Now is the time.
The Seattle Mariners have reached that point in a rebuild where it is now incumbent on General Manager Jerry Dipoto to reach into his resources at-hand to augment the product on the field.
As it stands, the team is probably a sub-.500 performer in 2021. That said, the roster and farm have obvious upside should the young players outperform what’s to expected in their big league infancy. If the Mariners want to compete at the highest level in 2022 and beyond, it’s time to start adding frontline talent. One way that’s accomplished is through the trade market.
The thing about trades is teams carry the control. You don’t have to convince a free agent to pick your team over 29 other suitors. If you have the capital, it’s sometimes as easy as swapping bodies.
That said, there are a lot of areas the team could improve. You don’t want to handcuff yourself by perpetually touting “we’ve got young players about to debut.” Those young players are no sure thing, and shouldn’t be treated as such. Talent, like cream, rises to the top. And depth never hurt anybody either.
So let’s dive in and explore one deal sure to make an immediate impact on the field whilst fairly representing both teams in the process.
For this exercise, we’ll use a little tool called Baseball Trade Values. It’s by no means an exact science, but it does do a good job of valuing players based on a number of criteria including age, performance, contract, and controllability.
Mariners Get: LHP Kyle Freeland
Rockies Get: OF Jake Fraley, LHP Nick Margevicius, RHP Sam Delaplane
It’s no secret the Mariners will likely seek a starting pitcher in the next 18 months ahead. It’s also no secret the Colorado Rockies appear to be headed toward a bit of a reset.
Freeland is two seasons removed for a fourth place finish in National League Cy Young voting. 2019 was a huge step backwards to the tune of a 6.73 ERA, highlighted by a 1.581 WHIP. His struggles resulted in a trip back to AAA as well. Pretty stunning considering the position he put himself in just 9 months prior.
2020 was far more kind to the Rockies southpaw as he posted a 4.33 ERA over 13 starts and 70+ innings. With Seattle’s guidance, I do think Freeland could recapture some of the magic he found in 2018 and translate it onto the bump in at T-Mobile Park.
Freeland is a 5-pitch guy with your standard arsenal of a four seam fastball, a sinker, a changeup, and curve and a slider. The slider, for what it’s worth, has cutter tendencies.
Impressively, he mixes those five pitches up incredibly well. In 2020, the slider, fastball and changeup were all thrown between 20- and 25-percent of the time. Where he gets in trouble is relying on the changeup a little too heavily. It’s not a bad changeup by any means, though it lacks the fading profile you’d like to see from the better changeup in the league. If Freeland focused on the fastball-slider-curveball combo a bit more, I think he’d find more success. His xBA and xSLG from 2019 and 2020 support this notion.
More important than maybe anything here, Freeland is controlled through the 2023 season. The Mariners would have what I believe to be a reliable, mid-rotation lefty added to their rotation for the next three seasons.
Jake Fraley makes a lot of sense for the Rockies as they may soon have a void in a corner outfield spot. Charlie Blackmon can opt-out of his Rockies contract after 2021, and the often-injured David Dahl is entering his first year of arbitration. His situation and tenure in Colorado may be short-lived should he start commanding big money. The team may be inclined to move him regardless of the acquisition of someone like Fraley.
Although Fraley hasn’t hit in Seattle, he’s shown he can impact with the bat at AAA and still has plenty of cheap, controllable years ahead of him.
Nick Margevicius, while valuable, may find himself on the outside looking in once Seattle has an entire stable of arms to play with, conceivably by September 2021. He’d immediately step into the Rockies rotation and, again, would represent a young, controllable arm the team can leverage for the next five years.
Sam Delaplane was a curious omission from the big league roster this summer. Reports of his velocity being down muddy the waters a bit. Regardless, the Rockies are always looking to add to what’s been a shop of horrors in the bullpen. Delaplane represents an arm with upside. If Seattle is to truly go and add upwards of four relievers this offseason, it may push Delaplane’s debut back anyway.
You understand the narrative here. This is taking into consideration the Rockies may be looking to cut payroll in the coming months/years as their competitive window closes. Trevor Story is due to become a free agent after 2021, and should the team hope to re-sign him, they’ll need a pretty big pocketbook to do so. Nolan Arenado is also due to potentially hit the market post-2021 should he elect to decline the player option in his deal.
The point is, the Rockies are clearly a team in flux. They’re in a tough spot and it may behoove the Mariners to take one of their assets of their hands whilst supplementing what is generally considered a pretty weak farm system in Denver.
There’s a lot of guys that make sense to target on the trade market this year. Guys like Freeland, as well as the Pirates’ Joe Musgrove, the Cubs’ Yu Darvish, and even potentially the Brewers’ Corbin Burnes all make a lot of sense. Some more expensive than others.
Freeland likely affords the Mariners the opportunity to deal for an upside arm with a proven track record while not shipping off any of their high-profile pieces in the process. Darvish may also accomplish such a task.
In either case, Seattle fans should probably be excited at the notion the team is within striking distance, and these sorts of narratives make sense again.