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4 realistic deadline trades for the Mariners

*Jerry Dipoto’s eyelids flutter and twitch ever so gently*

Chicago White Sox v Seattle Mariners Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images

It’s a much different trade deadline in 2020 for Major League Baseball, but the gears still churn for Mariners General Manager Jerry Dipoto as the rebuild continues to approach its peak. Seattle has largely moved all of its valuable assets in recent years, but there’s some names on the roster that will entice competing teams down the stretch.

It’s going to have to be a much more creative deadline for Dipoto as he doesn’t have players like Jean Segura, James Paxton or Edwin Diaz with suitors gnawing on the fishing line. He’s got some arms and some young players who may be available.

Dipoto went on record with Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette on MLB Network Radio earlier this week to discuss what he expects this unorthodox deadline to look like.

“A lot of teams are still trying to sort out whether they are actually in this or not and how much they want to push the chips into the middle of the table,” Dipoto said. “We’ve received a handful of phone calls, particularly on the pitching, which is where we may have some attractive targets toward the end of the month. We’re open, as we always are, to any type of inquiry and discussion.”

Over the last few years, almost all of Dipoto’s trades have centered around moving a veteran piece for prospects to inject potential and controllability into the rebuild. Moves likes Paxton for pieces like Justus Sheffield, Erik Swanson and Dom Thompson-Williams... A deal like Jean Segura for J.P. Crawford. -- the entire premise around rebuilding trades is to move valuable “now” assets for guys the Mariners can groom over six to eight years, culminating in a pool of good young players peaking at the same time.

This year could be different as Dipoto noted there could be some intriguing young-player-for-young-player type deals on the horizon.

“It’s likely to be a little bit more young-player driven than normal trade markets,” Dipoto said. “…I think you’re going to see a lot of the typical moves where a pending free agent is moved on at the trade deadline, and you’re going to see at least some rumblings about young-player-for-young-player ’challenge’ deals, because the middle ground — the established veteran players either in the arb system or already generating high-level paychecks — I think those guys are likely to stay still. But the pending free agents and the younger players, I think have a chance to be movers in these last two weeks.”

So who does Seattle have to move? Well, I shared my thoughts earlier this week in a small list, ranking what players on the team would garner the most reasonable interest from teams.

Now, Matt Magill getting rocked in Los Angeles this week certainly doesn’t help his case, but I still believe he’ll get some calls. Taijuan Walker is going to be a popular name in trade circles as he’s currently on a 1-year deal worth just $2 million. Because of the short season, that deal is only worth $740,000. By the time he’s moved, he’ll only be owed $283,000 — a bargain for a guy who’s been a pretty reliable arm thus far.

Dylan Moore and Tim Lopes will both get some calls, I’m sure. Their versatility and ability to hit could be good pieces for competitors. Moore, in particular, would be a more expensive deal as he’s really taken his game to another level. His batted-ball profile is pretty impressive and could be considered a full-time regular for just about any team, albeit in a rover role.

Mallex Smith and Dee Gordon won’t get much traffic other than money returns, and are likely pinch-runner role guys for a competitor.

Kyle Seager is having an incredible year, but considering he’s due $18 million in 2021 and an additional $15 million in 2022 if traded, the likelihood he’s moved is pretty low, especially in the current economic climate in baseball.

Three guys not mentioned here that I think have a reasonable chance to be moved are Jake Fraley, Braden Bishop and Justin Dunn. They’re underperforming prospects who may not have a place in the team’s ultimate competitive window. Fraley and Bishop are behind Kyle Lewis, Jarred Kelenic and Mitch Haniger (not to mention Julio Rodriguez) in the outfield pecking order. Dunn has struggled this season, and some believe he doesn’t project as a big league starting pitcher. The Mariners have Marco Gonzales, Yusei Kikuchi and Justus Sheffield stapled into the rotation, with Logan Gilbert, George Kirby, and Emerson Hancock on the way (not to mention money to spend). This doesn’t even take into account Kendall Graveman who’s locked in through 2021.

Fraley, Bishop and Dunn are attractive trade candidates in that they could potentially garner a return of a fellow struggling prospect who better fits the construction of the team.

So what deals make sense? I’m not going to blow smoke up ya’ll. These are deals that have legitimate benefits for both sides. Remember, teams can only trade players on the 60-man roster. Any other player moved will be the ever-so-lovely player-to-be-named-layer. IOU’s are not sexy in articles, so we’re going to avoid those altogether.

Deal 1

Mariners Receive: INF Yu Chang

Indians Receive: OF Jake Fraley

It’s no secret Fraley has sputtered a bit since arriving to the big league club last summer. He really struggled in a small sample size in September, but then looked a bit lost in Summer Camp this June. It’s easy to forget he hit .298/.365/.545 last season across AA and AAA. Fraley never cracked Top 100 lists, but still carries some prospect weight considering his success in 2018 and 2019. The Indians desperately need impact outfielders and while Fraley may not fit the bill of “impact” player, he’s worth a flier for a team currently running a hodgepodge of struggling pieces out there each night. The team also doesn’t have an outfielder in their Top 10 prospects.

A quick scouting report on Chang? He has good bat speed from the right side, and has shown a knack for spraying the ball to all fields. He’s added strength to his frame in recent years and I think there’s enough track record and body to dream on here to forecast a .245-.255 hitter with 20 home run potential. Pretty good for a guy that can handle shortstop once a week among other positions.

Chang is former fringe-Top 100 guy who peaked at no. 4 on the Indians Top 30 list. He can handle each infield position. Certainly a power-over-hit guy, Chang hit .251/.326/.436 across six minor league seasons, but has struggled to the tune of a .177/.293/.266 line in 92 plate appearances with Cleveland. Chang just turned 25 on Tuesday, so he’s still young, and would be a very interesting platoon option to pair with Shed Long at second base. Let those two duke it out for future playing time in 2021 and beyond.

Here’s video of Chang giving Angels’ reliever Justin Anderson a big ol’ surrender cobra.

Deal 2

Mariners Receive: C Reese McGuire

Blue Jays Receive: OF Jake Fraley, RHP Taijuan Walker

The Blue Jays are in a position in 2020 to go for it. They’re pushing to make the playoffs this year in its expanded format. Chockfull of young talent, it’s an opportunistic year for growth and goalpost setting for the future in Toronto. The team has almost nothing in terms of outfielders knocking on the door of the big leagues, and reserve outfielder Anthony Alford has struggled since being given an opportunity at The Show. The outfield is one injury away from being in a very rough spot. Fraley would be an excellent fourth outfielder immediately, and would probably get regular playing time given the defensive shortcomings in the corners for Toronto.

The Jays arms have been a house of horrors this season, especially with the crumbling of Ken Giles in the bullpen early on. Things have compounded a bit now with Nate Pearson headed to the IL. Walker represents a steady, if not reliable option the Jays can count on down the stretch.

McGuire, a Seattle native, hasn’t received much playing time in 2020 behind full-timer Danny Jansen. In 18 plate appearances, he’s slashing just .118/.118/.294. 2019 was far more fruitful for the Kentwood HS grad, slashing .299/.346/.526 with 5 dingers in 105 plate appearances.

McGuire largely outperformed his projections last year. He’s considered an average hitter from the left side with a below-average power stroke. He’s a plus defender with an above average arm. He’d be a great platoon option for Austin Nola right now and would represent a really fun project while Cal Raleigh grooms himself into a big league option. McGuire is also very much due for a change of scenery after a bit of an embarrassing winter. Google it if you want.

Maybe most importantly, McGuire is expendable as Toronto boasts one of the best farm systems in terms of catching talent in the league. The team has it’s 5th ranked prospect Alejandro Kirk on their 60-man, as well as their 28th ranked prospect Riley Adams there available as well. Gabriel Moreno, the team’s 8th ranked prospect with arguably the highest potential, is also just a couple years away.

Deal 3

Mariners Receive: RHP Ian Hamilton

White Sox Receive: OF Braden Bishop

The White Sox are full steam ahead in trying to make the playoffs and could certainly use some outfield help. Having Nomar Mazara in one corner and Eloy Jimenez in the other is an enormous liability defensively, and the team doesn’t really have another option out there with the exception of Adam Engel who’s currently on the shelf. Bishop would be a massive upgrades late in games and against tough lefties where Mazara struggles.

Hamilton is a Vancouver, Washington native who attended Washington State University. He’s strictly a bullpen arm, but that’s a huge area of need for Seattle right now. It should be noted, Hamilton is currently on the IL with a sore shoulder. Hamilton missed a large portion of the 2019 season with a right shoulder injury, so it’s concerning. If Dipoto and the Mariners deem his shoulder healthy enough to take a risk on, he’s an exciting bullpen piece.

Hamilton has a power-sinker 94-97, touching 100. He couples the arm-side sinker with a power slider 87-90 that flashes plus consistently. He’s got a pretty fringy changeup that has some potential. This is exactly the type of arm Seattle could use moving forward, and since he’s been on the shelf for much of 2019 and now 2020 for Chicago, the team may be in sell-mode to supplement their here-and-now go-for-it mentality.

Hamilton has 12 big league innings under his belt with 9 punch outs, but over 172 minor league innings, he posted 185 strikeouts and just 50 walks.

Deal 4

Mariners Receive: RHP Kodi Whitley OR RHP Angel Rondon

Cardinals Receive: RHP Justin Dunn

John Mozeliak and Dipoto are no strangers to dealin’. After all, the Mariners acquired Gonzales for Tyler O’Neill three years ago. They also acquired Mike Leake from St. Louis shortly thereafter.

The Cardinals are still feeling their way through a rotation. Adam Wainwright is now 38 years old, and while performing well, he’s on his last year or two. The jury is still out on whether Carlos Martinez or Daniel Ponce de Leon are starters long-term. St. Louis doesn’t have much in terms of right-handed rotation talent close to the big leagues, so Dunn would be an immediate option and project for the team.

Let me preface the return by saying this deal only makes sense if Dipoto is convinced Dunn is a reliever long-term. If so, it’s another opportunity to acquire a high-profile reliever at the cost of a perceived starting pitcher prospect with some prospect sheen remaining.

Whitley is a guy that’s absolutely dominated at every level. He debuted this season, tallying 2.2 innings thus far, registering 3 punch outs. In 156 minor league innings, Whitley notched 168 strikeouts and a microscopic 2.01 ERA. His 1.18 WHIP further emphasizes his dominance. Whitley is the Cards 16th ranked prospect, possessing a plus fastball around 95 and an above average slider with significant vertical break. He’d immediately slot into Seattle’s bullpen.

Rondon is still a potential rotation arm and hasn’t yet pitched out of the bullpen. He’s yet to pitch above AA. In 347 minor league innings, Rondon has a 3.21 ERA and has struck out 341 batters. Rondon has a ton of deception in his delivery, living 93-94 with a slurvy breaking ball that misses a lot of bats. He’s also flashed an average changeup. His body and athleticism suggest his stuff would play up in a big way in the bullpen and could potentially be a 96-97 guy with deception and an exploding fastball. Personally, I like him in the bullpen. Either way, if the team figures Dunn isn’t a part of the future rotation, and that his body doesn’t suggest a future impact bullpen role, he’s a project to potentially move on to another organization.

As a sidebar, I think Dunn to the Red Sox makes a ton of sense, but I can’t find any trades that immediately spark what Dipoto is looking to achieve. At least nothing that fits the parameters of this article.

Final Thoughts

The Mariners have a few pieces that would be interesting flip candidates given the current construction fo the organization. There’s areas of need moving forward, and trades are always a good opportunity for supplementation. I wouldn’t expect anything groundbreaking, but additions to the team, specifically the bullpen or at catcher, may be in the cards.