, that’s around a 4-win, low-end All-Star caliber player. The breadth of talent league-wide at the position is such that he’s probably not a top-10 3B, but baseball by nature is an exercise in keeping up with the Rendonses. If a team wants to make the playoffs, they need at least what Seager can offer, and after seeing Mike Moustakas draw four years/$64 million earlier this offseason, the rest of the league can’t afford to expect cheap solutions to fall into their laps.

That begins to address the why, as needs arise externally, but it doesn’t ensure a trade makes sense from Seattle’s perspective. Unlike a few positions where they have dealt MLB talent in the past year, there’s no heir apparent to Seags. Evan White may start this year at 1B, with J.P. Crawford and Shed Long and/or Dee Gordon sharing the infield. Seager’s replacement would be Tim Lopes, Patrick Wisdom, or a stopgap free agent, with Joe Rizzo, and Austin Shenton - the absolute nearest, question mark-filled 3B depth - at least two years away. Seattle should listen, of course, but Jerry Dipoto has emphasized the importance of “letting the kids play” this year, and moving Seager doesn’t directly aid those efforts.

A Seager trade in which the Mariners pay down some or much of what would be a three year/$52 million for the 32 year old (assuming the “poison pill” guarantee of his 2022 $15 million team option being guaranteed remains) is appealing from an evaluative perspective. Seager bounced back to show he’s still an above-average player last year, and despite belly-aching from segments of the fanbase, his contract is now dwarfed by several players at his position. Rosenthal suggests a contract pay-down OR a prospect attachment could work, but the latter, especially in the midst of a rebuild, would be malpractice, particularly as Seattle is slated to run their lowest opening day payroll since 2014.

Money is renewable and interchangeable - players are unique and not perpetually-accessible. If the Mariners can pay down something like half of Seager’s contract, not only does he become an even more appealing option in a trade, but Seattle can make a more aggressive pitch for prospect(s) in return.

Personally, I would be loathe to see Seager go, as the lone remnant of the hopeful early 2010s, he has stoically embraced the new direction of the only franchise he’s known, and even noted the rebuild “should’ve happened a long time ago”. Being a good company man and being happy about seeing the last few years of his baseball prime spent on an uncompetitive team are two different things, however, and it would be in keeping with Seattle’s prior efforts to put their high-salaried veterans into contending (Jay Bruce, Edwin Encarnacíon) and/or personally preferential (Mike Leake) situations on their way out. This can be a win for everyone, but who are the possible partners?

Potential Fits for Seager

Nationals

Pros: The defending champs just lost their franchise 3B, and despite re-signing Stephen Strasburg, they’ve got a bit of a stars and scrubs operation looking forward. The Nats can point to Carter Kieboom as the looming solution at 3B, but the 22 year old has spent most of their career at SS and 2B, and would remain most valuable up the middle. Seager would be both an immediate upgrade and a stabilizing force in the nation’s capital, balancing out a RHH-heavy lineup.

Cons: The Nats have a few young players who are or may soon become stars in Juan Soto, Victor Robles, Trea Turner, and Kieboom. They have an old but proven rotation that remains among the league’s best. As a result, there’s very little left in the tank in the minor leagues. Kieboom and fellow SS/IF Luis Garcia are the only ~consensus Top-100 prospects in the system, and it goes downhill quickly. Seager wouldn’t necessarily net a Top-100 return, likely more something akin to a good but distant player or two like Juan Then in the Edwin Encarnacíon deal, depending on the money eaten, but a team like Washington with little else might be reticent to scrape their depth thinner.

Potential names to target: RHP Mason Denaburg, RHP Jackson Rutledge, RHP Wil Crowe

Braves

Atlanta has a couple internal options between one-time starter Johan Camargo and boom-or-bust masher Austin Riley, but that was true a year ago when they opted to sign Josh Donaldson. Camargo has since occupied a multi-positional role, while Riley has played far more left field in the bigs, largely due to Donaldson’s presence, but the Braves seem interested in keeping both in those roles. Atlanta’s system has seen a number of graduations, but remains deep at the top. Seattle might manage to poach someone like RHP Kyle Wright if they paid Seager’s deal down significantly enough, as Atlanta attempts to respond to the major moves made by their division rivals.

Potential names to target: C Shea Langeliers, LHP Kyle Muller, RHP Kyle Wright

Rangers

Look, I get it, teams have to do due diligence everywhere, but sending the Ranger-killer himself to inaugurate Globe Life Field would go down as smooth as a shattered glass milkshake. After a few years floating listlessly, the Rangers are intent on opening their unnecessary brand-new ballpark with a bang, but not at the cost of any of this free agency’s best players. That’s left them looking on the trade market for a clear upgrade, and while they may harbor Kris Bryant dreams, it’s difficult to imagine prying two years of him away from the Cubs for less than a large swath of their system. Texas currently is likely set to run their version of Shed Long out at 3B, former Rays prospect Nick Solak. He’s a bit ill-suited no matter where he lines up on the field, so Seager would represent a clear upgrade at the hot corner. Seattle could quite plausibly bring back a player they were heavily connected to in the 2019 draft - 3B/INF Josh Jung - if the money lined up, and their stomachs are stronger than mine.

Potential names to target: 3B/INF Josh Jung, SS Anderson Tejada, RHP Hans Crouse,

Dodgers

Los Angeles has made seven straight playoff appearances, but with a top level payroll, massive market, and exceptional farm system, they rightfully have expectations of a World Series. Justin Turner stated he was willing to move positions to make space for Anthony Rendon, but the organization determined Rendon wasn’t interested in playing in L.A. and ultimately made no offer. Their skepticism was rewarded, as Rendon picked the other side of I-5, going with the Angels instead. If they are still intent on upgrading at 3B, it’s not a certainty Kyle provides that. His presence would, however, work nicely if the Dodgers are interested in making any other moves, which seems quite possible considering the glut of above-average talent they’re working with. Seager is also reportedly enticed by the opportunity to share an infield with his younger brother Corey, which would understandably be a dream come true, not to mention one of the league’s best defensive left sides. The Dodgers were unmoved by Rendon and Gerrit Cole, so it’s hard to envision them panicking at the thought of missing out on Kyle Seager, but if their roulette leads them to see Seager as a fit, Seattle would have a lot to choose from as a prospect return.

Potential names to target: 3B Kody Hoese, 2B Omar Estevez, RHP Josiah Gray

Twins

Minnesota shares a few characteristics with the Dodgers. They have a capable enough 3B on the roster in Miguel Sanó, and are fresh off a dominant division-winning season. But Minnesota’s payroll tends to run about 1/3rd of the Dodgers, and they’ve seen a good deal of talent either exit through free agency or receive a significant, deserved pay raise. The Bomba Squad got by despite an underwhelming showing from C.J. Cron at 1B. While Sanó was impactful offensively, he was possibly the worst full-time defensive 3B in the game last year. Shifting Sanó to first and adding a top-notch defender in Seager at third seems like a clear fit, especially with a pitching staff that isn’t stacked with strikeout specialists. The Twins system has a few of the most impressive hitters in the minors who Seager would not net, but a few different players could be quite appealing all the same.

Potential names to target: 3B Keoni Cavaco, RHP Jhoan Duran, SS Wander Javier