It’s been a difficult two years for Mariners first baseman Evan White. There’s no question about that. Just 23 months removed from signing a six-year, $24 million deal with Seattle, White has struggled with on-field performance and injury. Over 279 plate appearances across two seasons, White is slashing .165/.235/.308. But make no mistake, White still has plenty of value within the industry.
There’s still a whole lot to like about White. After all, we’re talking about a Gold Glove first baseman with plus raw power and plus run times. He’s an extremely unique athlete with the building blocks necessary to become a valuable piece at the big league level. But he’s got to hit and he’s got to stay healthy.
White is still an extremely affordable player. He’s owed just $1.4 million in 2022 and $3 million in 2023. After that, there’s $15 million more owed across 2024 and 2025. The hope is, obviously, he’s performing at a higher level by then.
But the Mariners are in a unique position entering 2022. Ty France established himself as not only a big league hitter, but a talented defensive first baseman as well. His bat needs to stay in the lineup, and his defense at second base and third base was much more of a liability. Ideally, he stays at first base and continues to mash.
That puts White in a peculiar position. He’s likely primed to start 2022 in Tacoma in order to prove the bat is loud enough to get back into the lineup. Shy of France getting injured or underperforming, White is stuck. His lower body injuries have likely shutdown the idea of White moving to the outfield at this point, and the Mariners will need the DH spot to rotate outfielders next season.
So why not entertain a trade? And who better than the Tampa Bay Rays to cultivate a conversation.
The Rays are in a position with Tyler Glasnow they do not want to be in. They’re a low budget team paying an injured star pretty substantial money. He’s likely due at least $5 million in 2022 and that could balloon up quite a bit more heading into 2023 before becoming a free agent. It’s highly unlikely Glasnow will pitch in 2022 after undergoing Tommy John surgery in August, so the Rays are essentially on the hook for quite a bit of money for one more year of service.
That begs the question. Would an Evan White for Tyler Glasnow deal make sense for both sides?
From the Mariners’ perspective, giving up on White this early is a huge risk. His track record in the minor leagues don’t suggest the struggles he’s had should be permanent. If White can find a way to become even a 1.5 fWAR player, he becomes an enormous surplus value in terms of dollars owed. But he’ll have to find a place to play.
The Mariners are no stranger to acquiring players on the mend in the hopes of a big season the following year. The team signed Ken Giles last offseason, knowing full well he’d miss all of 2021. But he figures to slot into the backend of Seattle’s bullpen in 2022 before hitting free agency. The same tact could be taken with Glasnow. The real question here is whether or not Glasnow is worth four years of White, and that doesn’t even included the three team options through 2028 that would pay White an additional $33.5 million. Seven years of controllability for White in exchange for a go-for-it Glasnow move and a 2023 championship signal. Tough call. And there’s no guarantee the Rays ace would be his full-self when he returns.
In a vacuum, Glasnow for White seems like a no-brainer for Seattle. But the finances and risk behind it are monumental.
On the Rays side of things, acquiring White makes a ton of sense. At worst, he’s a platoon bat to pair with Ji-Man Choi. At best, if you’re feeling really bold, you put White in left field once or twice a week and improve his versatility and value. He’s more than athletic enough to handle the outfield. That’s without question. And it’s certainly a defensive experiment that fits Tampa’s roster philosophy.
Frankly, if given the opportunity, I think Tampa Bay would prefer to get out from under Glasnow’s two final control years. White seems like the perfect potential Swiss Army Knife that organization would covet. The biggest holdup in this deal, from this chair, would be the $15 million owed to White in 2023 and 2024. That would be the risk the Rays are inheriting.
Believe it or not, I think moving White for Glasnow would be a much, much better deal for the Rays than it would be the Mariners. Seattle would be taking on a ton of risk and would certainly need to be assured 2023 would be a potential championship run. Otherwise you’re giving away White for... what?
But these are the types of deals the Mariners will need to do moving forward to get over the hump. Hey Erik Neander, you up?